As a baseball pitcher, I suffered multiple shoulder injuries over the years. Finally, I opted to get arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
So you're getting shoulder surgery...
I wrote this article to provide a patient's perspective on what it is like to get arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Not every injury, surgeon, or patient is alike—but I hope this article will nonetheless be useful as you mentally prepare yourself for the big day.
My experience goes like this: as a baseball pitcher, I had a torn labrum, rotator cuff, and biceps tendinitis from my years of play. After over a year of trying non-surgical alternatives, we opted to repair all of these injuries.
Most people who choose arthroscopic shoulder surgery will be getting one or more of these three injuries repaired. Other reasons for undergoing this surgery may include general shoulder instability, arthritis inflammation, or bone spurs.
This article is not intended diagnose or cure any of these illnesses; it is just one person's experience, along with anecdotes from others. If you find the following information to be useful, or even if you don't, please let me know in the comments section, below. Maybe I can add information to make things more accurate.
Note: I will not be addressing total shoulder replacements, or injuries so severe that they require "open surgery," because I haven't experienced those procedures.
Read on if you are interested in how the days before, during, and after your surgery will go.
What is arthroscopic surgery?
The arthroscope is the instrument used to see inside your shoulder without literally peeling back the muscle to look. The benefit of using the arthroscope is that quite a bit of repair can be done via one or more small incisions which reduces infection risk and decreases recovery time. Your surgeon will be trained to know how to interpret what is seen on the camera, which will be fairly hard to understand for a novice.
In rotator cuff and labral repairs, the surgeon will first clean up the area with suction. The tear often ends up with a fair amount of fraying, which itself can cause pain. The surgeon will clean out these loose parts, which sometimes is all that has to be done. This is called debridement. If the tear is significant enough that the surgeon believes debridement is not enough, he or she will then suture the tear. They will basically sew the tear back together.
Biceps tendonesis, a common part of labral repairs, involves detaching your biceps tendon from the labrum. Sometimes it has begun to detach already and other times it is the underlying cause of labrum injury. They will quite literally cut it off and reattach to your humerus bone, instead.
I won't attempt to cover other, less common injuries here, but they will all have similar procedures in terms of how the surgeon will look at your injury. Anything that is arthroscopic will be minimally invasive, relative to open surgery.
Below is a "highlight" tape of sorts of an arthroscopic labrum repair. Be warned though: it is a look at the inside of a shoulder as well as some shots of what the surgeon is doing from the outside. Some folks would be put off by this, but I found it very interesting and informative.
The day before your surgery...
Most surgeons will not give you an exact time of day for your surgery. If this is the case, they will call you on the day before your surgery to tell you exactly when to come. Expect it to be in the morning.
There are not too many special directions before your surgery. The most important thing, though, is that you cannot eat or drink anything starting at midnight before your surgery! This shouldn't be too hard since you probably will be going to sleep by then anyway, but you cannot eat the next morning either. Even water can be a problem. The anesthesia will make you vomit, a lot, if there is anything left in your stomach. That is the last thing you want to be doing after your surgery.
Your doctor will also probably ask you to shower once or twice with Hibiclens. This is more to prevent you from bringing infections into the hospital than anything else. Don't put it near your face, hair, or genitals because it is fairly harsh.
Other than that, just try to have a good day!
Time for surgery!
This will actually be one of the simplest times of the process. Since you can't eat or drink, there's no use in getting up extra early that day. Do arrive in time, though. You will have to do a little paperwork and put on gowns, which I think is a little confusing. Do not be afraid to ask questions, though, and make sure you answer all of their questions.
They will ask you which shoulder is being operated on a lot. Don't get annoyed! They don't want to screw up. They'll ask you your information a few times too for the same reasons.
You won't have much to do before anesthesia begins. First, you'll get an IV. They will probably put this in your off-hand and they will put a mild sedative in first. This should calm you down, but not knock you out. While you are awake, they will put in the "nerve block." This is a local anesthetic that will leave your arm without feeling for the next 6-12 hours. Seriously, no feeling at all! You might feel a little silly as this is all going on because of that sedative. With that said, I thought the nerve block was the most painful thing I felt all day; it still wasn't too bad, though. They will put a long-ish needle in near your collarbone and release the anesthetic several different times while they use an ultrasound to make sure the needle is where it belongs.
You may be left to sit for a few minutes while this sets in. The only sensation you will have left is in the top of your hand and even your thumb and pointer finger will remain numb for most of the rest of the day. Biology and stuff.
Soon, you will be wheeled into the operating room. It will be cold. I know I asked someone why, but I can't remember the answer. You may or may not remember them giving you an oxygen mask, but soon...
...you're in the recovery room.
Just like that, surgery is over. It may have taken a couple of hours, but it's all a blink of an eye to you.
You will probably feel SUPER groggy at first. You are by no means required to wake up right away. If you still feel out of it, just lay back and nap. My first reaction was to try to get out of bed like a lunatic, but you don't want to do that. They will take care of you. You should not have any pain because of the nerve block.
