Recovery after shoulder surgery: An ultimate guide

by Ahsan Sohail
Recovery after shoulder surgery: An ultimate guide

In most cases, the majority of shoulder injuries do not require surgical intercession. Nonetheless, a significant tear in the rotator cuff – the ligament and tendons that are appended to and enfold the head of the arm bone or humerus – might need some medical procedure. Doctors can perform this little invasion with the help of an arthroscope. Shoulder surgery typically requires a long time to recover completely. This recovery period can go for as long as a half year. 

The recovery speed and the amount of pain one can experience rely on numerous elements. Such as what sort of surgery you had? What kind of health complications you have or might not have. Following your doctors’ directions, whether you are consistent in performing rehabilitation, physical movements, exercises, and furthermore. Regardless of what kind of surgery you had, either you have minimally invasive rotator cuff surgery or you a complete shoulder substitution. Recovering from shoulder surgery always takes time. 

The main reason for this recovery time is because tendons do not heal completely within a day or weeks. But require some time to mend appropriately and re-attach properly deep down to the bone. The recovery time frame will vary from person to person. It also depends upon the seriousness of the tear.

What is the anatomy of a human shoulder?

One must know the complete anatomy of the shoulder to fully understand how to get relief from pain after shoulder surgery. A shoulder joint is capable of various movements than many other joints present in the body. It is a very complex joint made up of many bones.

  • Clavicle, or collarbone 
  • Humerus, or upper arm bone 
  • Scapula, or shoulder bone 

Other than bones, different components make movements and are responsible for various functions. 

  • Ball and socket: Your upper arm blockhead fits into your shoulder bone through an adjusted attachment known as your glenoid. Your articular ligament, which is an elusive tissue, covers the outside of your ball and socket. It makes a frictionless, smooth surface that helps your bones effectively coast across each other. Solid sinewy ligament rings your glenoid, which makes a gasket around your socket, giving strength and padding to the joint. 
  • Shoulder capsule: Tissue bands known as ligaments encompass your joint and forms a capsule holding it together. A thin membrane, known to be synovium lines, the capsules under the surface makes a synovial liquid that greases your shoulder joint. 
  • Rotator cuff: Four tendons surround the shoulder capsule and help to center the arm bone in the shoulder socket. It is known to be a rotator cuff and is a thick ligament material. Rotator cuff covers the humerus head, appending it to the shoulder bone. 
  • Bursa: Bursa is a lubricating sac present between the rotator cuff and top bone of the shoulder. Bone over the shoulder and your rotator sleeve. Your bursa helps rotator cuff ligaments quickly skim when you are moving your arm.

What can be the cause of shoulder problems?

Shoulder pain can occur because of several reasons. It might occur because of some injury or accident. Overly working can also be sometimes the reason for shoulder pain. Moreover, conditions like arthritis can also be the cause of shoulder problems. Let’s have a look at what possible reasons can be of shoulder pain.

  1. Shoulder dislocation: 

If you pull back or rotate your shoulder too hard, the top of your arm can come out of the socket. It causes severe pain and can lead to swelling and bruising as well.

  • Separation of joint:

It affects the joint that holds your shoulder and collarbone together. A hard blow or fall might tear the ligaments that keep it in its place. Your collarbone can pop out and make a bump on your shoulder.

  • Fracture:

You can break your bone if something hits you hard, or you fall badly. The most common fractures are the humerus and clavicle fractures. It will cause you extreme pain, and you won’t be able to lift your arm.

  • Cartilage tear:

Cartilage is present around the rim of your shoulder joint. In case you put a lot of force or weight on your shoulder or hurt your shoulder in a fall, it can injure your cartilage. You will feel as if your shoulder has been locked. 

  • Rotator cuff tear:

Your rotator cuff is a cluster of tendons and muscles that keeps your arm in place and helps in lifting your arm. It can happen because of overworking or a fall. It can also start showing symptoms as you age. It makes a crackling sound in your shoulder whenever you move your arm or try lifting things.

