Shoulder replacement: Post-surgery suggestions

Posted by anncgrl @anncgrl, Jul 29, 2019

Good Morning! I am going to have total shoulder replacement surgery tomorrow. I have had a total knee replacement and several other surgeries but, for some reason, this surgery intimidates me. I think it may be because I have heard such a wide range of comments about the recovery time and the pain. I think I finally understand that there may be people who are well-meaning but are talking about procedures they had that were not as comprehensive as total shoulder replacement. One question I have is related to practical advice. What kind of clothing did you wear to accommodate your arm and sling? I am a 65 year old woman. Any post surgery suggestions for comfort and daily living are welcome.

Hello @anncgrl, this a great topic. You may notice, I edited your title to, "Shoulder Replacement: Post-surgery suggestions," to help members focus specifically on the often unasked questions in regards to any type of surgery, I've made it through surgery, now what!?

I'd like to invite some members who have discussed shoulder replacement to see if they'd share their clothing, sleeping and any other random advice that could be given to make recovery easier. @rascal1, @artscaping, @casper15, @jaguar (also may be interested to learn some tips for an upcoming replacement as well), @mimi99, and @edithmiller have all discussed some type of shoulder replacement and may be able to offer some insight on what to do after your surgery.

@anncgrl, I had a full rotator repair in August of 2018. I am not positive what commonalities are shared between a rotator repair and a replacement, but I was in a immobilizer sling for 6 weeks. I bought loose fitting t-shirts that were 1-2 sizes too big. I typically wear large and would often throw on an XL or even XXL depending on brand. I wasn't winning any fashion contests, but the large size of it made it much easier to essentially just throw over my head with my good arm. I also was told that going up one size of shirt and having it be a button up shirt would make things easier as well. I also made sure I had things of any real weight (like big plates or bowls or cooking utensils like pans, etc.) were moved to lower (eye level at the highest) shelves as you will likely be grabbing things one-handed for at least a few weeks. Try to picture everything you do on a daily basis but doing so with one hand, anything that you deem would be difficult or too heavy or out of reach, you may find it useful to relocate for the short time you will be in your sling. Sleeping was the hardest thing, regardless of any preparations. A bed was out of the question for at least a week for me, so hopefully you have a recliner you like! Although, this was all for a rotator repair and I think you may start PT faster with a replacement than with a rotator repair.

@anncgrl, is there anything other than clothing that you are hoping to learn before your surgery?

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@anncgrl, @JustinMcClanahan, Good afternoon. So tomorrow is the day for your shoulder replacement. For me, this was an amazingly trouble-free recovery with welcome results. First and foremost, I had a totally dedicated surgeon who was just there for me. Sat and watched a video of the surgery with me. Answered every question himself. Was sitting in my room, the evening after the surgery, just to look in and say hello. Gave me his cell phone # in case I was uncomfortable about anything. The anesthesiologist paid me a visit too. Pretty soon, I was feeling like royalty. Mine was a reverse shoulder replacement, also called a Delta Shoulder System because the tear, tagged as the Grand Canyon of holes, was irreparable after a fall down the mountain.

Here are some hints and possibilities for after surgery that worked for me. Since this is summer you won't need outerwear, you might have a few poncho or tunic type wraps without sleeves. They work well over a roomy button-up shirt of some kind. Elastic waist or pull-on pants without a zipper. Sweat pants also work. Shoes…slip-ons with no laces were best for me.

For sleeping, someone tucked me in at night and built up pillows on one side so that my body would be straight and the sling was pretty comfy. I wouldn't refuse some sleep aid medication for the first week or so. Showers were a little tough the first few days. I had a plastic bag that went over the sling and could be sealed at the top. My best friend surprised me by coming to stay with me for 4-5 days. She washed my hair, helped with dressing and made me get out and walk a bit every day to keep my energy up. You may want a movable shower head that can be held by someone who can rinse you off. Sitting on a shower seat that someone loaned me was a good idea. You can wrap yourself in a bath towel and sort of drip dry or let someone help you with that and the hairdryer if you use one. I had my hair cut very short before the surgery day.