At this point, if you are going to have a negative response to the anesthetic, you'll know it. Nausea is definitely possible and you'll be feeling it now. Most people do not get it or do not get it much, though. Usually you'll be given an anti-nausea patch before surgery and an anti-nausea shot during surgery. My main issue at this stage was dry mouth, which is a side effect of the anti-nausea patch.
Depending on the hospital, your loved ones may be there with you when you wake up. At others, they will let you wake up in a recovery room before wheeling you to a different room with privacy to see your loved ones and get a little more personalized attention from an RN.
Once you feel able, you'll be able to leave. You will have the challenges of putting on your clothes and standing on your feet to overcome. Obviously, you can't drive. Putting on your shirt will be hard to do as you leave, but with the nerve block it shouldn't hurt. I was recommended to bring a button up shirt, but in the end a t-shirt would have been fine. Most doctors will also give you a very cool ice machine to take home.
You can eat, drink, and do whatever else you feel like on the way home. You may or may not feel groggy. Be mindful that you can hurt yourself while the nerve block is still on though and you will want to start your painkillers before the nerve block wears off!
The days afterward
Eventually, probably before you go to sleep the day of surgery, the nerve block will wear off. It is both very sensitive and probably not quite as bad as you might have imagined. You will want your sling on basically all the time and putting on clothes won't be something to look forward to. You can't get your stitches wet, so you may not want to bother with showering and changing clothes if you can help it.
You should be told to "stay ahead" with your painkillers. This is true. Don't wait for pain to set in to use them. Don't overuse them, but try to use them in such a way that you don't have any pain when you're just sitting. It will of course hurt if you move it, but it should not hurt when you are stationary. They can help you sleep, too.
Your sling will be very neat. It will have a pad to keep your arm a little further from your body, a nice padded strap for over your shoulder, a ball for your hand to squeeze, and another strap around your waist to really keep the arm from moving unintentionally. Use this absolutely as directed or else you will have a lot of pain.
Most doctors will give an ice machine with a fitted attachment that goes over your shoulder. For the first two days, ice an hour on/hour off whenever you are awake or able. You will obviously need a friend to help set this up. Be careful when the nerve block is still on, because you can get frostbite.
You shouldn't have a bad time in the first few days so long as you have reacted okay to the anesthetic and you use the painkillers properly.
These may vary some depending on your injury, but you will be given a set of a few home exercises to do in the very early days of your recovery, usually starting two days post-surgery. These are very easy to do, usually some combination of letting your arm hang straight down and using your off-hand to assist you in simple movements. You won't feel like doing them, but they turn out to not be so bad and you will feel better after doing them.
These are very important for your recovery! It gets the blood flowing and gets the process of making your shoulder normal again started.
These must be used with caution. Many people use these with no event, but these can be addictive. Don't use these longer than needed and don't give them to anyone else. If you have side effects or think you're having trouble discontinuing use, talk to your doctor. Each doctor will have a different preference for narcotic, so I won't comment on dosing for now. With that said, they will probably make you not very productive while you use them. You may find yourself dozing off with little warning while you use them. Do not drive or do anything important while you're on these. You shouldn't need them longer than two weeks, if that long.
You may also be given another once/day pain pill, go ahead and take that but be aware it will make you drowsy too. I ended up taking it at nighttime. Tramadol, which is another narcotic, is what I'm thinking of here; it will be an extended release version. Discontinue this at the same time that you quit your primary narcotic pinkillers.
If you need extra pain support, take ibuprofen or aspirin. Extra acetaminophen (Tylenol) will put your liver at risk.
Changing your dressing, stitch removal
After a couple of days, you will need to remove the original bandaging you received after your surgery. You can try to clean with just water, but it probably won't be easy to do and you don't really need it to look nice. Do not use alcohol or any ointments on the area!
You will expect it to be gory, but it isn't much. I attached a picture of what a normal post-surgery shoulder looks like.
You need not apply so much gauze like the surgeon did, because you should be done bleeding. If there is pus, a lot of swelling or bruising, or anything else that concerns you, call your doctor.
After a week to two weeks, you'll need your stitches removed. Either your surgeon or your primary care physician can do this. He or she will give you further directions about dressing the wound after that. You'll be starting physical therapy after the stitches are removed.
Most surgeries have positive outlook and are completely done within a year, with much of the hard part done far sooner than that. I won't even try to guess how yours will be, so I'll leave that to the doctor.
If you have questions or feedback, I'd be happy to respond in the comments. I hope this helps alleviate any fears or anxieties about your surgery. While it is super inconvenient, it's really not that bad. You should never feel a ton of pain, and you're asleep for the worst part of it. Hopefully yours goes as smoothly as most!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Rebecca on June 20, 2018:
best advise if the surgery is in your dominant arm -- Buy an electric toothbrush. Good luck!
