Preparing for Shoulder Surgery: The Essential Guide for Comfortable Recovery

Celebrating 5 weeks post surgery!

Having your arm in a sling can make it hard to get dressed, sleep at night, or even just be comfortable throughout the day. Any of these conditions can limit how you get through the day!

✔️ Broken Arm

✔️ Fractured Bone

✔️ Subluxation

✔️ Post Surgery Recovery

✔️ Rotator Cuff Injury

✔️ Shoulder Dislocation

✔️ Arm Immobility

Video Blogs of My Recovery

Having rotator cuff shoulder surgery means being without the use of an arm for several weeks. Preparing ahead of time can make life easier. I produced several videos in which I detailed my recovery at week one, 11 days and 18 days post surgery.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Here is the link to nutritious, easy to prep and minimal prep meal ideas that I refer to in the videos:

I emphasize information that will be helpful to you as you prepare for your surgery so that you will know more about what to expect at home and what to purchase and do ahead of time to make your life easier.

And keep scrolling to the end where I also have videos explaining what not to do after surgery and how to live with a sling.

Recommended Products for Post Rotator Cuff Surgery

After having rotator cuff surgery, I discovered the products that make my one-armed life easier. I have put together a list for you of must-have post surgery items you might consider. To save you time and effort, I researched the best products on selected Amazon Choice or Top Sellers where I could.

I have also a list of resources that I found helpful so I have linked them below under the shopping items. So keep scrolling!

Foam Wedge to incline your upper body can help you get in a comfortable resting and sleeping position.

For physical therapy, you will need a moist heat pack to put on your shoulder before exercises. I LOVE this one. It drapes perfectly and comfortably on my shoulders and warms the area to loosen your muscles and get them ready for stretching and mobility exercises.

I did not have an ice machine and regret it! Definitely get an ice machine because you will icing a lot! This one gets great reviews and has a programable timer:

Icing is very important for the first week or two after surgery. While the post-op dressing is in place, icing/cooling machine should be performed as frequently as possible. My doctor told me (you check with yours) that “Once the dressing is removed (after 48-72 hours), apply ice for 20-minute periods 3-4 times per day or as much as tolerated.”

You will rely on lots and lots of icing your shoulder during your first few weeks post surgery for pain relief. 20 minutes of ice before I went to sleep was the secret to falling asleep comfortable.

My physical therapist uses these ice packs so I bought one for home. They are flexible and you can conform them around your shoulder. Put it inside a pillow case before use to make it more comfortable. Choose between two sizes. I am a small woman and feel that the 11 x 14 that I bought is a bit large.

This shoulder pulley may be used in your physical therapy at home to improve the range of motion for your shoulder. Ask your doctor if you’ll need it.

You won’t be able to pull up your pants with only one arm. An easy to slip-on elastic bodice dress makes it easier to get dressed. The pink one comes in a variety of colors.

Keep in mind you won’t have two hands to use to pull up your pants. And you will want to be comfie as you recover from your surgery. I practically lived in these grey elastic waist, loose fitting, women’s no waist tie Under Armour pant. If you want something other than an athletic pant, consider these wide leg lounge pants with a high elastic waist that come in a variety of colors.

And slip on pants for men work well.

Getting dressed is difficult with one arm in a sling. To make it easier, wear over sized tops. I spent most of my time in my son’s t-shirts and loved this shawl wrap front cardigan to wrap around me.

This is an awesome post shoulder surgery shirt for women. The snaps open up the shirt to allow for easy on and off.

Ladies, getting a bra on and off with one arm is next to impossible. This post-surgery Front Closure Bra zips in the front which is easier to use than some of the other post-surgery bras that use eye closures.

This is an awesome post shoulder surgery shirt for both men and women. The snaps open up the shirt to allow for easy on and off.


There are many options for men’s post-surgery shirts. These have snaps on the sides. Here are some choices:

Slip-on shoes. I have several but found the Skechers the easiest to get on by myself. And for men, these Bruno Marc shoes are great.

You will need some way to have your laptop on your lap and this laptop pillow desk is #1 on Amazon and for a reason! It is adjustable to 8 different angles for easy use. You can set it on the medical bedside table too. 

I kept this medical bedside table beside my bed or recliner stocked with meds, snacks, water, pen, and paper. It slid easily under my bed so I could get some work or reading done using the tilting table.

Showering with one arm is difficult. Get a Foaming Shower Soap that is easy to rinse quickly. I have a single friend that bought a detachable shower head that made it easier to keep her incision dry. And if you think you might be unsteady in the shower, get a shower chair. Also, have some Waterproof Shower Bandages to keep the wound sites dry.

Long Handled Shower Brush to wash your back.

This pressure cane is to work out tight areas in the back and shoulders and will be used for range of motion in physical therapy.

