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Dealing with A Broken Shoulder

Four months ago, my feet went out from under me when I walked on a glazed concrete garage floor that had become wet from rain. I landed on my shoulder and knew from the crack I heard that I'd broken it. X-ray confirmed that I had a fractured proximal humerus bone.

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For the next 9 weeks, my shoulder was in an immobilization sling and I had to learn to manage doing things with one arm. It was a frustrating experience. Luckily, I'm right handed and I broke the left shoulder. Here is a list of things I things I did to make my everyday life a little easier while the shoulder and arm were bound. I hope that some of these tips will make someone elses misfortune less troublesome.

Bathing and Personal Care

  • I bought a used plastic shower chair so I could sit while I showered using the sprayer. It was safe and practical, even when I shaved my legs.

  • At The Dollar Store, I bought several washcloth mittens and put the soap bar inside. They were easier to manage than the square open ones and I didn't have to worry about the soap bar slipping away or having to stretch to reach the bottle of shower gel.

  • I didn't want to get the heavy duty $40 sling wet so I bought a cheap $15 one at WalMart and used that one for showering.

  • In the first week I had my hair cut short so I didn't have to contend with it much. Washing my hair was done at the kitchen sink, the height being perfect for me to wash and rinse my head. The shampoo and conditioner bottles as well as the towel on the counter were handy to grab.

  • Being unable to lift my arm even an inch, I couldn't use my usual stick perspirant. I bought several roller ball ones from Avon and it was easy to push the ball into my armpit and roll it around.

  • I couldn't dry my back after showering. I picked up a used terry cloth housecoat at the thrift store, put it on after my shower, then rubbed my back against the wall. It worked well.

Dressing

  • Going through my t-shirt drawer, I put all the oversize ones to the top for every day wear. It was easier to put on a big baggy shirt than a tighter one.

  • At night, I didn't bother taking off my bra and t-shirt. I slept in them and only changed them when I showered. Not doing anything of exertion that made me sweat or get dirty, my clothes were clean anyway and good enough until the morning.

  • Elastic waist pants were a must because I couldn't tie drawstrings or do up buttons. Rubber soled slip-on shoes were another necessity and I had two pairs, one for inside the house and another for outside. No more walking around in socks for me because I was afraid of slipping.

  • Speaking of socks, these were hard to get the hang of managing on my own. Most of mine were longish and tight fitting. I changed them for shorty ones that I could yank up easily with one hand.

  • My balance was off and I was more comfortable sitting down to get dressed or undressed.

Cooking and Eating

  • Cooking was a chore. Friends helped by bringing over ready made meals but I still had some cooking to do and it was difficult. I kept meals as easy as possible and used the crockpot a lot. The internet guided me to many one pot meals.

  • Instead of buying fresh vegetables that needed to be cleaned and cut up, I bought bags of frozen ones. They're good.

  • I didn't care to go out for dinner anywhere and have to ask for my food to be cut up for me. I stayed at home and mostly ate food that I could either eat with a spoon, pick up in my fingers (like chicken) or that I could cut with my fork.

  • As much as possible, I cooked in large quantity so I'd have leftovers. Second day stew, spaghetti, chili, etc. are as good and even better the next day.

Laundry and General Clean Up

  • I'm a stickler for changing my bed sheets weekly. For a few months, I changed to a bi-weekly linen change. Being unable to fold the large sheets, I put the freshly washed sheets back on the bed. With the open window while the sheets were being washed and dried, the mattress got aired out nicely. Tucking in the bedsheets and blanket at the foot of the bed was impossible. I kept them untucked.

  • I couldn't adequately wring out the kitchen dishcloth with one hand. Instead of regular dishcloths, I used Lysol wipes for cleaning the kitchen counters and stove.

  • Out of necessity, I became less picky about general housecleaning and tidying up. Dishes were left to drip dry. Vacuuming was reserved for walking areas only.

Miscellaneous

  • I had to allow more time for everything, usually double time, and take rests in between tasks. The short rests were used to read a bit, make needed phone calls, delete old cell phone messages, organize a messy drawer, etc.

  • My pain meds had a child proof cap that I couldn't open single handedly. I kept the bottle lid open. If there are children in the house, the open bottle should be kept in a child inaccessible place.

