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How Long Does It Take to Recover From Shoulder Replacement? Realistic Rehab Timeline Explained

Undergoing shoulder replacement surgery can feel like a long journey on a foggy night. Lack of understanding, doubts, questions and fears can make recovery even harder.

Understanding the recovery timeline after shoulder replacement surgery is essential. It helps you plan your life post-surgery, arrange help, and set realistic goals.

In this blog post, we’ll try to answer your questions such as “How long do you do physical therapy after shoulder replacement” or “How long do you use your sling after shoulder replacement”.

Or do you need tips on how to make your physiotherapy after reverse shoulder replacement smooth and effective? We’ve got you there too!

Knowing the typical post-op recovery timeline helps keep the fear of the unknown at bay. Educating yourself is also the best way to know if healing is going well and catch any problems in time. 

So read on all about recovery and physiotherapy after total shoulder replacement. We’ll break down what you can expect week by week.

Recovery after shoulder replacement can seem daunting. But remember, The best way to conquer fear is by arming yourself with knowledge. That’s why we’ve put together this clear road map for regaining your shoulder’s strength and flexibility.

Understanding Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery, tailored like a custom suit, comes in three types:

  • Total shoulder replacement means both the ball (head of your arm bone called humerus) and socket (a part of the scapula bone, which is the flat bone in your upper back) are replaced. It’s suitable for extensive joint damage.
  • Partial shoulder replacement, or hemiarthroplasty, involves replacing just the ball when the socket is healthy.
  • Reverse shoulder replacement is ideal for those with torn rotator cuffs or previous surgery failures. It involves swapping the ball and socket positions. We won’t dig into its details in this post – we’re here to mainly talk about rehab after.

Each of these surgeries is designed for specific conditions and recovery goals.

Shoulder Replacement Rehab: Timeline Explained

Following shoulder replacement surgery, the recovery and rehabilitation timeline is key. Physiotherapy after total shoulder replacement differs from physiotherapy after reverse shoulder replacement.

Regardless of the type of surgery you had, PT helps you regain function and ease back into daily activities. Here’s what you can generally expect during your rehab journey:

In weeks 1-3, your mobility may be severely limited and you may need a sling during most waking hours.

By week 3, you’ll likely regain enough mobility to change clothes independently and carry light objects around your home.

As you approach week 6, you should return to desk jobs. Engaging in light office tasks, making your bed, and lifting slightly heavier items should be possible.

You might also regain the full range of motion in your arm and begin driving.

From month 4 onwards, recovery varies on individual factors such as age, overall health, and pre-existing conditions.

The type of shoulder surgery performed, and the intensity of your rehab also play a role. By this stage, you might start engaging in more strenuous activities. This includes doing dishes and lifting groceries.

Your return to labour-intensive jobs or sports will depend on how well you adhere to post-surgery guidelines and physiotherapy after total shoulder replacement. The exact demands of the sport and your specific role matter here too.

Let’s look at what PT includes across different stages of recovery. We’ll also discuss how long you do physical therapy after shoulder replacement of different types.

Immediate Post-Surgery Phase (Week 1)

After shoulder replacement surgery, you’ll be hospitalised for typically 2 to 4 days. During this initial stage, your shoulder will be bandaged, and you may experience swelling.

Pain management via painkillers, gentle massage, and limited icing (no more than 20 minutes at a time) is crucial.

PT begins shortly after surgery, with gentle mobility exercises introduced by your medical team. It’s essential to use a sling after shoulder replacement to immobilise your shoulder. This stabilises the area and aids the healing process by preventing unnecessary strain.

By the end of the first week, expect to engage in light activities. This includes eating with assistance using your non-operated arm.

Keep the operated shoulder immobilised to set the stage for increased activity in the subsequent weeks.

Early Recovery Phase after Shoulder Replacement (Weeks 2-6)

During Weeks 2-6, your activity levels will gradually increase under close supervision in a PT clinic. At Clearcut Physiotherapy in London, we encourage gentle, controlled exercises at this time.

Some of our favourites are elbow slides on a table and active assisted movements. One example is using a stick to help move the operated arm without lifting it above head level.

Make sure to use a sling after shoulder replacement, if recommended by the doctor. At home, we advise you to continue managing pain and swelling with massage and icing. Avoid sleeping on the operated side to reduce stress on the shoulder.

As your shoulder regains strength, you’ll use the sling less and resume daily activities. You’ll be able to get dressed and cook but avoid strenuous tasks.

By the end of this stage, you should be able to handle light household duties and possibly return to driving. Remember to always be within your comfortable motion limits.

Intermediate Recovery Phase (7-12 weeks)

Physiotherapy after total shoulder replacement and physiotherapy after reverse shoulder replacement have one thing in common. The 7-12 weeks post-surgery phase focuses on more active and resistance-based exercises.

You’ll start using resistance bands and light weights to strengthen your shoulder. Doing so under the guidance of your physiotherapist ensures your movements are safe and effective.

The goal of this phase is to improve shoulder strength and flexibility. Exercises will gradually become more challenging. This helps build a better range of motion and muscle endurance.

By the end of this stage, you should notice significant improvements in your shoulder’s function. You’ll be able to handle more demanding tasks like:

  • Carrying groceries.
  • Light yard work.
  • Participating in recreational sports.

Remember, no intense or high-impact activities just yet!

Advanced Recovery Phase (4+ months)

Month 4 is about functional training to help you return to daily activities and sports. Gradually reintroduce regular activities and hobbies.

Always be mindful not to overexert yourself. If your job is physically demanding, adjust how you lift and handle repetitive tasks.

Maintain shoulder health by continuing recommended stretching and strengthening exercises. Regular check-ins are essential to monitor progress and adjust your exercise regimen.

Remember, using a sling after shoulder replacement leads to a more resilient shoulder. Just like physiotherapy after total shoulder replacement helps you resume pre-surgery activities!

Patient testimonial for rehab at Clearcut Physiotherapy in London.

Tips for a Smooth Recovery After Shoulder Replacement

Here’s how you can continue healing after the initial recovery phase of shoulder replacement surgery:

  • Follow the physiotherapist’s advice: Strictly adhere to the exercise schedule recommended by your physiotherapist. We meticulously design your recovery plan to optimise healing and functionality.
  • Manage pain effectively: Use prescribed pain medication, icing, and gentle massages to manage discomfort. Take adequate rest and maintain a positive mindset. We recommend engaging in activities that keep your spirits up.
  • Stay active within recommended limits: Keep active as advised by your doctor to maintain overall health without straining your shoulder. Safe activities include walking or light chores to keep other parts of your body mobile.

These simple tips help accelerate your recovery. They also minimise discomfort for your confident return to daily activities.

Ready to Heal After Shoulder Surgery? Start Your Recovery Journey Now

Sticking to your recovery plan while recovering from shoulder replacement surgery is crucial. Listen to your physiotherapist, manage your pain wisely, and stay gently active.

For the smoothest recovery, you need to on-board the best help available. Book an appointment at our clinics in Eltham, Battersea, or Norbury. Our team is ready to provide personalised care to help you heal and regain your strength.

Taking the next step towards full recovery is easy—just reach out. Let’s get you back to feeling your best!

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