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8 Tips to Speed Shoulder Surgery Recovery

Maybe you slipped and fell while doing chores or maybe it’s the years of practicing your tennis swing, but when you need shoulder surgery, you want to do everything you can to improve the healing process and speed up your recovery. Here at Dr. Steven E. Nolan’s office, we understand your concern. That’s why we’ve compiled these eight tips to help you get back in the game as soon as possible after your shoulder surgery.

  1. Quit smoking

Anytime you need surgery you should quit smoking, and it’s especially important during shoulder surgery. The most complicated joint in your body, your shoulder consists of three bones and multiple muscles, ligaments, and tendons that make up your rotator cuff, the structure that supports your shoulder.

Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco products, delays the natural healing ability of your bones and tissues. This delay not only reduces your recovery, but it also increases your risk of infection. By quitting smoking before your surgery, you heal faster, eliminate risks, and reduce common shoulder surgery complications like frozen shoulder.

  1. Prepare your home

Once you’ve made the decision to have shoulder surgery, prepare your home. Remember, after your surgery, your range of motion is limited, so move commonly used items to make them more accessible.

Stock up on easy-to-prepare meals or make dinners ahead of time and freeze them. Check your closet to ensure you have adaptable clothing that you can put on and take off easily after your shoulder surgery.

  1. Eat right

Both before and after your shoulder surgery, you want to eat right to promote healing. Nutrition is vital to healing and without it, your body’s restorative properties stagnate.

To optimize your healing, ensure you get plenty of probiotics, fiber, and lean protein, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables. When you eat a well-balanced diet before and after shoulder surgery, you provide your body with what it needs to heal.

  1. Take supplements

Even if you eat right — and especially if you don’t — supplements can boost your body’s ability to heal and speed up your recovery time after shoulder surgery.

A multi-vitamin ensures your body has the basics of what it needs to recover. Add a B-complex to help you heal, vitamin D to promote muscle and tissue regeneration, and vitamin C and zinc to fight infection. Avoid vitamin A, as it can cause bruising and may reduce the speed of your recovery.

  1. Change how you sleep

After your shoulder surgery, you may need to change how you sleep to allow your shoulder the quickest recovery time. If you’re a side sleeper, avoid sleeping on your post-op shoulder. Instead, roll to the other shoulder or try sleeping on your back with your healing shoulder supported by pillows.

While it can take some time to get used to, avoiding sleeping on your shoulder can speed up your recovery and reduce pain and swelling.

  1. Use cold compresses

Cold compresses can help with multiple issues after shoulder surgery. At Dr. Nolan’s office, we recommend cold compresses or ice packs to reduce post-op pain and swelling after surgery. Cold therapy may also reduce bruising and shorten your recovery time.

Depending on your needs, you can use ice in a plastic baggie or we may recommend a cold compression sling that both ices your shoulder and immobilizes it.

  1. Do your home exercises (and PT)

Within a few days of your shoulder surgery, we recommend starting your home exercises. These exercises and stretches are vital to your recovery and without them, you risk developing an immobilizing condition called frozen shoulder.

In some cases, we may prescribe physical therapy after shoulder surgery and if we do, it’s important you follow through. Your physical therapist ensures you’re regaining your shoulder mobility and can monitor for risks and complications, including infection.

  1. Follow your doctor’s orders

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to speed up your recovery after shoulder surgery is to follow your doctor’s orders.

If your doctor restricts certain activities, don’t do them. If they tell you to take medication, take it. If they give you lab work that needs to be completed, get it done. And make sure to keep all of your post-op doctor’s appointments, even if you’re feeling well.

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