Judy bergado on April 21, 2018:
I am scheduled for arthroscopic surgery to repair bone spur in shoulder on April 25. Have a cruise scheduled for May 18 and was wonding if will be able to go on cruise and enjoy it? I am 70 years old and in pretty good health,.
Chelsi on March 16, 2018:
I had the same surgery. Personally, I had to have it 2x in 6 months on the same shoulder. Both times I refused pain medication to go home with. When the block wore off it was very painful, and sleeping upright was best. But after the block wearing off the pain wasnt that bad! I didnt think anyway!
Diane on February 12, 2018:
Thank you writing about your experience. There is not much info coming out of my surgeon's office about what to expect.
George Johnson on August 06, 2017:
I am having 2 or possibly 3 torn tendons repaired 10 days from today and my pre-op meeting on Tuesday next week. I will be in a sling for 6 weeks and cannot start physical therapy until the end of 6 weeks. I am to sleep in a recliner which I am shopping for. At 6'2" I am too long for a normal recliner which is 67 inches. My feet hang off the end and I will not be able to sleep.
If I am in the sling for 6 weeks day and night I am concerned about how long it may be to take a shower, put on clothes,etc.
I cannot drive for 6 weeks. I am conserned about all of this but feel better after reading your post. Thank you.
Blakely on August 03, 2017:
I'm going in for labrum surgery tomorrow morning on my left shoulder. This helped me a lot! Thank you for writing this. I have been so nervous and this makes me feel a lot better.
Eddie on July 19, 2017:
Going for my second surgery on my right shoulder. Going to fix my labrum again and to see what else they can find. Still lots of pain in my right shoulder. The first surgery didn't work. I had pain the hole time. Hope this time it works.
Naomi on July 06, 2017:
Thankyou for this, very interesting read.
I am 3 months into recovery from labrum and bicep tear repairs.
I am quite concerned about my recovery though...
Is it normal to, at this stage, still be very stiff and unflexible on external rotations and reaches.
I find it so difficult and very painful and in those areas have noted no difference over the last month, no matter the excersise's or putting heat on, massaging. My shoulder's external rotation and reach still only go so far and it feels like it locks and cripple's (strange description i know) and to ease it i just need to basically flop it and stop moving for abit.
Im worried something is wrong. But are you aware, that at this stage, it is normal recovery time scale?
Amruta Mahamuni on June 26, 2017:
Thanks for sharing.This information found very helpful.
Laura on June 13, 2017:
I'm having labrum surgery in 5 weeks in the UK... I'm absolutely terrified and extremely anxious
Cindy on May 16, 2017:
Responding to Kevin's note from 5 months ago. I so related to all you had done I literally laughed and cried so hard! I only JUST had my surgery and 3 days later still feel like they used a jackhammer on mine. My right shoulder had a mild Rotator cuff tear, but the surgeon had to literally cut my bicep clean off and reattach it and told my hubby no WONDER I hurt so much in that arm. I also had a bone spur. Two more days to my first week and already getting mentally and emotionally frustrated at how little I can do with my arm.
Kevin, I'm so sorry for your accident and the excruciating pain you are suffering. Best I can offer is I'm biting my lip and hoping we both heal well by obeying Dr.'s orders. Understand your frustration with meds! I'm told 2 weeks in a sling period, and 9 months recoop - all I can say is I'm glad I got my fishing all in before surgery because there won't BE any the rest of the season. Wishing everyone the best on their individual recovery, but having been operated on numerous times, PLEASE follow your doctor's orders, and if that fails, go to Hallmark and read funny cards until you can laugh - it really is best medicine.
Sisie on February 21, 2017:
I am going to have surgery 2-28-17. I have 2 bone spurs, one of which is cutting into my rotator cuff. Also a torn Labrum. Your post really helped me to understand the process!!! Thank you for sharing your story !!!!
jackie on January 29, 2017:
Having surgery on right shoulder, just fixing a bone spur, there is a slight tear in cuff, but dr isn't too worried about it. I actually plan on going back to my desk job 3 days later. any thoughts?
KEVIN on November 27, 2016:
On 23 November I had surgery torn rotator cup, bicep tendon and labium tender repaired due to auto accident the accident was August 31 after 3 months of pain and limited use I said ok the block wore of around 2 am they gave me Percocet it made me really really really itchy looks like a crazy man when the are active that was most of the time I stopped that drug after 3 Pills the side affects was worse then the surgery I opted for medical Canabis it worked amazing and no side effects I'm not sure what to tell the surgeon when I give him back the Percocet other then I told care of the pain it's still feels like I got hit buy a baseball bat from MLB. It's a long recovery and really hard the sholder that was repaired is my right dominant arm now a lefty need more practice at it the Dr S. Tradonsky was amazing but his office is a very large one with a dozen MDs so your just a # there this has been an eye opening experience sleeping really sucks I wish everyone well who gets the operation done
Tasha on October 23, 2016:
I had the tendon moved and a labrum tear fixed and two pinch points ground off in July 2016 and I had complete ROM by 4 weeks
Sage on October 20, 2016:
I keep spraining my low back and I'm scheduled for surgery in a week. I think I'm going to cancel again for another year or so, as I have a two year old and I just can't imagine getting through two weeks without re-injury due to parenting demands. I'm freaked about the potential length of recovery time and I see no need to rush into surgery (though it's been 1.5 years since injury due to being hit by a car as a pedestrian in a x-walk) even though I still have discomfort, some pain and popping, I am thinking maybe I can try to rehab with PT and always have the surgery when my child is older and a bit more self-sufficient & understanding of how to be careful with Mommy's body. Any downsides to outcomes at risk due to waiting?