  • I attached a lanyard to my cell phone, hanging it around my neck and tucked into the sling for easy access kept my phone with me all the time.

  • I often used other body parts to get something done, eg. teeth to open the toothpaste cap, knees to hold a jar while twisting the lid with the good hand, etc.

  • I bought 1 litre bottles and cartons of milk or juice instead of the 2 litre containers. They were easier to manage.

  • I couldn't drive and relied on family and friends to take me grocery shopping. To keep the trips to a minimum, I did a huge shopping every time I went out and stocked up on everything.

  • Whenever I was uncomfortable with pain or simply frustrated because I was working with one hand only, I told myself over and over that this was only temporary. Keeping a positive attitude as much as possible, and it was difficult sometimes, did much to pass the day more pleasantly for myself and those around me.

Source: Living with a broken shoulder

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February 26, 20163 found this helpful

Thanks for the great information. My son recently broke his arm and a lot of these tips work for both issues. Hope you are healing fast.

Reply Was this helpful? 3
February 26, 20161 found this helpful

Really helpful information; thank you for taking the time to share!

Reply Was this helpful? 1
February 28, 20161 found this helpful

Wish I had read the handy tips when I had surgery on my Left shoulder ! ( but I'm R handed)

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March 7, 20161 found this helpful

I dislocated my shoulder (the right one, my 'dominant' side unfortunately!) Wednesday (2 Mar 2016) - your tips are a real blessing as I cope with what my medical team tells me will be a long healing. Thank-you for taking the time to write all this out!

Reply Was this helpful? 1
March 7, 20162 found this helpful

I dislocated and broke my left shoulder and was in a sling for 12 weeks. All your ideas are excellent and very helpful.

I like to add just a few things that helped me greatly.

1) I slept in a recliner, I tried to sleep in bed but wasn't able to get up on my own. It was comfortable once I got use to it.

2) At the time I broke my shoulder, we had 3 large dogs and we have a step leading down into the Laundry Room then another 2 feet to the back door to let them outside.

I had my husband tie a tennis ball in a sock and then had him secure it to the backdoor, door knob. Instead of stepping up and down the step numerous times to let the dogs in and out, I left the backdoor closed but not secure.

I had a grabber that we got from Walmart and I was able to step down onto the step, grab the tennis ball and open the door for the dogs. After the dogs returned inside, I used my cane to push the door closed but not secured.

3) My grabber was a life saver anytime, I dropped anything.

I was able to totally relate to your post and wish you well.

Reply Was this helpful? 2
March 7, 20162 found this helpful

Thanks ladies for the feedback. I'm still dealing with the aftermath of the broken shoulder as I developed a frozen shoulder. I'm told that it will take quite some time to get the range of motion back to normal. Between cortisone shots, physio, shoulder manipulation and rigorous home exercise, everyday life still isn't always easy. If you could use more tips, let me know. I'm learning new ones myself day by day.

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March 7, 20161 found this helpful

Hi Mina,
It took a long time for me to get my range of motion back to normal as well. I joined the YMCA just so I could sit in their hot tub and it made a huge difference.

I would lower my body to neck level until my whole shoulder was submerged in the tub. Besides feeling great and almost pain free, I would do as many of my exercises under water as possible.

The hot water totally relaxes all the muscles to the point that it feels so good and painless that you may find it hard to stay awake.

It's truly amazing in the difference it made me feel and shortened my recovery. I hope you feel pain free soon.

- Ciao

Reply Was this helpful? 1
March 8, 20160 found this helpful

Hi Mina,

It took a long time for me to get my range of motion back to normal as well. I joined the YMCA just so I could sit in their hot tub and it made a huge difference.

I would lower my body to neck level until my whole shoulder was submerged in the tub. Besides feeling great and almost pain free, I would do as many of my exercises under water as possible.

The hot water totally relaxes all the muscles to the point that it feels so good and painless that you may find it hard to stay awake.

It's truly amazing in the difference it made me feel and shortened my recovery. I hope you feel pain free soon.