  • Frozen shoulder:

It limits the movement of your shoulder. In this condition, adhesions build up in your shoulder and keep it from moving freely. It can be because of pain or surgery that made you use your shoulder less. Leading to the freezing condition. 

  • Bursitis:

Repetitive movements of the arm can cause swelling in the bursa (a lubricating sack that cushions your joint). Bursitis condition makes you have a painful shoulder more often. 

  • Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects your joints, including shoulders. It breaks down the cartilage present between the bones, causing them to rub against each other. It results in stiffness and pain.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis:

In this condition, the immune system of your body attacks the protective lining present between your bones. Causing stiffness and pain in shoulders.

How long does a shoulder surgery take to recover fully?

The extensive recovery period for shoulder surgery is around six months. The recovery period varies from patient to patient and can even take longer. 

  • Immediately after surgery:

Instantly after the surgery, your doctor will urge you to keep the shoulder as still as would be prudent. Pain differs from person to person and relies upon the degree of shoulder repair. The continuous utilization of cold packs to the region will assist with decreasing the pain and swelling.

  • First six weeks:

The maximum period of recovery can last for a month and a half after the surgical procedure. Your doctor will tell you to keep the shoulder as static as possible and to keep your arm in a sling. Using the sling helps in keeping the weight of your arm off of the ligament, which aids the healing procedure. 

After some time, as per your needs, your doctor will suggest you have physical therapy sessions. In these sessions, therapists perform exercises that include the passive movement of the joints. 

They will likewise train you on the best way to move while refraining from the muscle contractions around the joint. This delicate movement will help to forestall the scar tissue formation that will take place because of no progress in the joint. The development of scar tissues confines the movements in joints.

  • Six to twelve weeks:

During the accompanying six to twelve-week time span, your doctor will allow you to carry out some limited range of arm movements. You still won’t be able to lift your arm or push heavy things. Even after this period of six to twelve weeks, putting this kind of strain on the joint may cause the sutures anchoring the tendon to the bone to pull out. So you should abstain from supporting the weight of your body with the help of your injured arm.

  • Three to six months:

It is the time when you will start to fortify your arm muscles after generally the extensive inactivity period. It is crucial to your complete recovery. However, you must still be cautious not to put too much weight on the joints. It is because the tendon attachment to the bone will still be under the healing process. There is various light yet compelling activities and exercises that will be given to you by your specialist to strengthen the debilitated muscles gradually.

What pain medications you can use?

Pain medication after the shoulder is not significantly necessary. If in case the pain is difficult to endure, your doctor might suggest you some pain medications. You can additionally experience swelling, stiffness, and bruising. These are normal and originate from the healing process.

Various kinds of medications are accessible to torment control and swelling reduction. 

  • Local sedatives/anesthetics: These are to numb the pain in the surgical area. 
  • Opioids: Only consume these amazing medications for a short time, since they are profoundly addictive. 
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Advil and ibuprofen are known to be the best non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. 

Using medication to treat your pain can make you feel better. It will help your shoulder surgery healing process to go all the more steadily.

It’s necessary always to consume opioids precisely as recommended since they can be addictive. You must quit taking the opioids when you feel your pain improving. If you are still in need of pain medications, then go for some other sorts of pain relief medications.

Tips to fasten up your shoulder surgery recovery:

  • Make sure to strictly follow the post-operative instructions given to you by your doctor. Adhering to your doctor’s instructions ensures a positive and fast recovery.
  • Icing your shoulder after shoulder surgery is an excellent way to lessen swelling, bruising, pain, and inflammation. You can try using cold therapy devices and a frozen bag of peas as well.
  • Using pain medications suggested by your doctor following the hours of surgery can help you control and stay ahead of your pain.
  • After going through shoulder surgery, it might be challenging to find a good sleeping position. Experiment with different sleeping positions to find out what works best for you.
  • Eat food rich in vitamin C, and vitamin E helps in restoring the lost tissues and in the healing process.
  • Keeping your arm in a sling protects and prevents your shoulder from unnecessary movements.
  • Consult a physiotherapist and attend some physical therapy sessions.
  • Start doing some active exercises after three months following your surgery.

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