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Shoulder Replacement Recovery and Rehabilitation
Gain a better understanding on what is involved in recovery and rehabilitation.
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What to Expect From Shoulder Replacement Recovery and Rehabilitation
When your surgery is complete, it’s time to focus on your recovery and the rehabilitation you’ll need to get back to your normal activities. Everyone is different—be sure to listen to your body and ask your doctor whenever you’re in doubt.
Preparing to Go Home
Just before being discharged, you will receive instructions for your at-home recovery. You will likely need assistance with your daily activities for several days to a few weeks following your shoulder replacement surgery. The doctor will help you decide the best place to continue recovering after you leave the hospital. This may be at home or in a rehabilitation center. A rehab center is similar to a hospital—patients stay there day and night, and are cared for by doctors, nurses, and therapists until they become well enough to go home.
Directly after surgery:
- Your arm may be in a sling
- Your elbow may also require support
- Lifting limitations
- Limited usage of involved arm
- Keep incision clean and dry
- Driving limitations
Follow Your Surgeon’s Advice
Following an orthopaedic surgeon and physical therapist's plan for rehabilitation can make a positive difference in recovering from shoulder surgery and returning to an active lifestyle. The goals of rehabilitation are to:
- Improve your muscle strength
- Help regain shoulder movement
- Protect your new shoulder joint
- Help you resume most of your normal activities
Here are some basic types of exercises to expect:
Range of motion is a joint's ability to go through all its normal movements. Range-of-motion exercises may be passive (the therapist moves the shoulder for the patient), active-assistive (the patient needs some help), or active (the patient moves the shoulder without assistance). These exercises help make the joints and shoulder muscles more mobile and less painful.
Muscle strengthening exercises
The physical therapist may also help strengthen the muscles with resistance exercises. This is typically done with weights or elastic bands.
Electrical stimulation (TENS)
The physical therapist may suggest an additional type of therapy called TENS. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a type of electrical stimulation that can help treat certain kinds of pain. It produces a gentle current that stimulates muscles—and creates a slight tingling feeling. A TENS device involves the use of small electrodes attached to the shoulder. The device often can be used at home. It's not known exactly how TENS provides pain relief, but it is thought that it may stimulate the production of endorphins (pain-inhibitors) or block nerve impulses that carry pain messages.
Cold therapy may also be beneficial. Collagen is the main protein of connective tissue—helping to form muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Normally it acts like a rubber band, stretching and contracting. If stretched too far, however, it can tear. This can allow fluid to escape into the spaces among the muscle fibers. Cold applied to the shoulder area can help decrease the resulting pain and inflammation. Additional therapies may include iontophoresis, in which medications may be delivered through the skin via an electrical charge, or phonophoresis, which uses ultrasound to deliver medications.
Rehabilitation and recovery takes time and commitment. Each person is different and the length of recovery is dependent on your particular situation, overall health and your rehabilitation. When your surgeon feels you are ready, you should be able to resume some, if not most, of your normal daily activities. After shoulder replacement surgery you must inform any doctors, including dentists, treating you that you have undergone shoulder replacement surgery. Antibiotics may be prescribed before a procedure to help avoid infection. Keep in mind: Most people who undergo shoulder replacement surgery enjoy life with less joint pain. However, it's important to avoid high-impact activities that may damage your new joint. Check with your orthopaedic surgeon for advice on recommended activities.
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IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
As with any medical treatment, individual results may vary. The performance of shoulder replacements depends on age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. If you have conditions that limit rehabilitation you should not have this surgery. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can tell you if shoulder replacement is right for you.