Ynendine on August 19, 2016:
Rotator cuff surg coming up soon..any suggestions for me in what to wear as a women to hospital? Bring a front close bra or bandeau? Front button tank top and stretchy shorts? my dr is not using a nerve block...I am very concerned about pain. I was given 7.5 hydrocodone..how do u avoid nausea a constipation? Should I take stool softener or laxatives. I did purchase a Breg glacier ice machine
Denise Jackson on August 02, 2016:
I am getting surgery in September and am scared because physical therapy injured my shoulder and do not want them to injure it again
Sherry on July 20, 2016:
All of this information is GREAT. Thank you all. It made me feel a lot more optimistic. I am having the bicep tendosis in a few weeks.
Ali on June 25, 2016:
Another perspective for others: I had rotator cuff surgery in late Dec 2016, just over six months ago. My supraspinatus was a mess, so the doc had to trim quite a bit and then reattach.
I was lightly put under for the nerve block insertion, so no pain there, and it stayed in for three days after the surgery. I carried a small ball around that contained the drug and a pump --- it got in the way, but was SO worth it.
My surgery was in the ortho facility's outpatient clinic. An amazing experience, way better than a hospital.
This was my first experience with anesthesia and opiods, and I have to say I didn't like it at all. Necessary b/c of the pain, but I weaned myself off the opioids within about a week and switched to Alleve and Extended Relief Tylenol (taken every 12 hrs and 8 hrs respectively on the dot using alarms on my phone). I still experienced a foggy and slow brain for months.
One other fun thing with the opioids was the constipation. Start a stool softener the night before the surgery and take more as soon as you can.
The surgery was on my right/dominant side, so not only was I encumbered by the worthless arm and the sling, but I had to learn how to do a lot with my left hand and learned some lessons worth sharing:
► An electric toothbrush was a must! No need to a fancy expensive one, just a $10 one will do fine.
► A seatbelt extender, when inserted into the end where you connect the belt (essentially raising it up to be more accessible), made it easier to fasten my driver's seatbelt with my left hand.
► I ate a lot of meals out of 24 oz cottage cheese containers. I could hold them reasonably well with my right arm, even in a sling, and the high walls made it easier for my clumsy left hand to maneuver.
► Slip-on shoes!! You wont' be able to tie your shoes for a while, regardless of which arm is repaired.
As others have noted, sleeping is no fun at all, for much longer than expected. If you don't have a recliner, borrow one. It doesn't have to be fancy, but you'll live in it for the first week. I eventually moved to the couch for sleeping at night, propping my self up a lot. Slept there for several weeks because it kept me still (I move around a lot at night). It was so lovely when I could move to my bed!
Women: If you are well-endowed, think about your bra the day of surgery and for the first few weeks after. For the day of, I bought a slightly loose front-fastening sports bra where I could run the one strap under my shoulder. The nurse who helped me dress was confused at first, but figured it out. You won't shower for at least three days and no bra isn't a comfortable option for me for that long. For the next couple months, I bought a few more supportive but still front-fastening sports bras. You won't be able to put a back-fastening bra on (at least by yourself) until a few weeks after the sling comes off.
As for recovery - go to PT at least 2x a week and DO YOUR HOME EXERCISES. I was pretty consistent but at 6 months I still don't quite have full range of motion.
It's a long process, y'all. If it's in your future, best wishes.
Matt M on October 14, 2015:
Seems like this is a relatively old post, but maybe you'll see this...at what point post-op would you say you could swing a bat? Similar to others on this thread, I scheduled surgery long enough away to terrify myself in the iterim - watching videos, reading horror story reviews, etc. I play A LOT of softball. Suffered a grade 3 AC separation, SLAP tear, and I'm told I have an uncharacteristically high amount of arthritis in my right/throwing shoulder. After reading all the bad stories, I'd love to hear just one good one! If you see this, would love to know how your recovery has come along. If you don't, I hope you're on a mound somewhere blowing a heater past someone. Thanks for the intel bud, big help. -4
J. Plowman on July 25, 2014:
I'm a real SUSIE! I've never had a nerve block before. I've had a lot of surgery but never a nerve block. Can you relate the pain to any other type of procedure? I've had a lot, including a spinal tap. Thanks for info.
