Care after reverse total shoulder arthroplasty

Limit the movement of your shoulder

After surgery your shoulder will be in a sling. Wear the sling as you are told to by your doctor to limit movement of your shoulder.

Wear your sling when you are

  • Walking
  • In large crowds
  • While you are sleeping

Remove the sling to

  • Bathe
  • Dress
  • Do your range-of-motion exercises
  • Bend and straighten your elbow several times each day

Meals after surgery

Eat a light meal the evening of your surgery and the next day. Start eating normal meals as soon as you feel like you can.

Pain medicines can make you constipated.

To help prevent constipation

  • Drink a lot of fluids
  • Eat dietary fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

Pain control after surgery

When you leave the hospital you will be given a prescription for pain medicine. Take it as prescribed.

You will go home with your cold pack machine or instructions on ice pack use. The machine has a sleeve attached to an ice cooler. Put ice and some water in the cooler. Plug it in to an outlet. Cold water will move through the shoulder sleeve to lessen pain and swelling after surgery.

Keep ice on your shoulder often for the first three days after your surgery. Ice your shoulder three to five times each day after day three, especially before you sleep. Put a t-shirt or a thin towel between you and the sleeve so it does not hurt your skin.

Wound care after surgery

If you leave the hospital with a clear dressing on your incision, leave it in place until your follow up visit with your surgeon. It will be removed at your first follow-up visit. You may shower when you get home, this dressing can get wet, but it is best to keep it dry if possible. Do not submerge the dressing in a bath or pool.

If you leave the hospital with a white gauze dressing, take it off five days after your surgery. You may shower after the dressing is removed.

Do not put your shoulder under water for four weeks after surgery, such as in a bath, hot tub, or pool. You may shower and let the water run over your incision, then pat it dry. Do not put ointment, alcohol, or lotion over your incisions, it is best to keep them dry.

Bruising can be seen on the front of the shoulder or along the biceps muscle. This is normal. It is caused by mild internal bleeding after surgery.

Within five days of your surgery, call your doctor if you have

  • Fevers
  • Redness and drainage from the incision
  • Redness spreading away from the incision
  • Swelling

Sleep after shoulder surgery

It can be hard to sleep the week or two after your surgery. The surgery itself may interfere with your sleep-wake cycle. Also, many people have more shoulder pain when they lay flat on their back.

To help with the pain, try to sleep

  • In a recliner or reclined in bed
  • With a pillow behind your elbow to move your arm slightly away from your body
  • Wearing your sling

Driving after shoulder surgery

Do not drive or use heavy machinery if you are wearing a sling or taking narcotic pain medicine. If you have an accident or get pulled over, you are considered driving while impaired.

If you need to drive, wait at least until you have seen your doctor at the first follow-up visit. After you are out of your sling and no longer taking narcotic medicines, you may drive once you feel safe.

Physical therapy for your shoulder

Your doctor will talk with you at your first follow-up visit about when your therapy will start. It is rare for your doctor to order therapy before your first follow-up visit. Your doctor or occupational therapist may teach you some gentle range of motion exercises the day of surgery. Do the exercises three times a day while you are in the hospital and at home.

Last reviewed: 
October 2018

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