Shoulder surgery post-op varies quite a bit. You may need to wear a sling for a few days to several weeks, or may just have a few days of rest and soreness.
When you first arrive in physical therapy, any dressings left on from surgery will be removed so the therapist can make sure it is healing well. Any open suture sites are re-covered as needed.
Pain and discomfort are normal post-surgery, and can be treated with rest, ice, and pain medications. Even if you feel better than expected, be cautious: talk to your surgeon in case there are safety precautions or non-prescription alternatives. Opioids should be disposed of at a police station, as they are highly addictive and dangerous drugs and responsible for the growing opioid epidemic.
After a few days, you should be able to take a shower and let water run over the incision. Baths, Jacuzzis and swimming pools should be avoided until the stitches or staples are removed.
Your PT will guide you on when weaning off a sling is appropriate, and when it is safe to begin using your arm for daily activities. Sleeping is a frequent issue, and your PT can offer valuable guidance. If sleep troubles you before your first session, you can call your PT ahead of time.
Physical therapy usually begins with gentle Range of Motion (ROM) while protecting the surgery. Minimizing any loss of motion and strength in the surrounding areas (neck, upper back, elbow, wrist and hand) is also key in the early stages, as is controlling pain and swelling.
When safe, shoulder strengthening exercises are added to the program. As ROM, strength and motor control improve, your therapist will progress your program as appropriate and to bring you back to your goals. Whether it’s daily chores and activities, work-related tasks or sports, it’s your PT’s job to help get you there as safely and as quickly as possible.
Remember, occasional flare-ups occur as you progress back to full function, but you are not going it alone. If you have questions as you progress, ask your PT. Their experience with these surgeries means you’ll get back on the right track!