Madhav Poudel Nepal !!!!! on July 12, 2014:
i had shoulder arthoscopy surgery on may last week 2014 and now its 6 weeks but i don`t have energy in my hand i can`t move it freely and main thing is that i am having physo therapy daily visiting hospital .I had 5 dislocation already .I was waiting to get proper reply how much time it will take for fully recover my shoulder .Any one can reply me on that on !!!
Madhav Poudel Nepal !!! on July 12, 2014:
i had shoulder arthoscopy surgery on may last week 2014 and now its 6 weeks but i don`t have energy in my hand i can`t move it freely and main thing is that i am having physo therapy daily visiting hospital .I had 5 dislocation already .I was waiting to get proper reply how much time it will take for fully recover my shoulder .Any one can reply me on that on !!!
denise on June 27, 2014:
I had surgery in April and I have very little RIM. I just went to the doctor yesterday and he told me that I have frozen shoulder. How does this happen when I do my home exercises and go to physical therapy 3 times a week? Is it possible the tendon was reattached to tight?
Caroline on June 20, 2014:
Thanks for the response! Further complicating this, I have Driver's Ed behind-the-wheel (6 days of driving instruction) scheduled for mid-August. If the surgery was sometime mid-to-late July, would driving be possible by this time period?
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on June 18, 2014:
While I can't be certain how softball recovery compares to baseball recovery, I doubt you could recover fully from arthroscopic surgery in that time span. When mine was done in early May, I was told March would be a time where I'd be 100%. With that said, I'd have been throwing a ball after 3 or 4 months, just not at a very high intensity. I would discuss this with your doctor.
Of course, chances are you'll never be as good as you ought to be if you put off the surgery.
Caroline on June 15, 2014:
I'm a teenage softball player debating if I should have this surgery (already had a steroid injection, pt to no effect). If I had the surgery in July could I be 100% by January?
Chris on June 12, 2014:
Were you able to throw a baseball again. Like a fast ball. When after surgery were you able to did physical activities?
Jimmy on June 07, 2014:
Thank you for all of this. I am scheduled to have labral repair done in a week. Super nervous but this has eased my mind significantly
honeyinajar on May 21, 2014:
I wish I knew you in person. This information was so helpful and a little scary. I am scheduled for my surgery on 20 June 2014. At first I was not sure what to expect, but I thank you very much for putting up this info. I am still a little afraid, but like my surgeon told me it has to be done. I guess of afraid of the pain after surgery. Well, thanks again for posting this.
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on April 01, 2014:
You probably had bicep tenodesis in addition to the RC repair and grinding. Tenodesis involves detaching, trimming, and then re-attaching the biceps tendon. Sounds gruesome, and it kind of is, and it is something that will delay your recovery a little bit compared to typical rotator cuff, labral, and bone spur surgeries. More so than the other parts, the biceps tenodesis probably is having an effect on your ROM. It literally shortens the tendon that allows your arm to reach backwards. I struggled with the part of ROM that you are talking about and I didn't even have the tenodesis! At 7 weeks, you shouldn't be too worried about where you are but your PT is right to focus on improving ROM. This has the biggest effect on your day-to-day activities and failing to fix it is the most likely thing to cause reinjury.
As far as the unevenness issue, I'm not as familiar with it. I have a feeling it won't last, at least not to the extent you're describing it. I'm guessing it is in part a product of how tight everything is up there. Dedicated work on ROM may allow things to get back into balance. I would guess that a more realistic outcome is that you may have that unevenness in the long run, but to an extent that only you would notice because you are looking for it. I know that my shoulder is still not "the same" as the other one, but for the most part only I notice the differences in my abilities.
RooLaLa on April 01, 2014:
Hi, thanks for the great and useful info! I had surgery 1/14/14. Pain was very intense until just a week ago. Ortho diagnosed me with myofascial pain syndrome, said my pain was 'not related to surgery'. Currently am on an anti depressant used to treat chronic pain (pamelor). Not sure if that or time has lessened pain! I have very limited ROM. When reaching behind back I don't even reach waist. I started PT at approximately 7 weeks post op. PT wants to see 'more improvement' in ROM but she seems to be a tough cookie. My main concern is uneven shoulders. When standing with arms at side shoulders are fine but when raising arms at sides causes right should (surgery) seems to be approximately 1-1/2 to 2 inches higher, looks 'balled up', like I'm shrugging. I had rotator cuff repair, bicep something or other (sorry, I didn't get my surgery notes) and bone grinding done. PT assistant told me uneven shoulders 'sometimes happen after surgery' but didn't give much more explanation. Any thoughts? Thank you!
Marty on March 28, 2014:
How long would you expect shoulder arthroscopysurgical pain to persist? (before you will fell like getting up and moving around)
BTW, thanks for your assistance j...
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on March 27, 2014:
I was on Norco 10/325 as needed
Tramadol 100mg extended release once daily
Marty on March 27, 2014:
Just curious... what kind of meds were you taking? (dosage, mg, etc.)
