Sep 7, 2011

Rotator cuff surgery recovery tips

Before I had rotator cuff surgery 5 weeks ago I searched the Internet for recovery tips and advice. I didn't find much other than YouTube videos showing a day to day physical recovery. I was looking for advice on pre and post-op information. I will share what I learned in the process and hope it helps someone else looking for tips on ways to make recovery a much easier experience. This is my experience and may not be the same for anyone else. It is a general list of items and tips I found helpful. Here goes:

The best news I will share is the surgery was not painful. I slept through it like a little baby once they slapped the gas mask over my face and asked me to take five deep breaths. I don't remember a thing after that...

When I woke up in recovery my arm was in a sling and my shoulder had a bulky wrap covering it. I opted for the nerve block on my shoulder before surgery. My doctor said it numbs the arm and helps ease any pain you might feel after surgery. I felt no pain. I also couldn't feel my arm. That was okay with me. I told my doctor I had zero pain tolerance when asked. I actually am around a 1 out of 10 on the pain scale but I didn't want to brag.

I gained a liter while in surgery. The surgeon plumps up your shoulder and arm with a liter of fluid. Nobody told me that was going to happen before surgery or else I would have opted for a contour spray tan to distract from the giant ham hock hanging in a sling that was once my arm. That fluid is the most uncomfortable part of recovery during the first day or two after surgery. My skin was stretched to a "whole notha level" and burned from the pressure. That is the only way I can describe how it felt. It's not a deal breaker or unbearable, just bothersome and irritating. Kinda like some relatives in my family...

My surgery was at noon on a Friday and by 7:3o that night I was sitting on the patio in my backyard enjoying the beautiful summer breeze and hanging out with family. The good ones, not the bothersome, irritating relatives. They were told I was in a coma, indefinitely...

Pain pills were dispensed by my doctor but I didn't really need them. I take half a pain pill an hour before physical therapy. It really helps and makes it a pleasant experience. I highly recommend it. I didn't take a pill for the first appointment and it was unpleasant to say the least.

I have been sleeping in a recliner. It is easier and feels better for my shoulder. If you sleep in a bed surround your shoulder and arm with a pillow underneath. It takes the pressure off your shoulder. I like the recliner because I am confined to a small space and like the cocoon feeling. I may never go back to a real bed again. It also helps prevent bags under your eyes as an added bonus of sleeping in a semi-seated position. Yahoo!

I'm a girl, so this next bit of advice may be of no help to the guys out there. I bought (tube/ smocked) strapless maxi dresses for post surgery attire. They have been ideal and I can't recommend them enough if you are having this surgery during the summer or live in a warm climate. You can step right into them and pull them up instead of struggling to get them over your head or get an arm in a sleeve. The maxi length covers your legs so you don't have to worry about unshaved legs. I am right handed and my surgery was on my right shoulder so I am not able to do much about shaving my legs and the dresses cover that little secret.

I also bought a long handled buff puff body scrubber for use in the shower. It is a handy thing to have when you only have one arm that works. A velcro closure body towel is another helpful tool for drying off. I also bought a dental floss device with a handle that looks like a toothbrush at Target to floss my teeth. You can floss your teeth using one hand.

That is all I can think of right now. Good luck with your surgery and I wish you a speedy and pain free recovery.



My doctor covered my incisions with steri-strips and said to keep them on for 6 weeks to prevent scaring and aid in healing. It is working.

18 comments:

Lori said...

You have a great writing style..That was hysterical - I am going in on the 3rd for surgery.. And the dress tips were a great idea! I am nervous and a total wimp so glad to have some optimistic readings... And the whole relative thing.. I feel ya! Thanks for the laughs- you really should write.. You have a great voice.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your tips. I didn't know about the fluid. My husband is having this and he's trying to figure out now how to shower and take care of shall we say other bathroom duties!

Romi said...

Good luck to the husband. Taking a shower is fine. I did the arm rotation and circle exercises the doctor gave me in the shower. It was the only time I wasn't wearing the arm sling so I could do it then.

Charting by Exception Advice said...

Thank you so much for writing this! My husband will be having the surgery in August. He has Parkinson's, too, so we're trying to figure out how to deal with his balance issues and your tips on showering and what to wear are helpful. I'm going to modify his terry cloth bathrobe with Velcro to minimize his need to towel off. Lori, how's your recovery going now? You're another month along.

Anonymous said...

Great story! I just had rotator cuff surgery on June 28th. Because I have been experiencing neck pain, possibly a pinched nerve, my surgeon did not recommend a nerve block. I have always been a person with high pain tolerance, but the second I began coming out of anesthesia, I felt the worst pain ever! I delivered three kids naturally, twins & my youngest that was 9 lbs and the pain did not compare to the shoulder surgery!!