For eating, I just learned to use my left hand. I was tidy enough to be able to go out to dinner in a few days. You may want to practice "mindful" eating to slow things down a bit. To this day, I use my left hand for eating and I can do pretty well writing. Shuffling cribbage cards took a bit of time. Once you learn what you are capable of doing, it gets easier. I also checked in with my Physical Therapist before trying to do much of anything. I remember to this day what my surgeon told me. "Don't fall. I can't fix you."

And my PS is this. Please make sure of the road rules for driving with a sling. In CA it is a violation complete with a fine and a trip to driving school. If you have Siri on your iPhone or other devices you can let her make your calls for you.

The big prize at the end…..absolutely no pain, none, nada. I was in heaven and still am. Best of luck. Let us know how it goes. Chris

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@anncgrl Good luck with your shoulder surgery. From what I’ve heard recovery is much easier from that than it is from TKR. Hopefully thIS will be easy for you.

@artscaping Chris, it sounds like you had amazing doctors! You don’t see that much these days. That’s great that you are pain-free now.
JK

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So can anyone tell me what to expect after shoulder replacement surgery

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Hello @trapper1968, welcome to Connect. You may notice I moved your discussion and combined it with an existing discussion in Joint Replacements titled "Shoulder replacement: Post-surgery suggestions." I'd like to invite @mimi99, @basslakebabe19, @wwill, @anncgrl, @rascal1 to this discussion to share their experience with shoulder replacement and perhaps some tips for recovery and general every day advice post-surgery.

I'd also like to invite @aliceholeman, @mare5897 who have also recently joined Connect and talked about undergoing a recent shoulder replacement surgery.

@trapper1968, are there any specific questions you have about post-surgery? Recovery, rehab, pain, PT, and general tips around the house are all things to think about. Are some of these things what you are wondering about?

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@JustinMcClanahan

Hello @anncgrl, this a great topic. You may notice, I edited your title to, "Shoulder Replacement: Post-surgery suggestions," to help members focus specifically on the often unasked questions in regards to any type of surgery, I've made it through surgery, now what!?

I'd like to invite some members who have discussed shoulder replacement to see if they'd share their clothing, sleeping and any other random advice that could be given to make recovery easier. @rascal1, @artscaping, @casper15, @jaguar (also may be interested to learn some tips for an upcoming replacement as well), @mimi99, and @edithmiller have all discussed some type of shoulder replacement and may be able to offer some insight on what to do after your surgery.

@anncgrl, I had a full rotator repair in August of 2018. I am not positive what commonalities are shared between a rotator repair and a replacement, but I was in a immobilizer sling for 6 weeks. I bought loose fitting t-shirts that were 1-2 sizes too big. I typically wear large and would often throw on an XL or even XXL depending on brand. I wasn't winning any fashion contests, but the large size of it made it much easier to essentially just throw over my head with my good arm. I also was told that going up one size of shirt and having it be a button up shirt would make things easier as well. I also made sure I had things of any real weight (like big plates or bowls or cooking utensils like pans, etc.) were moved to lower (eye level at the highest) shelves as you will likely be grabbing things one-handed for at least a few weeks. Try to picture everything you do on a daily basis but doing so with one hand, anything that you deem would be difficult or too heavy or out of reach, you may find it useful to relocate for the short time you will be in your sling. Sleeping was the hardest thing, regardless of any preparations. A bed was out of the question for at least a week for me, so hopefully you have a recliner you like! Although, this was all for a rotator repair and I think you may start PT faster with a replacement than with a rotator repair.

@anncgrl, is there anything other than clothing that you are hoping to learn before your surgery?

