How long does it take to recover from a shoulder replacement?

Shoulder Replacement Surgery Recovery

Shoulder Replacement Surgery Recovery Time

What happens when I go home after having total shoulder replacement surgery?

How can you care for yourself at home?

How long does it take to recover from a shoulder replacement?

What can I expect after shoulder replacement surgery?

Is shoulder replacement major surgery?



If you and your physician decide that joint replacement is the best treatment option for you, then it will be important for you to be well prepared for your surgery date and the months to follow. While the responsibility of cleaning out the damaged joint and fitting the prosthetic pieces will belong to your surgeon, the commitment to proper recovery will be yours.

No one can force you to rest your arm, observe follow up care instructions, perform strengthening exercises or go to physical therapy. But these important aspects of recovery will prove to be very important to the overall outcome of your procedure. For that reason, we’d like to use this article to outline the general recovery time for total shoulder replacement surgery. Shoulder replacement surgery is a major operation, so you’ll likely experience pain during your recovery. You might be given pain medications by injection right after your procedure.

A day or so following the surgery, your doctor or nurse will give you oral drugs to ease the discomfort.

Rehabilitation is started right away, usually on the day of surgery. Your healthcare staff will have you up and moving as soon as possible.

After a couple of days you’ll be discharged from the hospital. When you leave, your arm will be in a sling, which you’ll wear for about 2 to 4 weeks.

You should be prepared to have less arm function for about a month after surgery. You’ll need to be careful not to lift any objects that are heavier than 1 pound. You should also avoid activities that require pushing or pulling.

In general, most people are able to resume gentle daily living activities within two to six weeks. You might not be able to drive for about six weeks if the surgery was done on your right shoulder for people who drive on the right side of the road, or your left shoulder for those that drive on the left side of the road.

It’s important to perform all home exercises that your healthcare provider recommends. Over time, you will gain strength in your shoulder.

It will take about six months before you can expect to return to more vigorous activities, such as golfing or swimming.

Once six months have passed, patients are ready to ‘graduate.’ At this point, the majority of patients are pain-free; however, some patients do experience aches related to the weather.

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What happens when I go home after having total shoulder replacement surgery?

The exercises are to be done at least daily to prevent stiffness. Cold therapy with cryocuffs or ice bags should be used to keep down pain. The incision can get wet in the shower but no baths are recommended for 3 weeks. The stitches are removed one week after surgery. Physical therapy at a physical therapy facility is begun seven to ten days after surgery and continues for several weeks. The doctor will see you in the office every few weeks for several months. Most patients cannot drive for four to six weeks.

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How can you care for yourself at home?


  • Rest when you feel tired. You may take a nap, but don't stay in bed all day.
  • Work with your physiotherapist to learn the best way to exercise.
  • You will have a sling to wear at night. And it's a good idea to also put a small stack of folded sheets or towels under your upper arm while you are in bed to keep your arm from dropping too far back.
  • Your arm should stay next to your body or in front of it for several weeks, both while you are up and during sleep.
  • Don't lift anything with the affected arm for 6 weeks.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.
  • Your doctor may advise you to give up activities that put stress on that shoulder. This includes sports such as weight lifting or tennis, unless your tennis arm was not the one affected.


  • By the time you leave the hospital, you will probably be eating your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt. Your doctor may recommend that you take iron and vitamin supplements.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Don't stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If you take a blood thinner, be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.

Incision care

  • If your doctor told you how to care for your cut (incision), follow your doctor's instructions. You will have a dressing over the cut. A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
  • If you have strips of tape on the cut the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • If you have stitches or staples, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.
  • If you have skin adhesive on the cut, leave it on until it falls off. Skin adhesive is also called glue or liquid stitches.
  • Change the bandage every day.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.
  • You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it oozes fluid or rubs against clothing.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Pat the incision dry. Don't swim or take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.


  • Shoulder rehabilitation is a series of exercises you do after your surgery. This helps you get back your shoulder's range of motion and strength. You will work with your doctor and physiotherapist to plan this exercise program. To get the best results, you need to do the exercises correctly and as often and as long as your doctor tells you.


