January 23, 2021
Post Shoulder Surgery

Tips for At-Home Success

Having surgery is never easy, but being ready at home can help reduce anxiety for the post-op experience and make you more comfortable after surgery. Here are a few key tips to help you prepare for your shoulder surgery recovery at home.

Consider the arm

Which arm are you having surgery on? If it’s your dominant arm, you’ll need to think about how you typically use it every day and how surgery may challenge your habits. 

Most people are not ambidextrous, so simple tasks like using the bathroom, eating, opening doors, shaving and brushing your teeth may be more difficult. Practicing these tasks with your non-dominant arm prior to surgery will help you feel more capable and confident.

Prepare for Dressing

Loose-fitting shirts that are easy to put on, like button-down shirts and oversized t-shirts, are best for post-surgery. You can also find post-surgical shirts made specifically for shoulder surgery patients at online retailers. 

When getting dressed, focus on putting the surgical arm in first.  If you wear a bra, opt for one with a front closure. This style helps minimize unnecessary movement and discomfort during post-procedure recovery.

Maximize Sleep

It can be challenging to sleep after shoulder surgery, and most patients find that a recliner or couch is the most comfortable place to sleep. For extra support, look to your pillows. A pillow wedge can provide more upright support for your upper body, and extra pillows can prop up the surgical arm at a comfortable height.

Usually, it's best to ice your shoulder prior to sleep to help control pain. It is also advised to wear your sling until instructed otherwise by your doctor, as the sling helps support the injured and recovering tissue.

Check Your Supply List

They may not seem like much, but small, everyday items can make a big difference when it comes to recovering from your shoulder surgery. Food, toiletries and bath equipment are examples of items you may want to consider purchasing to make your transition easier. 

Some post-surgical items that have proven to be helpful are:

  1. Button-down, oversized and post-surgical shirts; front-closure bra
  2. Long-handled back washer
  3. Detachable shower head
  4. Pillow wedge for sleeping
  5. Medicine box to keep necessary medications close by
  6. Shower chair if you are unsteady
  7. Pre-made or frozen meals

This article was created with support from OrthoCarolina Monroe.

This article was originally published on January 4, 2019, and has been updated on January 23, 2021.


    August 28, 2020

    Thank you for these ideas. The more the merrier!
    - Lynn
    Reply From: OrthoCarolina

    August 28, 2020

    Thanks Lynn

    February 09, 2020

    This article regarding post-operative shoulder care was sent to me by a close friend. I'm convinced that this article and some videos will help me tremendously to cope with postoperative pain. Thank you!
    - Gary Carlson
    Reply From: OrthoCarolina

    February 09, 2020

    Thanks for the note Gary.