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I recommend a top that buttons as it makes it easier to put on and remove. I think the pain after a week or so is less than rotator repairs, although initially very painful from bone being removed. After six weeks, I felt pretty good, The shoulder is weak and probably takes longer to rehab than rotator repairs. I slept in a recliner for almost 6 weeks.

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@artscaping

@anncgrl, @JustinMcClanahan, Good afternoon. So tomorrow is the day for your shoulder replacement. For me, this was an amazingly trouble-free recovery with welcome results. First and foremost, I had a totally dedicated surgeon who was just there for me. Sat and watched a video of the surgery with me. Answered every question himself. Was sitting in my room, the evening after the surgery, just to look in and say hello. Gave me his cell phone # in case I was uncomfortable about anything. The anesthesiologist paid me a visit too. Pretty soon, I was feeling like royalty. Mine was a reverse shoulder replacement, also called a Delta Shoulder System because the tear, tagged as the Grand Canyon of holes, was irreparable after a fall down the mountain.

Here are some hints and possibilities for after surgery that worked for me. Since this is summer you won't need outerwear, you might have a few poncho or tunic type wraps without sleeves. They work well over a roomy button-up shirt of some kind. Elastic waist or pull-on pants without a zipper. Sweat pants also work. Shoes…slip-ons with no laces were best for me.

For sleeping, someone tucked me in at night and built up pillows on one side so that my body would be straight and the sling was pretty comfy. I wouldn't refuse some sleep aid medication for the first week or so. Showers were a little tough the first few days. I had a plastic bag that went over the sling and could be sealed at the top. My best friend surprised me by coming to stay with me for 4-5 days. She washed my hair, helped with dressing and made me get out and walk a bit every day to keep my energy up. You may want a movable shower head that can be held by someone who can rinse you off. Sitting on a shower seat that someone loaned me was a good idea. You can wrap yourself in a bath towel and sort of drip dry or let someone help you with that and the hairdryer if you use one. I had my hair cut very short before the surgery day.

For eating, I just learned to use my left hand. I was tidy enough to be able to go out to dinner in a few days. You may want to practice "mindful" eating to slow things down a bit. To this day, I use my left hand for eating and I can do pretty well writing. Shuffling cribbage cards took a bit of time. Once you learn what you are capable of doing, it gets easier. I also checked in with my Physical Therapist before trying to do much of anything. I remember to this day what my surgeon told me. "Don't fall. I can't fix you."

And my PS is this. Please make sure of the road rules for driving with a sling. In CA it is a violation complete with a fine and a trip to driving school. If you have Siri on your iPhone or other devices you can let her make your calls for you.

The big prize at the end…..absolutely no pain, none, nada. I was in heaven and still am. Best of luck. Let us know how it goes. Chris

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Chris: loved your helpful suggestions. I “only” had rotator surgery on each shoulder, but most things applied then as well. But tell me: what in the world have you had done to your body? I think TKR, at least 1, sounds like 1 shoulder (or more?), and there were some other niggling or not so niggling health issues that came up in different posts. Are you a bionic woman by now?

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Anncgrl here ! Thank you for all the replies. My Total shoulder replacement surgery was on July 30th. It went great and I have had minimal problems. The main thing that caused me an issue was the death of my husband on July 17th. He died from complications of frontal temporal dementia. I was his caregiver for a very long time. I made the choice to proceed with the surgery. I figured if I was already suffering so much then I might as well get the shoulder issue done. I am currently in physical therapy and doing well. The entire process has been far better than I expected. I stayed with friends for several weeks and I appreciate their care and generosity. I had a total knee replacement several years ago also with very little problems. I did develop a blood clot about a year after that surgery and have since read that can be a result of knee replacement. At this moment I am not aware of other surgeries and am so grateful for good doctors and caring friends. My word of advice: Do what the doctors tell you from start to finish. Also, I got awesome videos of how to dress and sleep from youtube