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on March 26, 2014:
That has not been my experience and I don't think it's typical. My biggest problem post-nerve block was actually some swelling in my hand from getting blood drawn mid-surgery (they did platelet rich plasma transfusion as well). If you haven't started taking your pain meds, though, you might have some painful times after the nerve block wears off.
And, of course, every surgeon and surgery is a bit different. However, I wouldn't anticipate it hurting you a whole lot.
Lurzmwa@aol.com on March 26, 2014:
Many comments I read say that the pain after the nerve block wears off is horrible.. Is that not true?
Christy on March 05, 2014:
First thank you for all the great information. I am having left shoulder surgery next week. 25% cuff tear and 25% Lib tear. I have heard so many freak me out stories that I am losing sleep over it. I am worried I will not be able to work after 2 weeks, that I won't be able to sleep in anything other than a recliner (going to buy one just the same) and that the pain meds won't work because I have already been on them for a few months for the pain I have now. People keep saying "my friend is still down after 3 months" I can't go on with the pain I have now so NOT having the surgery worries me and having the surgery worries me. Now seeing the part about the doctor performing the surgery being an expert, I asume I have a good one, he does them all the time but now I am worried he isn't number 1. Ugh, it is 1am and I am up late worried again. H E L P.
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on February 10, 2014:
I'll try to answer some of these questions and I apologize for not being more attentive!
Moving your arm in front of you post-op: this will be one of the last parts of your range of motion to come back to you. Those exercises you do in the first week or two will involve very little movement. It is important that you do them, but don't be discouraged that your arm hardly moves.
Can't feel arm 10 hours post-op: They use what is a called a nerve block during surgery and this is probably what you're feeling. A nerve block will completely cut off your ability to feel in that arm. I was surprised after my surgery that I couldn't hold my own arm up as I tried to change clothes. If this lasts longer than a day, call your doctor.
Not being able to take a crap: This is a common side effect of several of the painkillers you've been given, both during and after surgery. I wouldn't stress about it right away, but if you haven't gone after a few days this is reason to call your doctor. This is probably the most common side effect of surgery that could possibly require a visit to a doctor...and I'm sorry, but if it lasts too long an enema is a possibility. Try to watch what you eat, get lots of fiber, and don't worry about it unless you're going nearly a week without going.
General anesthesia: I believe anyone getting arthroscopic shoulder surgery will get general anesthesia.
Shoulder replacement, ROM: I'm sorry to hear about that. I am less well-versed in the recovery from shoulder replacement. Two things to think about - first, that you can expect to have more ROM and more comfort within that ROM once you have recovered from surgery. It's all relative. Secondly, the more you are dedicated to your rehab, the more of that ROM you will get back. If you start skipping out or half-assing it, you are seriously risking permanent losses of ROM beyond what risk is already present from the surgery.
Fredrick on February 09, 2014:
I am2 1/2 weeks post op. I had a significant labrum tear repaired for instability. I also had a small PASTA Rotator Cuff repair done.
It was successful but unfortunately for me.. being 28.. I was told I'd need to have a shoulder replacement done before too long due to some cartilage and joint damage they found along with osteoarthritis.
Pain is a non issue by this point but I feel like I'll never Have full ROM ever again...
Juan Santana on January 20, 2014:
I just got surgery this morning around 6:40 am was ambulatory meaning that I was sent home right away for arthroscopic left shoulder surgery. For some reason 10hrs + my arms feels numb and like with a cramp! And haven't been able to use the toilet to take a crap. I'm a bit concern about can anyone tell me what's happening? And when will I be able to take the sling off my arm?
Catherine on January 14, 2014:
I just want to say thank you for this post and for answering so many questions! I will be having frozen shoulder and labrum repair surgery in a few days and this really helped ease my mind.
Thank you for sharing your story!
Sasha on January 09, 2014:
I have just had an arthroscopy on my shoulder it is day 3 and I'm a little worried. I am doing the exercises as best I can. I can straighten my arm move it out to the side but not forward in front of me is this normal.
Diane on December 27, 2013:
I have a full thickness tear along with an ac excision and sub acrominial decompression. Any idea how long recover process is for all three?
Shannon on December 07, 2013:
How many of you had general anesthesia?
alethea on December 06, 2013:
I'm having a partial rotator cuff repair bursa removed and bone sours removed. Do you think I will be in a sling? If yes about how long do you think.
Lynn on December 04, 2013:
I just scheduled the surgery for early Jan. I am beyond nervous. I am scheduled to go to Disney World with my family the first week in March. My OS says I will be out of the cast, but will still have to take it easy (no roller coasters). How did everyone feel about 6 weeks out. Still a lot of pain? Also how soon after surgery did you travel? Part of me says just wait until next November to have the surgery (end of year, things are more calm), but as a 35 year old who is active I don't think putting it off another year is a bright idea either. I was so happy to find this post as I have been worried sick about this surgery.
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on November 22, 2013:
I know many people replied a while ago, but I'll try to address everything so that future folks will be able to see.
