Tell me about your shoulder surgery

Sunday afternoon, my mom fell and landed on her right shoulder. In the emergency room, the doctors told her that she shattered the ball at the top of her humerus (the bone in her upper arm). She’s going to have partial shoulder replacement surgery this week to replace the shattered end of the bone and rebuild her shoulder.

Has anybody here had this kind of surgery? Any tips on what she can expect or how we can make her more comfortable afterwards? Other things that we might not have thought a bout? I’d really appreciate anything you have to offer.


I had arthroscopic surgery to get rid of a bone spur. Not quite in the same league as your mom’s case, but…

Shoulder surgery takes a long time to recover from. I was considered an unusually fast healer, as it only took me about a month and a half. The reason is that all the tendons and whatever have to reattach to the bones. You have to avoid using the shoulder as much as possible, or the newly-grown tissue will tear away, and you’re back to square one.

Using the shoulder (which should only be done under the guidance of the physical therapist) is initially quite painful. However, after a few days the pain should be quite bearable when the shoulder is inactive. I took hydrocodone for maybe three or four days, after which aspirin did the trick.

She will need front-closing bras for a very very long time. It would also be nice of you to vaccuum her house for her if she is having surgery on her “power” arm (the arm she writes with).

I didn’t break my shoulder or need surgery but I tore the ACL in my right shoulder and those were the two hardest tasks I faced - putting on a bra and vaccuuming. Vaccuuming with my left arm wasn’t as easy as you’d think.

I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one, I am just tell you about what happened to me and what I was told to expect.

Top half of my right arm, including the knob, was shattered in a wreck. I am on the second prostheses now. How old is your Mom?

The bone pain will be with her for a long time.

It will hurt.

It is very easy to become addicted to the hydrocodone.

Good physical therapy is a must and she must do it.

It will hurt.

She may need a long stretch of antibiotics and she needs to learn to do it herself if they will let her. I had to do a full bag 4 times a day for 6 weeks.

She will probably need top sleep more or less up right in a recliner for a while. Also a problem if they put her in a ‘flying wing’ brace that holds her upper arm more or less horizontal.

It will hurt.

If she has cut up a lot of the muscles, she will be in for a long haul because there will be a lot of scar tissue and they will need to go back in and work that out or she will have to try to break it while in therapy.

It will hurt.

I got hurt in 96 and had the second operation in 98. Hopeful;ly they have gotten better at this and have new and better ways.

It will hurt.

I was lucky and got one of the best ‘shoulder’ ortho docs in the country. they took one look at my Xrays and said, no way, you need Doc H.

Make sure they use on of the 3 part articulated prostheses or something even newer.

It will hurt. (There is nothing like deep bone pain)

If she is elderly and not in good physical condition, it will be much harder.

She has my prayers and my empathy.

I say again, I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one, I am just tell you about what happened to me and what I was told to expect.

One of the Docs on the board might come along and give you a better idea.

If she did not cut up the muscles as much as happened to me, she should have a much easier time of it.

Tell her good luck from someone who has been there, done that.

A guy I knew from Basic training had shoulder surgery to shirten the ligaments and tendons due to his repeated dislocations.

A few weeks later he was climbing out of the shower and caught his toe on the side of the tub, he fell on his still helaing shoulder.

Tell your mom to take it very easy - it just isn’t worth the risk of re-injury.

Obviously I meant shorten and healing.

Thanks for the comments and kind wishes, folks - I really appreciate them.

Mom’s 60, and her surgery is scheduled for later this week. She lives with my dad, and my brother lives about 20 minutes from them. Mom and dad are both retired, so he’ll be around to help more than he might otherwise be able to. Bro will be there most nights to give dad a break. I’ll mention the vacuuming to them… I never would have thought about the bras, but I’ll mention them as well.

Me, I live on the other side of the country. I’m flying in this weekend, and I’ll be there all next week. They were planning to have a lot of the family over for Thanksgiving dinner, and it looks like I’ll be cooking for everyone. Speaking of Thanksgiving… how difficult was it to eat and to do normal day-to-day things like using the bathroom and showering? Is Mom going to be in any kind of shape to deal with her family only a week after surgery? They’re all pretty relaxed and laid back, and I’ll be doing all the work, but I don’t want her to be miserable the whole day.

I know well about bone pain and physical therapy - my left knee was rebuilt in '99. I’ve been talking about how important the rehab was and how much stronger my knee is now than it was before I injured it (which is true), but I don’t think Mom’s buying it.

I second the comments of GusNSpot. What my wife had wasn’t quite as major (she had a torn rotator cuff and avulsion of the shoulder capsule), but for at least the first week or so, she’ll experience quite a bit of pain. My wife did, even with arthroscopic surgery. Don’t be afraid of the pain meds. Remember, it will probably take a long time for rehabilitation, progress will seem slow, and it will hurt. It’s been nine months for my wife (she’s 50), and she’s just getting back to her normal capabilities.

I had pretty major knee surgery (cartilage and ligament damage) when I was a teenager back before arthroscopic surgery when they sliced you open with a foot long incision, and the recuperation was much easier for me than for my wife, even taking into account my age at the time. I’m not trying to scare you, but just letting you know that this is indeed major surgery.

Sorry, Enginerd, I didn’t see your question about showering. For my wife, it was nothing but sponge baths for about the first 3 or 4 weeks or so (I think), partly because I wasn’t going to take any chances on trying to get her out of the tub, and partly because she wasn’t supposed to get her wound wet. She couldn’t even remove her sling to wash under her arm. Needless to say, her right armpit was pretty rank after a couple of weeks.