7 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Your Operation: How to Prepare for Shoulder Surgery

No matter how much you prepare for shoulder surgery, it’s perfectly normal to experience a few pre-surgery-day jitters. One way we’ve found to alleviate patients’ fear is to provide plenty of information about what to expect before, during, and after shoulder surgery.

At Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, patient comfort and care are our highest priorities. When you come in on the day of your surgery, you’ll meet with your surgical team and have the time you need to review the procedure and ask questions. Our patients wait in a calm, soothing pre-op area before the procedure. Whenever possible, our patients walk into the surgery room with a nurse and meet the surgical team before the operation.

It’s these small steps that help patients feel at ease and comfortable when they come to OHOW, no matter the treatment or procedure they face. Your surgical team will advise you on specific steps you should take for your particular surgery, but the following general tips will help you prepare for your big day.

1. Inform Your Surgical Team

The most important step you can take to prepare for your shoulder surgery is to completely inform your surgical team of any concerns before the operation. When you meet with your doctor in the days and weeks before your shoulder surgery, they will ask you a series of important questions. You will complete a brief questionnaire and meet with a team to review your answers.

Standard pieces of information you’ll want to share with your doctor and the surgical team include the medications and supplements you are taking. You’ll want to let them know your health concerns, as well as any changes in health you’ve experienced recently. Inform your doctor of illness like a cold or flu as well.

2. Enlist Support Before, During & After Your Shoulder Surgery

A few weeks before your surgery, it’s helpful to enlist support from your friends and family. If your procedure includes anesthesia, someone must accompany you to drive you to and from the hospital on your surgery day. Planning with your companion in advance will alleviate any scheduling concerns leading up to the appointment. You may also want to ask a friend to stay with you during your first night home and check-in with you periodically following your shoulder surgery.

Shoulders experience a greater range of motion than any other joint. People are often surprised at how much they depend on their shoulder movement. Simple tasks can present a significant challenge until you recover, so schedule a helping hand (or two).

3. Prepare Your Work or School

Taking care of and organizing whatever obligations you can prior to your shoulder surgery will help put your mind at ease when surgery day arrives. It’s especially important to address work and school commitments well before your surgery whenever possible.

Depending on the type of shoulder surgery, your level of health, and the requirements of your job, you may be ready to return to work quickly, or it may take several weeks. Your physician will help you determine a projected recovery time to help you plan accordingly.

4. Brush Up Your Bathroom Routine

Prepare before your shoulder surgery by making sure you’ve stocked up on any hygiene items you will need for your first few days home. Before your surgery, your physician may advise you to prepare by using special surgical (CHG) soap. Follow all pre-surgical instructions.

Following surgery, it’s imperative to keep your incisions dry and protected. For your post-surgery recovery, you may need to cover your incision, use a hand-held showerhead, sponge bathe, or skip showers for a few days. Your surgical team will advise you on the best course of action. Simple items like pump-soap can make the process easier for you after your shoulder procedure.

5. Stock Your Freezer and Pantry

Another way to prepare for shoulder surgery is to ensure you’ve planned and prepared meals for the first few days of your recovery. Look for quick and easy items you can cook with one-hand. Frozen dinners are often a good option. Stock your pantry with essentials for the first few days post-op. Keep satisfying snacks on hand like nuts, dried fruit, and pre-cut vegetables that you can eat one-handed.

Another item to put in your freezer is ice! Depending on your surgeon’s instructions, you may need to ice your shoulder during your recovery phase.

6. Plan Easy-to-Wear Clothing

On the day of your surgery, we recommend patients wear clothing that’s loose-fitting and easy to remove. Shirts with snaps, buttons, or zippers are typically preferred to pullovers. Elastic-waisted pants and slip-on shoes ensure you’re able to comfortably dress and undress as needed.

As you prepare for shoulder surgery, keep in mind you may need to wear a sling after your operation. Depending on the type of shoulder procedure, easy-to-wear clothing makes a huge difference in terms of ease, convenience, and comfort in those first few days.

7. Plan for PT to Help You Recover

If your surgery is on your dominant side, you may want to practice using your non-dominant hand for tasks to prepare for shoulder surgery. Following your surgery, you will work up to a return of your full range of motion under the instruction of your physical therapist.

Your PT may recommend you continue to use your non-dominant hand for certain activities, as you keep your shoulder stable. Eventually, he or she will recommend exercises to rebuild your strength, flexibility, and regular movement.

If you’re facing shoulder surgery, it’s no reason to worry. Follow the simple guidelines above to help you prepare. Our team will work with you every step of the way to ensure you’re comfortable and ready for your procedure.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or an injury, please contact us right away. Our team of expert practitioners is ready to help you. Request an appointment online or call 414-961-6800 to set up a consultation with an orthopedic specialist.