1. Sleep in your sling? Yes, absolutely. This is primetime for re-injury and is the most important time to wear it. You'll be able to sleep without it at the same time you can take it off permanently. It'll probably be the last activity that you do sling-free.
2. Everyday tasks in the first weeks post-op? Sleep will be different. I like to sleep on my side and always preferred sleeping right on the shoulder that got operated on. That was out of the question! You will probably be a little uncomfortable at first, but the nice bonus is that the meds should really knock you out. As far as everyday tasks, I was able to be fairly productive. Definitely LESS productive, but not totally useless. The biggest variable there will be your reaction to the pain meds. I do fairly well with them, but I still was constantly taking naps. You won't even realize how drowsy you were and how much sleeping you did until you're off them for good -- you'll look back and say, "those were a weird couple weeks!"
3. Yikes! Hallucinations are a bit odd, though I suppose memory lapses could be attributed to excessive drowsiness. It's been a while since you commented, but future readers: I'd suggest you call your doctor if you have hallucinations or these memory lapses. They often have an assistant on call at all hours for these types of questions.
4. Physical activity needs to be restricted. For the time you're on the meds, you probably won't feel like doing much, which is good. Those first few weeks are crucial to recovery, so you don't want to rock the boat. Once you're able, the best thing you can do is get on an exercise bike to get a sweat going. Don't do anything that involves your feet striking the ground -- the shock will ripple to the shoulder and put stress on the recent repair. Somewhere between 6-10 weeks post-op is typically when you're allowed to do things that resemble normal exercise, like jogging. It's worth the wait.
George Navarre on November 21, 2013:
November 15th had rotator cuff repair, and Biceps tendonosis right shoulder. Dr. Chen at Austin Orthapedics Group is my new hero. No pain, unless I try to tuck in my shirt tail on the right side. Sling-immobilizer is a cool device, but begins to get weary on the neck about day 4. I had surgery on Friday, took the weekend off, took off Monday, and was b
Jess on November 03, 2013:
What sort of physical activity could you do post-op and in the sling? I am fairly active and worried about going crazy and putting on weight.
Tristan on October 17, 2013:
Thanks for the info Bro. I go in for Surgery on my torn glenoid labrum this upcoming monday. Im nervous but know there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sebastian on September 24, 2013:
In the 24 hours after repair of my bicep tendon and pectoral tendon, I hallucinated with objects coming to life'---that was gone by the second day, but I am having memory lapses now (11 days)---I 'lost' my camera and swore it was in my shoulder bag. We initiated a search at the home of a friend where I had been taking photos. My wife found it on the floor next to the sofa and I swear I have absolutely no recall of how it got there. I'm forgetting other incidental things, facts, names etc.
Corey on September 04, 2013:
Hey I was wondering what the first few weeks were like after your surgery. Were you able to walk around with ease, how sleeping in a bed differed, and if you still had energy to get up and do basic daily thing ei. breakfest. I understand this will differ for person to person but just to get a bit of an idea would be great. Thanks
Rachel A on August 23, 2013:
Hi I just had surgery for a torn labrum(I'm not sure how to spell it but I think you get what I meant) and I was wondering if I should wear my shoulder sling at night while I'm sleeping?
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on August 12, 2013:
Good point about choice of surgeon. I was able to find a surgeon who is well-renowned in his field and is a leading researcher on the exact injury I had. This may not always be possible, but you should probably be able to find a real top notch surgeon that your insurance covers -- they don't want you to continue having problems, so they often cover the better doctors.
Karen Ronk on August 08, 2013:
Just had left arm rotator cuff surgery 4 weeks ago after having right arm done last October. My best advise is to be very careful in choosing your surgeon. The experience with my right arm was a traumatic nightmare - the left arm with a different surgeon was amazing. If you do not feel comfortable with a doctor, do not hesitate to get another opinion. I was in a hurry to get back to work and did not want to take the time and I am regretting it now.
Practical advise for ladies, look for tops and dresses you can wear without a bra and definitely yoga/sweat pants that are easy to pull on. Have friends/family help you stock up on everything you can before surgery. New research seems to indicate that anti inflammatories may interfere with tendon healing - my doc says none for 6 weeks. And finally, I can sleep in bed but I got an outdoor oversized anti gravity chair just in case and it is really comfortable and is a good option if you do not have a recliner.
Best of luck to anyone going through this.
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on August 04, 2013:
I'm glad you're finally getting it resolved and I definitely can relate to how you don't always see at first how bad your problem is. My original injury developed over the course of years before I finally had it taken care of. I was a baseball pitcher and was gradually feeling worse to the point where I couldn't go anymore -- at that point, I realized maybe it was an injury and not just me getting worse at the sport!