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Hello all – it has been six months since I fractured my shoulder in a fall and had partial replacement surgery. I guess I am reaching out to vent/share because I feel totally alone on this. I'm 58 and never had a broken bone prior to this. I tried to sleep in a recliner/couch for the first four months and was lucky to get more than two hours consecutive sleep. Once I got out of the sling I gradually weaned myself back to the bed but still only 2-3 hours max sleep even with Ambien. The biggest thing is it was my left shoulder, the side that I slept on for over 40 years!
I went to PT for approx. 25 visits and have about 105 degrees of mobility with my arm straight out. I still have significant pain and swelling on top of my collar bone when I try to use my arm to much.
I have been taking Norco 10.325 1/2 a pill every 12 hours and about the 9 hour mark it was almost unbearable. Everyone says I should not be having this much pain still, something must be wrong, get a second opinion, etc. I ran out of pain meds 4 days ago and have been taking Aleve with little effect. I feel like I could do much better with two pills a day, one every 12 hours. But I don't want to get addicted to the pain meds. I have a doctor appoint today but I don't know if they will give me another prescription.
I have read online that it takes as long as a year or more to recover from this type of surgery. So I don't understand why everyone is expecting me to be back to normal and pain free.
Thank you for reading and listening.

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Here's my last xrays which look wonderful according to my surgeon.

20190910_144145-1

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@dtwo

Hello all – it has been six months since I fractured my shoulder in a fall and had partial replacement surgery. I guess I am reaching out to vent/share because I feel totally alone on this. I'm 58 and never had a broken bone prior to this. I tried to sleep in a recliner/couch for the first four months and was lucky to get more than two hours consecutive sleep. Once I got out of the sling I gradually weaned myself back to the bed but still only 2-3 hours max sleep even with Ambien. The biggest thing is it was my left shoulder, the side that I slept on for over 40 years!
I went to PT for approx. 25 visits and have about 105 degrees of mobility with my arm straight out. I still have significant pain and swelling on top of my collar bone when I try to use my arm to much.
I have been taking Norco 10.325 1/2 a pill every 12 hours and about the 9 hour mark it was almost unbearable. Everyone says I should not be having this much pain still, something must be wrong, get a second opinion, etc. I ran out of pain meds 4 days ago and have been taking Aleve with little effect. I feel like I could do much better with two pills a day, one every 12 hours. But I don't want to get addicted to the pain meds. I have a doctor appoint today but I don't know if they will give me another prescription.
I have read online that it takes as long as a year or more to recover from this type of surgery. So I don't understand why everyone is expecting me to be back to normal and pain free.
Thank you for reading and listening.

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@dtwo Thank you for posting this "disappointing" story. My goodness, you have suffered for six months. My experience with a reverse total shoulder replacement had a few wrinkles along the way but nothing like you have told. I had Dilaudid immediately after surgery and the first week I was home. I used the ice machine frequently and tried to stay in the stabilizer sling as much as possible. Sleeping wasn't the comfiest because of the rigidity of the sling.

So tell me, what is partial about the surgery? I have no medical background so I cannot read X-rays or scans. Who is "everyone" mentioned in line 7 of your post? Is it a constant burning pain, or a sharp sudden pain? Are you keeping a journal or at least writing down your experience to give to medical providers? That can be helpful.

What did your surgeon tell you when you relayed the information that you were still in pain 6 months after surgery? I will be adding you to my waiting list which means I am waiting to hear about your appointment. Be pain-free this evening. Chris

