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Frequently Asked Questions


Q: When should I start rehabilitation?

You will be given a home exercise program by a physical or occupational therapist while in the hospital. You must carry it out as soon as you are instructed. Outpatient therapy will begin when your surgeon decides.

We encourage you to make an initial post-operative outpatient therapy session at HSS, coinciding with your physician’s visit. Prior to your shoulder surgery you should be exploring your rehabilitation options with your surgeon and pre-op therapist if possible. If you are unable to return to HSS for rehabilitation, then a member of our team can assist you in contacting a rehabilitation facility in our HSS Rehabilitation Network to ensure your optimum care and recovery.

Q: Is swelling normal after shoulder replacement?

Yes, swelling may be present for several weeks up to 3 months. Wrist, hand, and finger movement helps decrease arm swelling. Gripping a small ball, rolled pair of socks, or putty and ice is an effective treatment for swelling.

Q: When can I return to work/school?

This will vary with the type of surgical procedure. Generally, you may return when you are comfortable and if your work or school does not require physical activity that will stress your shoulder. If an activity at work/ school may stress your shoulder, then explore this carefully with your doctor and therapist.

Q: How long must I wear the sling?

Ultimately, this will be decided by your doctor and may be determined by the extent of the procedure that has been done. Typically, it is safe to remove your sling for waist level activities while at home at 2-4 weeks after surgery. Your arm will be weak because you have not done strengthening. Therefore, avoid heavy lifting, pulling or pushing using your operated arm during this time.

Q: What if I think I have injured my shoulder?

Do not wait to see if it will heal itself. Discuss this with your doctor immediately. You may need to schedule an evaluation. If you are scheduled to have a rehabilitation appointment, discuss this with your therapist. Note: Fortunately, if you follow your post-surgical program and wear the sling as instructed, injuries are uncommon..

Q: When can I return to driving?

If you are taking pain medication, you CANNOT drive. It is against the law.

If your RIGHT shoulder is the operative side, you typically MAY NOT DRIVE FOR 6 WEEKS. It is important to regain adequate muscle strength and control before attempting to shift gears or use the steering wheel. Please check with your surgeon for additional recommendations.

If your LEFT shoulder is the operative side, you may drive a few days AFTER you finish taking your pain medication. It is important that you feel very confident in your ability to respond efficiently before attempting to drive. DO NOT open the driver’s side door with your operative arm. You may stabilize the steering wheel between 6-7 o’clock..

Q: When can I return to sports-specific activities?

This will be decided by your surgeon. Complete recovery can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months and up to a year.

Q: Do I need to take antibiotics before teeth cleaning or other dental/medical procedures?

Yes, check with the physician assistant or nurse at your surgeon's office. Please be sure to tell your medical doctor and dentist that you have had a shoulder replacement so that they can prescribe antibiotics prior to any invasive procedure. If you have any questions or concerns, please call your surgeon’s office.