You will struggle to put your surgical arm in a comfortable position. I happened to have had this travel pillow before surgery and am so glad I did. It contorts into different shapes defending on where I needed it.

Keep these non-perishable snacks handy to eat when you take your medication. They do not need refrigeration so they are perfect for keeping on your bedside table for middle of the night meds.

Use Aquaphor to aid healing and prevent scarring. The first line of defense is to keep the wound clean, moist, and covered in the early days and weeks of healing. Keep the wound hydrated with Aquaphor, as this promotes faster healing. Apply three times daily for 1 to 3 weeks to maintain wound bed moisture.

3 Month Post Surgery Update: My wounds healed really well! My doctor was even impressed with how invisible they are. I used the Aquaphor twice a day for 10 weeks.

Aquaphor Study:

The sling I was sent home with from the hospital was crummy. This one is so much better.  The third an abduction pad. Ask your doctor which one is best for you and the surgery you had. Another tip, choose one with a thin waist belt. The one I was sent home from the hospital had a thick belt and bothered me as I layed on it.

My doctor wanted me to take a combo of Oxycodone, Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen after my rotator cuff surgery. This a great price for Ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Laxative. Being on pain pills can lengthen the amount of time it takes stool to pass through your gastrointestinal system. After three days the prescription laxative was not working so my doctor recommended the addition of Senna for natural relief.

Ladies! An epilator is a must! It is difficult to shave your legs with only one arm but easy to do with an epilator. I have been using one for years and love mine. And no! It doesn’t hurt. It gently plucks out the hair and leaves legs smooth for weeks.

Helpful Resources

This talks about how to prevent a failed surgery:

This page gives directions for some of the physical therapy exercises you might be prescribed:

Physical Therapy First Six Weeks (be sure to do what YOUR Physical Therapist says as each person has different needs)

Physical therapy video of some 7-12 week Phase 2 exercises:


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Prevention of Injuries in the Tennis Player

A more powerful serve, a mightier backhand, a stronger return, better grip strength and superior jumping ability… Sound good? Weight training can help you move to the next level and a professionally designed strength, flexibility and cardio program can go a long way in helping you have a stronger game but also prevent an unnecessary injury.  

It is best to have a Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist or Medical Exercise Specialist give you an individualized workout prescription depending on your level of conditioning and particular needs.

Tennis is a physiologically demanding sport that requires power, speed, balance, agility, coordination, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance. Thus, increasing tennis-specific fitness components beyond typical tennis practice gains is the goal of the weight-training program. Both upper and lower body power are essential components of tennis.

Tennis uses the shoulders, chest, back, and arms. Tennis also requires plenty of leg power for the explosive, stop-and-go action of the game as well as trunk strength for quick twists and turns. Unfortunately all this movement can result in injury.

A consideration for tennis players is the prevention of injury.

Commonly injured joints are:

o       the knee (from the unnatural side-to-side movements), so performing leg exercises for all four planes of motion working the quadriceps, hamstrings and abductor and adductor muscles will help to stabilize the knee joint.

o       the lower back (from the twist and turns and the force of hitting the ball), so be sure to incorporate low back and torso strengthening and stabilizing exercises and an exercise that rotates the torso.

 o       the rotator cuff and shoulder. Rotator cuff exercises are needed to improve both the strength and endurance of these important muscles.

 o       The elbow. Tennis elbow is another common injury because the elbow joint absorbs so much impact as the ball makes contact with the racquet. To prevent tennis elbow, stretch and strengthen your arm muscles so that they are flexible and strong enough for your activities.

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Common Cause of Knee Pain in Runners or Walkers

See a Doctor if pain doesn’t respond to self-treatment in two weeks

Runners Knee (IT Band Syndrome)

The pain could be caused by Runner’s Knee. It is a condition in which the kneecap (patella) rubs roughly against the end of the thighbone when the knee moves.

Signs and Symptoms of Runners Knee (IT Band Syndrome)

Tightness in the iliotibial band.  The Iliotibial band is a sheath of thick, fibrous connective tissue which attaches at the top to both the iliac crest (hip bone) and the Tensor fascia latae muscle. It then runs down the outside of the thigh and inserts into the outer surface of the shin bone. Its purpose is to straighten the knee as well as to move it out sideways.

Dull pain beneath the front or on the sides of the kneecap.

Pain during flexion or extension of the knee, made worse by pressing in at the side of the knee over the sore part.

Pain occurs when walking up or down stairs, kneeling, squatting, and sitting with a bent knee for a long period of time.

Grinding noise, as the rough cartilage rubs against cartilage when the knee is

Pain aggravated by running, particularly downhill.

Swelling of the knee.

Weakness in hip abduction.

Tender trigger points in the gluteal area may also be present.

What causes IT band syndrome?

