Shoulder Replacement Awareness (prepping before surgery, knowing what to expect afterward)

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Living with pain and lack of mobility in your shoulder can severely impact your quality of life. Most people and doctors would usually try other methods before proceeding to surgery, but sometimes total shoulder replacement proves to be the best option. Don’t see it as a failure, see it as an informed, brave choice for your own health. Though there are risks and complications associated with total shoulder replacement, the success rate is very high and most of the risks are considered to be a low probability. Here are some more things you can do going forward to feel more prepared about your decision. 

Once you know you’re having surgery you can start preparing. The earlier the better. You’ll most likely be asked by your doctor if you have any recovery help. This can be a partner, a close friend, or even hired help like a home-health aide. Having someone to help with distributing medications on time or even doing chores around the house while your shoulder is healing will be a big help. 

In shoulder replacement surgery, the damaged parts of the shoulder are removed and replaced with artificial components, called a prosthesis. This means, for a little while, you may not have a full range of motion of your shoulder as your body becomes acclimated to the device. Though some doctors do recommend doing light movements of your shoulder immediately following surgery reaching for things or climbing up on stools is not recommended. Before surgery, try and take anything high up that you think you’ll need and put it on tables or counters. Things like plates, pots and pans or blankets will definitely come in handy, so make sure it’s all within a simple arm’s reach. 

Ask your doctor if they advise cold, heat or a combo of both as part of your healing recovery. Cold is generally used at the beginning to reduce swelling post-surgery, so have at least 2 ice packs ready in your freezer. That way you can alternate and always have a cold pack ready to go.

Make sure you also keep an eye on your incision and bandages after surgery. While you can shower never do so with the bandages on, and make sure to gently pat the incision site dry before replacing it with a clean, new bandage.

Surgery can be an ordeal but the rewards can be worth it. Remember that it’s your life, and you deserve to have the best version of it. 


Peer Health can connect you with a personalized peer community to share provider recommendations, treatment options, and define your best life. Sign up for our beta and newsletter today.

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