Recovery following shoulder surgery

Recovery from any type of shoulder surgery doesn’t wait until you get home; in fact, the recovery process begins almost immediately. However, once you have returned home, you will need to be patient with yourself as you recover from surgery as it will take time to regain mobility in your shoulder.

Depending on the surgery you had, you may experience bruising and sensations such as tingling, numbness and itching in and around your shoulder. You may also feel a slight pulling around any stitches when you move your arm. This is a perfectly normal part of the healing process and will resolve over time.

Shoulder replacement surgery is a major operation and full recovery usually takes around 6 months. Your arm will normally need to be in a sling for a couple of weeks after the surgery. Your Circle physiotherapist will show you how to remove this and put it back on again safely before you return home. With sensible, slow exercise and recovery, within 6 months you can expect to be mobile and pain-free. However, everybody is different, and some people may recover more quickly.

We do not recommend that you drive for at least six weeks following your shoulder surgery. You will need to be sure that you can reach and use the steering wheel, indicator and gear stick comfortably.

Complications of surgery for shoulder arthritis

Any type of surgery carries certain risks and complications. Common complications include:

  • Infection: To reduce this risk we routinely prescribe antibiotics for the first 24 hours after surgery. In addition, our theatres have been specifically designed to provide ultra-clean air.
  • Blood clots: The risk of developing a clot is low, around 1-4%. There are well-established treatments available to resolve them should they occur, including aspirin.
  • Pain: It can normally be effectively managed with painkillers.

Arthroscopic surgery and “open” shoulder replacement surgery are both very common procedures, but there are some specific complications of shoulder surgery to be aware of:

  • Loosening and wear of the artificial shoulder prosthesis: Just as regular joints suffer ‘wear and tear’, so too do artificial joints. A shoulder replacement will usually last for at least 10 years, but it will wear. Some parts of the replacement may occasionally become loose, requiring further intervention to repair or replace.
  • Nerve injury: Although very rare, there is a small risk of damage to the nerves in your arm and/or shoulder during surgery. This can sometimes lead to paralysis of the arm.
  • Dislocation: Occasionally, surgery on the shoulder can have a negative impact on the stability of the joint. This may end up leading to frequent dislocations.

Although there are potential risks with shoulder surgery, most people do not experience any of the complications described above. The vast majority of people are, in time, delighted with the result, often able to return to painless activities like gentle golf, swimming, tennis and fishing. With no more night pain and improved movement in the shoulder, there is a marked difference in the quality of life after surgery.

Getting help for your shoulder arthritis

If you are suffering from arthritis in any joint of your body, you’ll know how much it can alter your enjoyment of life and your ability to carry out everyday tasks. The limitations of shoulder arthritis, in particular, can be noticed when the arm needs to move, such as when shopping, dressing or washing. 

While many people will tolerate a certain level of discomfort or stiffness in the shoulder for a while, long-term and/or severe pain or lack of mobility in the shoulder joint should be properly assessed by a doctor. Delaying an assessment may extend the time you are in pain, while a thorough assessment, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment can help to get you out of pain.

In particular, if you are being woken up at night due to pain in your shoulder, you should see a doctor.

Circle Health and your shoulder arthritis

We believe that you’ll find no better place to have your shoulder arthritis assessed, diagnosed and treated effectively than at Circle. Every Circle hospital provides state-of-the-art equipment, superb facilities and some of the most experienced shoulder surgeons in the country.

In addition, you will also benefit from:

  • Immediate access: With no waiting lists, you can be seen quickly by your preferred doctor, at a time of your choosing. If you’re struggling with shoulder pain or stiffness, you don’t want to have to wait for weeks (or months) for an appointment with a specialist. At Circle, you won’t be left waiting for help.
  • Advanced diagnostics: Should you require an X-ray, CT or MRI scan of your shoulder, we can arrange that promptly for you in-house. With some of the most advanced diagnostic equipment available and we can provide fast results from any diagnostic test you may need.
  • Experience to rely on: Our shoulder specialists are among the most experienced in the country in shoulder arthroscopy, total shoulder replacement surgery and reverse total shoulder replacement surgery. When you rely on Circle for help with your shoulder arthritis, you will always be in expert hands.
  • Luxurious, award-winning hospitals: When you visit with us, you’ll benefit from an unsurpassed level of dedicated care tailored just for you, in luxurious award-winning surroundings.

Shoulder arthritis can be a challenge to live with but we believe it should be easy to get help. That is why we have made it very easy to meet with one of our shoulder specialists for expert help. All you need to do is to contact your closest Circle hospital to book an appointment at a convenient time for you.

We look forward to hearing from you and helping to treat your shoulder arthritis.

An overview of shoulder arthritis

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Circle Health Group, 1st Floor, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6XH