Runner’s knee may be caused by a structural defect, such as: wide hips (female runners), knock knees, subluxating Patella, high patella, small medial pole of patella or corresponding portion of femur, flat feet or leg length difference.

Incorrect or worn shoes.

Malalignment of the kneecap.

Complete or partial dislocation.



Overtraining – increasing your running mileage too soon.

A tight or naturally wide IT band — a fibrous band of tissue on outer thigh that extends from the hip to below the knee) also affects knee stability. If too tight, this muscle/tendon of the outer thigh can pull the knee to one side.

Tight hamstrings

Tight Achilles tendons

Weak thigh (quadriceps) muscles — The quadriceps muscle assists in the proper tracking of the kneecap. Weakness in the Vastus Medialis (Inner Thigh)of the quadriceps, can prevent the kneecap from tracking smoothly.

Weak hip muscles such as gluteus medius.

Overpronation of the feet– rolling of the feet onto the outside excessively when walking or running while the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) pull the kneecap outward.

Excessive hill running.

Running on a cambered surface.

Most of these factors can be addressed through changes to your training program, the use of insoles or heel pads and a thorough rehabilitation program.


Stay in shape. Good general conditioning is important to controlling and preventing knee pain. If you’re too heavy, you may need to lose weight to avoid overstressing your knees.

Remember to stretch well before running. First do a 5-minute warm up, followed by stretching exercises. Stretch before and after exercise.

Increase training gradually. Avoid sudden changes in the intensity of exercise. Increase force or duration of activities gradually.

Use proper running form. Lean forward and keep your knees bent. Also, try to run on a clear, smooth, resilient, even, and reasonably soft surface. Never run straight down a steep hill. Walk down it, or run in a zigzag pattern.

Strengthening of quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscles.

Correct shoes, specifically motion-control shoes and orthotics to correct overpronation.

Wear running shoes that have good shock absorption and quality construction. Be sure that shoes fit properly and are in good condition. If you have flat feet, you may need shoe inserts.

Avoid painful stimuli, for example downhill running.

Stretch the Iliotibial band after training.


See a sports injury specialist, orthopedic physician, Clinical Exercise Specialist, Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist and/or a physical therapist.

Have a trained professional athletic shoe salesperson check your feet and shoes for overpronation.

Consider orthotics. Arch supports placed in both exercise and street shoes may help. Sometimes, shoe inserts have to be custom-made.

Stop running until it can be done without pain is important. Riding a bicycle in low gear (if not painful), rowing, and swimming, can be continued to maintain physical fitness.

Avoid running or walking downhill, downstairs or down inclines.

Take a course (5 – 7 days) of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – check with your doctor

Apply ice to the knee area – for 10 minutes every 2 hours, in order to reduce the inflammation.

Avoid weight-bearing activities and keep foot elevated where possible.

Avoid exercises or activities that require your knees to be bent.

Self-massage – using arnica oil or anti-inflammatory gel, on the sore spot around the knee.

Strengthen the quadriceps muscle when pain-free.

Stretch the muscles: IT band, Achilles, hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, relax slowly. Repeat stretches 2 – 3 times per day.

Return to running gradually.

Full recovery is usually between four to six weeks.

See a personal trainer who is also a Clinical Exercise Specialist or Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist to set up a program for you that will include the correct strength and stretch exercises for you.

Strengthening the legs

Place a pillow under knee, tighten quadriceps, push knee down into pillow and lift foot up. Repeat 20 times.

Wall Sits. Place back against wall. Bend knees slowly to between 45 – 60 degrees. Ensure that the knee travels over line between big and second toes. Hold for a count of 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Step-downs. Stand on a step. Tighten quadriceps and lower the opposite leg slowly to the ground. Ensure that knee travels over line second toes. Then raise the leg up onto the step using the muscle of the leg on the step. Repeat 20 times.  Increase the number of repetitions in increments of 5 every two days, all the way up to 60 reps.

Strengthening the Vastus Medialis (Inner Thigh) Muscle

Exercise 1. Repeat frequently throughout the day: Stand with both knees straight. Contract the quadriceps muscles (in the front of the thighs), raising the kneecaps. Hold this position for a count of 10.

Exercise 2. Do 3 sets of 10 every other day: Sit on the floor with both knees straight and the legs apart. Rotate legs outward so that the toes point as far to the side as possible. Slowly raise the injured leg from the hip (with the knee straight), hold for 10 seconds 10 inches from the ground, and then lower it, keeping the knee straight.

Exercise 3. Do 3 sets of 10 every other day: Sit on the floor with two or more pillows under each knee so that it is flexed at a 135° angle. Place a 5-pound weight on the ankle. Slowly raise the foot by straightening the knee, and then slowly lower the foot. Progress by increasing the weight on the ankle.

See a Doctor if pain doesn’t respond to self-treatment in two weeks

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