Ulf-Dieter on August 04, 2013:
Wow, that is good to see on your page. I will be having left shoulder athroscopic surgery for rotator cuff tear, bone spurs and arthrosis. However I did not realise that changing top clothing after the surgery proves to be tricky. Most orthopaedic surgeons would advise of doing surgery earlier than wait for their patients to grow older. I did a lot of researches on how efficient do torn tendons heal without surgery and with surgery and wow that was good to see more because I compared the tendons versus arteries where there is blood supply. Tendons intend to have very low blood supply and this is something that orthoapedic surgeons are recognized for their exposure to that and if you cut your hand, skins intend to heal over time with lots of blood supply. Comparing this against the tendons, they heal very longer and slowly. However surgery intends to promote healing to that. I'm also looking forward to receive nerve block. So what happened was that years back, I was a printer technician for five years. I injured my left shoulder twice. The last straw was that my left shoulder gave away, and I almost damaged the printer. I did not realise during these five years and only till this month that they were progressing to chronic pain that kept me awake. I assumed that it was limited to my shoulder muscle. However the pain grew more intense in January, I went to see my GP and he confirmed that I have rotator cuff syndrome. Twice had coritsone injections - they helped for the pain, inflammation and swelling, but not for the tendons and bone spurs. Then I had my left shoulder x rayed and the radiologist's report confirmed that I have a type 2 acromion. So looking to get operated in November...
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on July 26, 2013:
You know, I'd been given some literature pre-op that said to wear a button-down. While you don't have to on surgery day, you will eventually wear the sling OVER your shirt if you hope to have use of that hand. It will be easier on the day of surgery to leave the sling on underneath the button-down shirt.
The trick about surgery day is that it is a multi-person effort to take the sling off and put a shirt on underneath it. The nerve block will make you unable to hold your arm in place during the undressing and redressing process - it will just flop straight down to your side if somebody isn't actively supporting it. After the nerve block wears off, you'll be able to get clothed by yourself or, at worst, with the help of your husband or someone else. I think I was able to finagle myself into normal shirts within a few days of surgery, once the initial soreness wore off and I understood my range of motion limitations. The recovery nurses will probably demonstrate how to put on a shirt without moving the shoulder; if not, ask them if you're not sure how to do it. They will assist you if need be getting dressed that day.
As far as yoga pants, make sure you wear pants that are easy to pull up. I don't wear yoga pants, but I have worn plenty of spandex bottoms for sports, etc. that would be quite the pain to put on with one hand. It is kind of difficult for another person to help you pull on pants, too. Think about wearing sweatpants or something if you foresee this being a problem. You could probably just do a practice run with your husband, lol!
I can see getting back to work two weeks post-op. By then, you'll be surprised how much better you feel already. You should be able to TYPE by then but if you have to do a lot of handwriting, I'm not exactly sure how that works. I'm actually ambidextrous for most tasks and I just so happen to write primarily with the unaffected side. I was back to my writing (computer) job about 7-10 days post-op, as soon as I was off the painkillers and could think for myself. By 2 weeks, you'll be able to take your sling off for brief periods of time so you shouldn't have an issue doing small amounts of pen and paper writing if you will need to.
If you have more specific questions, I'll be glad to help as best as I can!
Janice on July 26, 2013:
Hi, silly question, but did your shirt sleeve go OVER the sling? I'm actually stressing about what shirt to bring to the surgery. I've planned to wear one of my husband's button down shirts and a pair of yoga pants.
Also, I'll be in a sling for 4-6 weeks on my dominant side after rotator cuff repair and my surgeon tells me I'll be able to work at my desk job in two weeks. Does this sound doable to you?
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on July 25, 2013:
Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like you've recovered marvelously given how extensive your procedure was. I'm very surprised you're already able to handle swimming, that's great. I wasn't permitted to run (my hobby) for 8 weeks post-op, and I was going crazy waiting!
IT on July 25, 2013:
Great information , by all accounts very accurate . Had arthroscopic surgery on right rotator cuff full thickness tear of supraspinatus cause from Tennis. it involved repair of tendon, reconstruction and reattaching it, then capsular release to treat frozen shoulder as well as acromioplasty (to even out the area ). Key to quick recovery is movement and daily exercise using rubber bands . I was able to swim and do light sport and jog within three months . To accelerate recover go to the sea , the cool salt water and sun really helps, as does swimming starting with breast stroke and progressing to freestyle in a few weeks. At current rate of recovery with regular exercise , it probably takes around 10 months to get full movement back and be able to play tennis . Estimate a year to fourteen months to be able to do pull-ups and full contact sports ...
Jacob Long (author) from Memphis, TN on July 14, 2013:
It is hard to say and I suppose your doctor may be able to give you an idea of this. I would say that the safe expectation is that no, your shoulder will not be as good as new. Hopefully, though, it will do everything that you need it to. One concern in particular is that joints that are surgically repaired often develop arthritis later on.
I will say that my injury had been around so long, gradually getting worse, that my shoulder now feels better than I can ever remember. If your injury occurred in a single event, like an impact, it may or may not feel better than it did before.
praveen on July 14, 2013:
That was very useful for me as I am going to get my surgery done in few more days..
Well my doubt is, will my shoulder be as good as new after this arthroscopic surgery is done.??