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What Is the Recovery Process After Shoulder Arthroscopy Surgery?

You wake up slowly, not sure where you are. 

As your surroundings gradually come into focus, you remember: You just had shoulder arthroscopy surgery, and now you’re in the recovery room.

Your family and friends come to visit, and while you’re glad to see them, one thought is uppermost in your mind: When will you get back to normal?

Our team at Steven E. Nolan, M.D. knows you’re anxious to return to your pre-injury condition. Here’s the bad news: Even though shoulder arthroscopy is minimally invasive, it’s still surgery, and there’s still a timeline for full recovery. Here’s the good news: If you listen to Dr. Nolan and do what he recommends, your recovery will proceed normally, and you'll be back to doing what you love sooner than you think.

What is shoulder arthroscopy?

Arthroscopic surgery refers to minimally invasive surgical procedures performed through a tiny incision in your body. Dr. Nolan inserts an arthroscope with a camera through the incision to see the issue; he then uses small surgical instruments to repair the problem. 

The benefit of this type of surgery is that the recovery time is usually much quicker than traditional surgery, which requires a larger incision to open the body.

Your shoulder is a complex joint with muscles, tendons, bones, and joints where many things can go wrong. One of the most common causes of shoulder surgery is a rotator cuff injury; other common surgical issues include arthritis, shoulder instability, fractures, damaged cartilage, and more.

What happens after surgery?

Arthroscopic procedures are fairly quick — most surgeries take less than an hour. Assuming all has gone well with your procedure, you’ll recover in a separate room for a few hours before going home with stitches, bandages, and pain medication.

Complete recovery from your surgery will depend on the complexity of the surgery but will likely take at least a few months. You’ll have pain and swelling for a few weeks; ice and pain medications will help. 

If your repair is minor, you can likely resume light activity and work after a few days and be able to drive in one to three weeks. If your surgery is major, we immobilize your shoulder initially, and you may have to wear a sling for up to 10 days. 

How long is rehabilitation?

Again, depending on how complex your surgery was, physical therapy will be a big part of your recovery process. Your therapist will work with you to develop a custom treatment plan to reduce your pain while rebuilding your strength, mobility, flexibility, and function while preventing the buildup of scar tissue.

You follow a prescribed exercise program at home. As you gradually build strength, you work up to more strenuous exercises. Full recovery depends on age, health, and procedure type, but it can take several months to return to normal. 

If you have a shoulder injury or are considering shoulder surgery, our team at Steven E. Nolan M.D. is here to help. We want to make the process as smooth as possible for you, so to get started, just call our office in Sugarland, Texas, at 281-720-6909 or use our online scheduler to book an appointment anytime.

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