My surgeon came into the prep room before the surgery to mark my left shoulder & talk about the procedure. He said for the first few days I would be on a strict regimen of pain medicine as this was considered the most painful surgeries. He said pain management was important, ranging from keeping blood pressure normal to the successful healing, I have never been one to take narcotic pain medicine, Motrin is about the strongest medicine I take. But, I had no objections to the narcotics after the surgery.

After the 3rd day, I was able to take the bandage off and shower. To my shocking surprise I had six holes!! He told my husband he had lots of pictures to show me. On July 3rd, around 7pm, my surgeon called to check on me, said he was going out of town for the holiday weekend. Told him I did not like how the Percocet made me feel. He said give me your pharmacy info and I will call in something different. He totally rocks!

I don't have a recliner but really wish I had one. Sleeping has been a real challenge. I had my stitches taken out yesterday and am quite impressed with how smooth the holes look.

Good luck to anyone getting the surgery. I am confident I will be happy after getting thru therapy!

DR. PASQUALE LONGORDO said...

Hello friend,

Your blog is nice for Shoulder Surgery. It’s a awesome posting. Its very useful for others.

Dr. Pasquale Longordo and Shoulder Surgery

DR. PASQUALE LONGORDO said...

Hello friend,

Your blog is nice for Shoulder Surgery. It’s a awesome posting. Its very useful for others.

Dr. Pasquale Longordo and Shoulder Surgery

DR. PASQUALE LONGORDO said...

Hello friend,

Your blog is nice for Shoulder Surgery. It’s a awesome posting. Its very useful for others.

Dr. Pasquale Longordo and Shoulder Surgery

Sherri Kelty said...

Having mine do e in September. Great tips. Unfortunately it will be too cold for sun dress. I live alone so kinda worried. Again thanks

Sherri Kelty said...

Thanks so much. I a having mine done in September. I live alone so kinda scares. Too cold for sundresses.

Sherri Kelty said...

Having mine do e in September. Great tips. Unfortunately it will be too cold for sun dress. I live alone so kinda worried. Again thanks

Jane said...

Thanks for writing this! I had my right shoulder done last Oct. when the weather was colder. Here are my tips:
1.Get pump shampoo, conditioner and body wash for the shower.
2. I bought several pair of black elastic waist athletic pants - C9 from Target looked nice and went with everything.
3. I bought a stretchy pull up bra with no closures so I could step in and pull it up.
4. I bought several tank tops and put a Velcro closure on the right strap so I could step into that as well.
5. The best thing I did was buy a zip up sweatshirt, opened up the right side seam all the way up and then down the arm. Then I sewed the arm seam to the side seams, eliminating the sleeve but giving lots of room for the sling and the pillow for the first week. It was great! I was modest but comfortable and it cost less than $20.

Anonymous said...

Sleep in a recliner as you may turn on your side in bed and raise your arm and tear the tendon loose. You will need help with a bra. Showering was not a big problem as your good arm can reach most parts of your body. Pouring shampoo into your bad hand won't work as you can't reach the top of your head. Need to hang the towel over your shoulder to dry your back. Tight jeans are to hard to pull up with one hand. My cousin lost one arm in Iraq and showed me how to pull the crotch of my panties to one side when on the toilet. Can actually handle all three female needs down there and then crotch slides back into position as I stand back up. Am still using this trick five months after surgery as it saves me 20 or 30 seconds not having to pull down and then pulling back up every time I use the toilet. I'm 80 percent and have been told I will be 100 in 8 to 12 months.

Debra said...

I was just told I need surgery on left shoulder. He will be removing a calcium deposit, some spurs and some of my own bone to release pressure off my tendon that is causing neck and jaw pain. This scares the heck out of me.
I am a Manicurist and have been for 34 years. I am still working. Can anyone tell me about how long I might be off. Being self-employed is very difficult and hard financially if unable to work.
Thanks, Debra

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting all this. I go in for surgery in 10 days, the works, I fell on the stairs and caught myself with the overhead banister while holding my 5 month old. I managed not to fall, but I messed my shoulder up, torn rotator cuff and bicep, and while they're at it they're gonna remove some clavicle and another bone I can't remember the name of, and bone spurs. I will have help from family with my kids, but I have been tryng to figure out how to make things as easy as possible for me to do. It is my dominant arm/hand, and I want to do as much for myself as I can, thank you for these tips, and thank you for warning about the fluid, that's the first I had heard of it.

Lisa said...

I was just diagnosed with bone spur..tear to supristanous (sp?) tendon..fluid on shoulder..have to wait 2 weeks to consult with a surgeon that specializes in arthroscopic surgery..would this be the best way to fix it? I have been reading so many horror stories about the pain post op and quite frankly I am terrified! I have been dealing with pain and loss of rom over a year..did a month of physical therapy with some progress but then the pain returned..help!

Anonymous said...

I just had my rotator cuff repaired, going on my third week. How soon should I return to work?

Romi Q said...

I think your doctor will have the answer for when you should return to work. I hope you are doing well and recovering nicely.