St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Using your shoulder after surgery

    Shoulder surgery - using your shoulder; Shoulder surgery - after

    You had surgery on your shoulder to repair a muscle, tendon, or cartilage tear. The surgeon may have removed damaged tissue. You will need to know how to take care of your shoulder as it heals, and how to make it stronger.


    After surgery, the arm on the side of your surgery will be in a sling or an immobilizer. Wear the device at all times, unless your doctor tells you do not have to.

    • It is okay to straighten your arm below your elbow and move your wrist and hand. But try to move your arm as little as possible.
    • Your arm should bend at a 90° angle (a right angle) at your elbow. The sling should support your wrist and hand so that they do not extend past the sling.
    • Move your fingers, hand, and wrist around 3- 4 times during the day while they are in the sling. Each time, do this 10- 15 times.
    • Begin taking your arm out of the sling and let it hang loosely by your side when your doctor tells you it is okay. Do this for longer periods at a time each day.

    If you wear a shoulder immobilizer, you can loosen it only at the wrist strap and straighten your arm at your elbow. Be careful not to move your shoulder when you do this. Do not completely take off the immobilizer unless your doctor tells you it is okay.

    If you had rotator cuff surgery, or other ligament or labral surgery, you need to be careful with your shoulder. Ask your doctor what arm movements are safe to do.

    • Do not move your arm away from your body or over your head.
    • When you sleep, raise your upper body up on pillows. Do not lie flat. You can also try sleeping on a reclining chair.
    • Do not use your arm or hand on the side that had surgery:
      • Do not lift anything with this arm or hand.
      • Do not lean on the arm or put any weight on it.
      • Do not bring objects toward your stomach by pulling in with this arm and hand.
      • Do not move or twist your elbow behind your body to reach for anything.

    Your surgeon will refer you to a physical therapist to learn exercises for your shoulder.

    • You'll probably start with passive exercises. These are exercises the therapist will do with your arm. They help get the full movement back in your shoulder.
    • After that you will do exercises the therapist teaches you. These will help increase the strength in your shoulder and the muscles around your shoulder.

    Consider making some changes around your home so it is easier for you to take care of yourself. Store everyday items you use in places you can reach easily. Keep things with you that you use a lot (such as your phone).

    When to Call the Doctor

    Call your doctor or nurse if you have:

    • Bleeding that soaks through your dressing and does not stop when you place pressure over the area
    • Pain that does not go away when you take your pain medicine
    • Swelling in your arm
    • Numbness or tingling in your fingers or hand
    • Redness, pain, swelling, or a yellowish discharge from any of the wounds
    • Fever higher than 101 °F

    Also call the doctor if your hand or fingers are darker in color or feel cool to the touch.


    Matsen III FA, Fehringer EV, Lippitt SB, Wirth MA, Rockwood Jr. CA. Rotator cuff. In: Rockwood CA Jr, Matsen FA III, Wirth MA, Lippitt SB, eds. The Shoulder. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 17.


          A Closer Look

            Talking to your MD

            Self Care

            Tests for Using your shoulder after surgery

              Review Date: 11/15/2012

              Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

              A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

              Back  |  Top
              About Us
              Contact Us
              Locations & Directions
              Quality Reports
              Annual Reports
              Honors & Awards
              Community Health Needs

              Brain & Spine
              Sleep Medicine
              Urgent Care
              Women's Services
              All Services
              Patients & Visitors
              Locations & Directions
              Find a Physician
              Tour St. Luke's
              Patient & Visitor Information
              Contact Us
              Payment Options
              Financial Assistance
              Send a Card
              Mammogram Appointments
              Health Tools
              My Personal Health
              Spirit of Women
              Health Information & Tools
              Clinical Trials
              Employer Programs -
              Passport to Wellness

              Classes & Events
              Classes & Events
              Spirit of Women
              Donate & Volunteer
              Giving Opportunities
              Physicians & Employees
              For Physicians
              Remote Access
              Medical Residency Information
              Pharmacy Residency Information
              Physician CPOE Training
              St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
              Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile