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What are the Best Tips for Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery Recovery?

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  • Written By: L. Whitaker
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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Recovery from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, which is a minimally invasive surgical treatment, depends on many factors. However, individuals can take steps during recovery to help improve the medical outcome of surgery. Arthroscopic shoulder surgery recovery time can sometimes be shortened by using several tips, including keeping the wound dressing clean and dry, keeping the swelling down, and following the prescribed rehabilitative exercise routine.

Arthroscopic surgery is frequently done as an outpatient procedure. If you are not kept overnight in the hospital, you will need someone to drive you home after the procedure. Your doctor will provide you with pain medication. An adverse reaction to the medication, such as nausea or vomiting, should be reported to your doctor immediately. Likewise, it is recommended to alert your doctor if the dosage does not seem to adequately control your pain.

There will be a light dressing over the incision areas from your surgery. It is normal to expect some drainage from the wound for the first 24 hours. Keep the dressing clean and dry; it should not be removed except by a medical professional.

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Arthroscopic shoulder surgery recovery can involve some degree of swelling and pain in the affected area. It is important to minimize swelling as much as possible in order to reduce scarring and eventual stiffness. Swelling and pain in the shoulder can be addressed by periodically icing the affected area, which involves placing a moistened towel over the area to protect skin, then holding a plastic bag of ice over the towel. It is recommended to ice the affected area three times daily for about 20 minutes each time.

Occasionally, there can be complications in arthroscopic shoulder surgery recovery. Reasons for concern could include drainage or bleeding that lasts more than 24 hours; a fever that goes above 101 degrees Fahrenheit (about 38.3 degrees Celsius); redness, warmth, or an odor emanating from the wound area; and tingling or numbness of the hand on the affected side. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these complications.

Your doctor will provide you with instructions about minimizing shoulder movements after surgery. Your shoulder might also be placed in a brace or sling to prevent excessive movement. Following your doctor's instructions about shoulder movement and general activity is key to healing from arthroscopic surgery. You might be able to return to a reduced daily routine within several days, although it can take four to six months or longer for a full return to normal activity.

It is said that complying with a prescribed program of rehabilitative exercises is the most important component of arthroscopic shoulder surgery recovery. Your doctor or physical therapist will formulate a series of exercises to gradually increase the range of motion in the affected shoulder. These exercises could be slated to begin soon after surgery, in an effort to avoid accumulating excess scar tissue that leads to joint stiffness.

Normally, you can expect to make a follow-up visit to your doctor within about two weeks of your surgery. Another visit might be scheduled at approximately one month after surgery in order to evaluate the progress of your recovery. Additional follow-up visits could occur as needed for support of arthroscopic shoulder surgery recovery.

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