If you’ve had a total shoulder replacement, there are some positions your surgeon may recommend you avoid during your recovery to protect your shoulder as it heals. It is important to follow these precautions and any other instructions your health care team gives you to allow your shoulder to heal properly.

1. Make sure to wear your sling as directed by your healthcare provider. Generally, it’s a good idea to keep your sling on at all times, except during self-care or when performing your home exercises.

    • Always wear your sling while walking, standing, sleeping, or when you’re outside or in crowds. Wearing your sling around others alerts those around you to be cautious around your operated arm. It also helps avoid someone accidentally bumping or striking your arm.
    • If you’re sitting or lying down at home, you may be allowed to take off your sling. Just be careful to keep your elbow tucked into your side whenever you’re out of your sling.

2. Do not lift or carry anything with your operated arm that weighs more than one pound. This is about the weight of a coffee cup. Eating, drinking, and using a remote control is okay.

3. Do not bear weight through your operated arm, such as when pushing up from a chair.

    • If you use a walker, it’s best to use a cane or hemiwalker while your shoulder recovers. These devices can be used with your non-operative arm.

4. Do not actively use your surgical shoulder.

    • Avoid pushing, pulling, or lifting with that arm, such as to open or close a door.
    • Avoid reaching overhead, to the side, behind your back, or across your chest.
    • Avoid fast or jerking movements.
    • You should not allow your elbow to move backward, past your ribs. When lying down, support your upper arm with a pillow to keep it from moving back.
    • To get out of bed, roll onto your “good side.” Then use your non-operative arm to push yourself up into a sitting position.

5. At first, you may find it more comfortable to sleep in a recliner. However, you may also sleep in a bed with a folded towel or sheet propped up behind your shoulder and upper arm for support.

6. Do not let your forearm or hand move out to the side. Gentle use of your elbow, wrist, and hand on your operated arm is okay as long as your arm is at your side, and you keep your elbow in front of you.

Your precautions may be different depending on your surgeon or rehab facility. Be sure to follow the instructions your health care team gives you.

If you have any questions about which positions and movements to avoid, contact us or stop by our Evanston, ILAfter Shoulder Surgery, you may experience pain and difficulty moving your shoulder. Our Therapists at Skillz Physical Therapy at Evanston, IL, or Northbrook, IL, will teach you how to reduce the pain in your shoulder and help you heal.

How Does The Shoulder Work?

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint made up of the upper arm bone (humerus) and the shoulder blade (scapula). A part of the shoulder blade called the acromion makes up the top of the shoulder above the upper arm bone. Between the acromion and the upper arm bone are the four rotator cuff muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. The rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder help lift and rotate the arm. They also work together to hold the upper arm bone in place within the shoulder joint.

How is the Shoulder Injured?

Because the shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body, it is at risk for instability and injury. The shoulder can be injured by a forceful trauma, such as falling on an outstretched arm. Repeated overhead activities, such as reaching, throwing, and lifting, are also common causes of a shoulder injury.

Common Shoulder Injuries Include:

    • SLAP Tear 
    • Rotator Cuff Tear
    • Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy  
    • Frozen Shoulder
    • Bicipital Tendonitis
    • Shoulder Impingement
    • Shoulder Instability
    • Biceps Tendon Rupture
    • Shoulder Osteoarthritis
    • AC Joint Sprain
    • AC Joint Separation 
    • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

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