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Caring for the Surgical Site

Your initial home activities are focused on the combination of:

  1. Proper care and management of the shoulder
  2. Performing necessary exercises
  3. You becoming comfortable with your shoulder during this important post-operative period. Your physician may provide you with instructions that supplement, or change the ones listed here.

Surgical site care

Always wash your hands before caring for your incision.

  • Keep surgical area clean and dry at all times. Do not put tight clothing over it.
  • Keep the dressing in place, but clean and change it if it gets wet, or as directed by your physician.
  • If you have steri-strips leave in place (if they fall off on their own, this is okay)
  • Your sutures and remaining steri-strips will be removed during your first post-operative visit with your surgeon 10-14 days after the surgery.


You may shower without your sling after 3 days keeping your operative arm across your body! Remember, DO NOT REACH for objects with your operative arm. After the shower, you must put your sling back on.

Sleeping or sitting

Keep your shoulder in the sling unless instructed otherwise by your physician. Place a pillow under your forearm for support. If you have a recliner you may find it comfortable after shoulder surgery. If not, you will be comfortable sleeping in an upright position by propping pillows in bed or purchase a bed wedge for additional support. Remember, avoid pushing yourself up out of a chair or bed with your operated side.

Pain management

  • Apply ice to your shoulder for 20 minute intervals at least 5-7 times a day, or as instructed.
  • Take your pain medication as prescribed by your physician. In the event that the pain medication does not work, or you are experiencing unpleasant side effects, do not hesitate to call your physician’s office. (Remember, if you are taking pain medication, you should avoid alcoholic beverages.)
  • Avoid taking medication on an empty stomach. Have something to eat first to prevent nausea.
  • You may get lightheaded after taking pain medication! Move slowly, as when getting up from a lying to standing position. Take your time!
  • Drink a lot of water (at least eight 8 oz. glasses per day) to keep yourself well hydrated after surgery.
  • Constipation is a common side affect from taking pain medication. A stool softener may be recommended by your doctor.