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What to Expect During Your Recovery From Shoulder Replacement Surgery

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, around 53,000 people will get a shoulder replacement this year. Once a procedure only done to treat fractures, today the shoulder replacement can provide pain relief and restore range of motion for those suffering from debilitating conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and avascular necrosis. After the procedure, expect a whole new lease on life, but like so many worthwhile surgeries, you have a recovery time. Here's what to expect.

1. Immediately after the procedure

When you wake up from your anesthesia, the arm feels numb because in addition to general anesthesia you also receive local anesthesia that dampens sensation to the whole arm for about one day following the procedure. You'll note that the shoulder is swollen and you won't be able to move your fingers, hand, or arm, which feels really strange but helps you keep the arm still during these critical first hours.

Immediately after a shoulder replacement, expect to spend at least two days in the hospital where Dr. Lee and other on-site professionals monitor you in a location where they can quickly address any rare post-surgery complications like infection, bleeding, tears, or adverse reactions. During this time, some people experience lung congestion, which is a result of your body mounting an immune response to help you heal. So, breathe deeply and cough if needed while trying to keep the arm as still as possible.

2. Activity limitations and goals

In order for a shoulder to heal properly, it must move, but right after surgery, you'll stick to very controlled movements as you work your way up to a full range of motion. During your shoulder replacement recovery, you keep your shoulder immobile most of the time for several weeks following the procedure. Dr. Lee may order a compression sleeve that helps blood circulation, prevents clots, and furthers the healing process. Once it's time for physical activity to begin, you only move the arm during scheduled physical therapy sessions and later during home exercises.

Physical therapy is tough at first, as the shoulder feels stiff and obstinate so be patient with yourself as everyone progresses at different rates. Once Dr. Lee clears you for regular activities, you can look back on all of your hard work that resulted in a healthier, more functional shoulder.

3. Medications

A shoulder replacement is a major surgery, so you can expect pain that may last for a week or two, but the bulk of that pain is over within two to three days while you're still in the hospital. Dr. Lee prescribes pain medications and anti-inflammatories to keep the discomfort very bearable and manageable. He might also recommend that you take low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots as you heal.

4. Caring for your incisions

For a shoulder replacement, the incisions rest along the front of the shoulder where a nurse covers the stitches with a dry bandage. Taking care of the area is straightforward. Just don't get the bandage dirty or wet. Wait to take a full shower until after your follow-up appointment because of the risk of contaminating the bandage with water. You or a friend may change the bandage daily. You can expect a little blood on those first couple days, but if the area swells after you get home, immediately call Orange Orthopaedic Associates for an appointment. Once the stitches come out, which normally happens after about one week, you're able to shower normally, but don't apply forced water against the area or soak it in a tub.

5. Follow-up appointments

Plan for several follow-up appointments in the year following a shoulder replacement, the first of which gets scheduled before the shoulder replacement surgery. A typical follow-up schedule may look something like this:

Commit to keeping these appointments even after you feel the shoulder has healed to head off any future complications and continue to enjoy your new shoulder for decades to come. Book online today.

Are you considering a shoulder replacement? Here's what you need to know about what to expect during shoulder replacement recovery.


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