Facing rotator cuff surgery can feel scary and intimidating, particularly if you don't know what to expect. Most patients recover without too much difficulty, but there's no doubt that being prepared paves the way for a smooth recovery process. If you want to give your shoulder the best chance to heal and keep your stress to a minimum, here are three simple tips for making your surgery a success.
Get What You Need Ahead of Time
Your arm will be immobilized with a sling after surgery, so you need to be prepared for limited use. The best way to do that is by investing in the following items.
1. Shower chair. In the days and weeks following surgery, you'll need to take proactive measures to prevent shower injuries. Some patients may feel a little dizzy in the days afterwards, especially if they're taking pain meds. Having a chair in the shower can help those who are concerned about slipping or who simply get fatigued.
2. Bandages. Get a box of waterproof bandages and athletic tape so you can cover your incision before bathing or showering.
3. Removable shower head. You'll need to keep your incision dry for a short period of time, so purchasing a detachable shower head, if you don't already have one, will make it easier to control the spray of the water.
4. Soap pump. Small plastic pumps for shampoo and soap can make bathing with one arm so much easier.
5. Pill organizers. If you take medication and you don't have a pill organizer, this may be the perfect time to invest in one and get your medications sorted out before your surgery. Knowing what pill to take at what time can help patients who are feeling groggy or confused afterwards. Pill organizers have the added bonus of keeping you from having to twist open child-proof bottles.
6. Jewelry, cosmetics, and clothing. This is totally optional, obviously, but considering that your range of motion will be limited, if you're a jewelry fanatic, you may want to invest in some cheap jewelry that will be easy to take on and off.
You may also want to invest in a blow dryer with an attached brush to make drying your hair with one arm easier. And shirts with Velcro closures instead of buttons will make dressing solo a breeze.
Stay Ahead of the Pain
Most doctors will tell you to stay ahead of the pain. So if you're one of those that prefers to tough it out, you may want to reconsider.
Rotator cuff surgery typically comes with post-op pain that kicks in once the numbing block wears off, and you really need to prepare for it. The best way to do this is by taking your prescribed pain medication before the nerve block wears off. Ask your doctor when you can take the first dose and be sure to take it as directed. Most pain can be minimized if you don't wait for it to start before taking medication.
Also, be sure to follow your doctor's advice on ice-pack therapy as this can reduce both pain and inflammation.
Stick with Physical Therapy
With rotator cuff surgery, you have to be patient because it can take anywhere from 6–12 months for everything to heal.
During the first six weeks after surgery, your healing process is just getting started, and in about 12 weeks healing should be well under way. During this time, your physical therapy will consist of building up good range of motion while also keeping the swelling down. You may be asked to walk or use a stationary bike as well as perform elbow and wrist exercises. Eventually, your therapist will initiate exercises to strengthen your deltoid and gently push you past your range of motions limits.
Don't expect overnight results. Keep with the therapy and follow all instructions provided by your doctor or physical therapist.
If you have questions about surgery and recovery, contact a clinic like Omaha Orthopedic Clinic & Sports Medicine PC.