Preparing for Shoulder Surgery

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January 12, 2016

I recently underwent orthoscopic rotator cuff surgery and the first thing that came to mind was what type of clothing should I need. Here's an easy and inexpensive way to create a type of clothing that is simple to make and very accommodating for wearing home from the hospital, to the physical therapy sessions and follow up visit with your surgeon.



Buy men's largest size color tee shirts four in a pack. Modify directions according to the right or left shoulder. With scissors cut across the top of sleeve from neckline across the full straight length of sleeve. Using strips of velcro, sew to cut edges from neckline to shoulder hem leaving remainder of sleeve open to allow tee shirt to slide up and over arm and shoulder. The brace will be put on over the tee shirt. When the velcro is added, be sure that the smoothest strip piece is attached to the underside of front top while the rougher velcro is sewn to the top of back side, so that it will be pulled open easily with the good hand pulling downward toward the front, otherwise you will find pulling toward the back is more difficult when needed to open for removal. Your head goes through that same large space, but only after the injured arm is put through first and then you can put the good arm through last. When you remove the shirt, slip the good arm out first, your head and then slide off the wounded shoulder/arm.

Make a few of these quick and easy shirts in advance and be sure to take one with you to wear home the day of surgery. Also, wear a pair of loose fitting elastic waist slacks. They are easiest to pull up/down. You will have help getting dressed and no bras will be worn home or anytime soon thereafter unless you can wear a strapless bra that fastens from the front.

At Home

While home recuperating, I chose to wear stretchy night gowns for comfort and for more accessible bathroom use. Make it easy on yourself. Buy a few large quantity wet wipes packs or a bidet that fastens to the rim of toilet bowl. This item only works if you are having left shoulder done as plumbing fixtures are on right side making it difficult to operate without assistance.

If you are having surgery performed in winter, then have a soft fluffy throw to cover up with and keep warm. An electric ice/water cold pack unit works great for relieving pain, minimizing swelling and encourages healing, and may have you using less pain medication as it did me, but it will make you feel chilly as the coldness runs through the shoulder pad. You will need to use it constantly the first week or two which is the roughest, so be sure to have plenty of ice available and a couple of folded cotton hand towels to place against your shoulder before the placement of the cold pad is used.

Household Chores

Talk over with your spouse things that will need done and learn early on what he/she feels comfortable or uncomfortable about regarding your care. Then think about those more challenging needs to see if you can come up with an idea or two that might alleviate any stress over it. The way I worked through this was using my left hand to find out what could or could not be done and then informed my husband what he would need to do and the whole became less of a guessing game.

If you are the chef/cook have plenty of food made up in advance that can be microwaved or heated in the oven. You'll be glad you did not overlook doing this as it was so much easier for my husband to warm up for us. A crock pot of chili, vegetable soup, soup beans for example stretched for a few days giving us a rest from all the stress and helped to focus on the changes required each day.

Caring for Yourself

You'll be advised to sleep in a recliner chair for a few weeks. For me, the chair could not be put in reclining position as my surgery was on the right side and so was the chair's raising/reclining mechanism. Get a hassock you can scoot away from the chair when you must get up and give your spouse an uninterrupted sleep, so he can feel more refreshed and alert to meeting the daily challenges ahead.

When showering, set a stool in there and if you have a hand held shower attachment, that comes in very handy as standing time tolerance is short and you may feel the back ache standing too long. It makes washing hair easier to do also and rinsing lower area better.

You'll also need a couple boxes of waterproof band aids to put on the surgical stitches areas prior to bathing when the time comes you can shower that area. Place them in a vertical position on arm as it makes it easier for you to help remove versus horizontal. Apply peroxide on cloth pads to gently wipe over all surgery area and let dry before placing regular band aids over each wound site. This is a once a day procedure until you have a visit with your doctor or his staff who will remove stitches and put a tape band over each wound which ends having to change band aids daily.

You are not going to be able to do everything around the house, so worry less how the house might look and enjoy your favorite tv shows, movies, books, puzzles,and visitors and napping while you are recuperating. For myself, our home was thoroughly cleaned before the surgery date and having R & R time was necessary afterward and no guilt trip experienced.

I hope whoever reads this and is in need of such surgery or knows someone who does, you will share these friendly helpful tips and ideas.

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April 24, 2019

It can be difficult to get dressed when healing from shoulder surgery but shirts can be altered to to make this process easier. This page has DIY instructions for an altered T-shirt for shoulder surgery.

Altered T-Shirt for Shoulder Surgery  - view of Velcro strips in place

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