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Hello Chris,
Thank you for your reply, believe me I'm sorry my story isn't positive.
My surgery was partial in that the socket was supposedly intact, but the ball was shattered. So my implant consists of the ball and the post that goes into my bone. The pain is constant burning and a dull ache deeper.
My surgeon just likes to tell the story of a woman he treated who he saw several years later that had made a remarkable recovery with full range of motion.
My appointment yesterday was with my primary care physician. He basically said "it is what it is" and it was one of the worst breaks he has seen. He said the surgeon did the best he could at putting me back together. According to him my bicep is lower than the right arm and that's not going to change. He also said that swelling on my collar bone is a tendon – you can feel it stretched across the bone. He said in the future I may get some calcification in that area – oh yay!
The "everyone" in my story is basically my friends and family. Certainly they mean well and only want me to get better.
They gave me Dulodid in the emergency room because I was wailing from the pain. I had to wait a week for surgery and during that time everything turned black from the bruising – my arm, even my boob!
I assume your total replacement was a planned event? Maybe that's partially why my results are less than positive, because my surgery was necessitated by this catastrophic event.
I came away from my appointment yesterday with another prescription for the Norco and I got at least 5 hours of good sleep last night.
Again, thank you for reading my story and your reply. 🙂

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Good evening dtwo, there is more to your story isn't there? I know that you wanted to get the Norco and I can understand the reasons. I am glad you had 5 hours of sleep. In a way….my reverse shoulder replacement was similar to yours. I fell down the mountain, breaking my elbow in three places and dislocating and deranging my shoulder. The surgery at the time of the accident…..supposedly realigned everything. It didn't. So….like you, I had to wait until the elbow healed and then the shoulder surgeries began.

The insurance company fought me for 2 years. They wouldn't pay for the ambulance. They wouldn't approve an MRI. My surgeon actually slid down the wall in the hallway with his phone and sat on the floor to try to talk some sense in them. They wanted pain killers, acupuncture and physical therapy first. Of course, acupuncture worked for only 48 hrs or so. I refused opioids and so the insurance company paid for a repair and when that didn't work, a cadaver graft. There wasn't enough of my tissue to make a connection with the cadaver contribution.

There is more to the story. A reverse shoulder replacement was recommended because mine was trashed. The insurance company said I was too young for approval at 68. They wanted to only do folks in their late 70's or 80's because they didn't want to be responsible for any aftercare issues.

Finally, it was approved and by that time I was jumping for joy. I think my attitude of gratefulness helped with the recovery. And other than being 2 inches longer than my other arm, which keeps me from doing push-ups (thank goodness) I am pain-free and functioning very well.

So now you know why I am not settling in very well with your situation. What happens when the Norco no longer works even after you have increased the dosage. As our bodies adjust to medication dosages, it is often necessary to add more and then more. I don't want to push you to a long-range plan and yet I hope you are able to find a solution that will leave you pain-free and medication free.

So many good thoughts are coming your way. Stay in touch. I have you on my list again.
Be free of suffering tonight. Chris

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Hello, all! I signed in and read a few of the latest comments. I have been stunned at how well the shoulder surgery went, the brief period of pain (especially compared to what I anticipated) and how well physical therapy is going. I don't know what to say about a pain that continues after the surgery. I also have had a total knee replacement with pretty much the same story. I know I would seek out another opinion. I live in North Carolina where Duke is considered the absolute best in medical care. As a result, many people will choose to go to Duke for their second opinion. Persistent pain is challenging. Pain management classes are an option. Lack of sleep is a real problem for me. Lack of sleep makes everything more difficult. I am currently trying yet another method to help me develop a sleep pattern. One huge decision on my part has been to practice acceptance of a current situation because I get so angry when my body is sick or hurts. It is very important to practice caution when using sleep medications. Chronic pain sucks and makes decision-making about what to do next far tougher. If available, allow mentors and close friends to help you. Many blessings!

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Hi, hoping to get some advice on how people have “survived “ the post op shoulder replacement time. I am 7 days out, doing the few exercises that I have been given at this point. I am normally very active, work full time, enjoy working out and yard work. So, needless to say, this has really put a cramp in my style. I know I need some structure to my day and need to incorporate some reading, ‘down time’ activities. Mood is a bit low now, sleep is very poor as I am normally a stomach or left side sleeper, neither of which I can do. I do have several recliners, but only sleep for short periods as I am not a back sleeper. Does anyone have any recommendations re sleep? Or any words of encouragement would be welcome. Thanks. Sue

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