Most people need some family support at home for the first few weeks, including meals, groceries, or household help. However, since many patients have been functioning with a painful or limited shoulder before the surgery, often they are able to return to routine activities at home postoperatively. Shoulder replacement patients do have to wear a sling and sleep in a sling for 3 weeks after surgery. Patients are considered “home bound” for the first 3 weeks and should not leave home or drive except for doctors’ appointments and a few other approved reasons.
Your arm will be placed in a sling after surgery. You can slip your arm out of the sling intermittently to move your elbow, wrist, or hand. You should do the prescribed shoulder exercises given to you by the physical therapist.
You should apply ice to your shoulder (20 mintues on, 20 minutes off) for the first 48 hours and then as needed for pain and swelling.
You should elevate your shoulder to reduce pain and swelling. Many people prefer to sleep in a recliner or propped up on pillows in bed.
You should take Tylenol or opioid pain medication as needed for pain. Opioid (or narcotic) pain medication such as Norco or Percocet is prescribed after surgery. Most patients only require opioid pain medication for the first 1-2 weeks after surgery, and then only rarely (at night, or after therapy). It is important to understand that opioid pain medication is addictive, and by accepting a prescription with Dr. Burns, you agree to use them responsibly.
You may be able to take celecoxib or an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling. NSAID (anti-inflammatory) medications can interfere with healing of tendons to bone, and Dr. Burns recommends avoiding celecoxib for the first 3 weeks after anatomic total shoulder arthroplasty, which requires rotator cuff healing to bone to work properly. Celecoxib is routinely used after reverse shoulder arthroplasty and hemiarthroplasty, and has been shown to relieve pain and reduce the need for opioid pain medication.
After 3 weeks, you will have your first follow-up appointment with Dr. Burns. Dr. Burns or her physician assistant will x-ray your shoulder and answer any questions you may have. After this visit, you can return to driving and everyday activities as you feel comfortable. Not everyone will want to start driving exactly at 3 weeks, and many people take their time until they feel comfortable controlling a car. Therapy will switch to an outpatient clinic, unless you continue to be “home bound” due to limitations. By 3 months after surgery, most patients have completed therapy and have returned to a normal daily routine.
If you have any questions, you can contact Dr. Burns or her staff with questions at 314-291-7900.