- Ciao

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
March 8, 20161 found this helpful

I too had difficulty getting into and out of bed on my own. A toddler bed rail, the kind that fits between the mattress and box spring, installed on my right side (good side) gave me something to grab onto when I had to get into or out of the bed. I should have mentioned this in my first post because it truly was a help.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
March 28, 20171 found this helpful

hi Mina - I do not know if you will see this comment but I will ask anyway..
It has been over a year since your accident and it would be nice if we could hear how you are doing and if you have any other helpful suggestions to add.
Betty

Reply Was this helpful? 1
March 2, 20181 found this helpful

I've just now seen your reply to my article about dealing with a broken shoulder. It's 2 1/2 years now since I had my accident and I rarely think about it because "I'm as good as new". It took almost a year to feel unrestricted in any way, a year of tedious exercises and I'm glad that I stuck it out.

It's become a habit now that I carry my purse, grocery bags, etc with my left hand instead of the right one that I typically used. Gentle swinging of the carried item was passive exercise.

When I painted the hallway with two coats of paint, I used my left arm for rolling the first coat even though I'm right handed. (The first coat doesn't have to be perfect). I counted that as more shoulder exercise and it wasn't as boring as doing the physio stuff.

The physio was an absolute necessity during that period, but there were / are many everyday motions that count as exercise too. Exercise, exercise, exercise ... that's the key.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
March 6, 20180 found this helpful

Thanks for letting us know how things are going. We get a lot of interest in your post and many people are helped with your advice.

Have a great day!

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Anonymous
July 6, 20170 found this helpful

I fell and broke my right humerus at the top two days ago. I am right handed. These suggestions are very useful. I can't imagine managing on my own, as many of you seem to have done. Even with help I am finding it difficult going, mostly because of the pain, which is present all the time but excruciating if I move my arm. And I certainly didn't anticipate such a long recovery. I guess it's good to know what's coming, though the information is disheartening. At this point my major innovation, after my first shower, was to put the sling on before my top, then putting only my uninsured arm through the top's sleeve. How long before I can safely drive?

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December 2, 20170 found this helpful

Thankyou! I'm going through this experience right now and am grateful for your tips.Hope you are recovered now.

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April 23, 20180 found this helpful

i'm grateful to you!
very helpful to me with an almost identical experience -
except that I'm not shouldering these weeks living alone.

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July 3, 20181 found this helpful

On the misc side of things here ... I forgot to mention that having cash on hand at all times in small bills is a good idea. Over the months, whenever a neighbor offered to pick up milk or something for me when she went out, I paid her right away. We both appreciated keeping things simple.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
July 15, 20180 found this helpful

Appreciate all of tour tips! Love the idea of extra sling and soap mitts! Im in My third week lost break. How on earth do you get your bra on? I actually miss it! One tip for you...I use a long shoehorn to pull up my panties on the effected side. Years ago, when recovering from rotator cuff surgery, I used a hairbrush, but I needed something longer this time.

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August 21, 20180 found this helpful

Regarding difficulty putting your bra on .... me too, I had difficulty with that but I finally figured it out. I'll try to explain, though seeing it done would be better, but I'm not inclined to send pictures. lol

My left shoulder was broken so I cut the left strap neatly at the front bottom edge where it joins to the cup. I attached two sticky back Velcro strips, one to the strap and the other to the cup. (I took the Velcro strips off when I laundered the bra and stuck them back on later. They lasted for 2 or 3 re-applications before they lost stickiness and had to be replaced. WalMart sells the Velcro strips in the sewing notions department.)

Putting on the bra - Wrap the bra around your waist with the back hook closures at the front, about belly button height. Close the back hooks.

With your good arm, twist it around until the back closure is where it's supposed to be. Then shimmy it up your midriff until you can put your good arm through the strap. With the good arm, slowly ease the whole bra up higher, under the sling.

Here comes the good part. I used my kitchen tongs to grab the left dangling strap from behind my back and I brought it to the front. The strap needed to be attached and that's where the Velcro fix came in. It did the job.

Personally, I'm too top heavy to comfortably wear strapless bras, but that's a good option too.

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August 14, 20190 found this helpful

Broke proximal humerus 11 weeks ago, right side unfortunately,it is healing but has left me with a problem in my right hand i.e. very stiff fingers & although doing lots of exercises doesnt seem to be improving.Anyone had this happen with a broken shoulder?

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

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