  • For pain, put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines.

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How long does it take to recover from a shoulder replacement?

Most of the recovery is complete around 6-9 months after surgery, but there can be improvement for 1-2 years after surgery. Six weeks after surgery, when you regain full shoulder movement, you can probably resume driving. At this time, your surgeon also may allow you to return to work, depending on how much physical activity is involved in your occupation. You will also start to strengthen your shoulder up with physical therapy.

What can I expect after shoulder replacement surgery?

An orthopedic surgeon will replace the natural bone in the ball and socket of your shoulder joint with a material that could be metal or plastic. It's a major surgery that'll keep you in the hospital for several days. You’ll also need several weeks of physical therapy afterward.

  • Directly following shoulder replacement surgery, many patients are unable to move the wrist and /or fingers of the arm that was operated on. This is absolutely normal and occurs due to the anesthetic block used during surgery. The block usually wears off within 24 hours, returning function to the patient’s wrist and/or fingers.
  • Patients should expect to have bruising and inflammation in their arm, and hand. This is a natural result caused by the bruising in the shoulder.
  • The patient’s arm will be in a sling.
  • The day after surgery patients can begin eating solid food.
  • Following surgery, patients will need a driver as they are not permitted to drive for six weeks.

Is shoulder replacement major surgery?

While shoulder replacement surgery can relieve shoulder pain and increase shoulder function in the long term, it is a major surgery that requires several months of recovery and physical therapy.

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10 common questions about Shoulder Replacement Surgery Recovery

1How long does it take to heal from shoulder replacement surgery?
Six Weeks After Surgery Many times, it takes from three to six months for the shoulder to heal. Regaining full strength and range of motion can take up to a year.
2Are shoulder replacements successful?
Total shoulder replacement is a very successful operation and the 10 year survival rate is up to 90 percent. ... The operation may have some complications, although they are very rare. Complications may include infection, bleeding, shoulder instability, tearing of the rotator cuff, fracture and loosening of the prosthesis.
3Is shoulder replacement more painful than knee replacement?
Although shoulder joint replacement is less common than knee or hip replacement, it is just as successful in relieving joint pain. ... Over the years, shoulder joint replacement has come to be used for many other painful conditions of the shoulder, such as different forms of arthritis.
4Is a total shoulder replacement painful?
Shoulder replacement surgery is very successful for pain relief. Most patients are very satisfied with the degree of pain relief. However, these shoulder replacements are not perfect and may ache a little when the weather changes or if you are too active.
5What happens when a shoulder replacement wears out?
Shoulder implants are used to replace the humeral head of the upper arm bone, or after the resurfacing of the glenoid of the shoulder socket. ... Shoulder implant failure can occur due to wearing and potential loosening. This happens as a result of bone erosion, bone loss, or a reduction of bone size.
6How long should you sleep in a recliner after shoulder surgery?
You can use this as often as you would like for as long as you would like. The water must be changed every 40-60 minutes but, many patients find it's easier to fall asleep with the cuff on their shoulder.
7Is a shoulder replacement major surgery?
The surgery involves making an incision (cut) at the front of the shoulder. The head of the humerus (arm bone) and the glenoid (socket) are replaced with artificial components to replace the worn cartilage.
8How dangerous is shoulder surgery?
Serious complications, such as shoulder-joint infection, occur in fewer than 1.9% of patients. Major medical complications, such as heart attack or stroke, occur even less frequently. (Of course, chronic illnesses may increase the potential for complications.) Every surgical procedure has some risks and benefits.
9Can I shower after shoulder surgery?
If the rotator cuff repair was done arthroscopically, you can take a shower 48 to 72 hours after surgery. Remove the sling, and leave your arm by your side. ... If you had open surgery, do not shower until you see your doctor and he or she okays it. You can wash the incisions with regular soap and water.
10Can you still have pain after shoulder surgery?
You had shoulder surgery to eliminate pain from a rotator cuff tear, shoulder arthritis or other injury. ... Pain after surgery should be addressed and can often be corrected. If your surgery was unsuccessful your doctor will look for complications such as infection or a repair that did not heal correctly.


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