Preparing for Rotator Cuff Surgery

Shoulder motion with rotator cuff (supraspinatus)My supraspinatus repair surgery was two weeks ago yesterday, and while I did a lot of research to understand what that was and what the rotator cuff looked like, I was primarily interested in how to get ready to live for six weeks without the use of my right (dominate) arm and very little use of my hand.

Get Your Body Ready

I took advantage of an opportunity to have a highly-skilled trainer at the gym where I work prepare a pre-surgery exercise protocol for me. He worked up a list of possible exercises, then took me through them to gauge my ability to do them and my pain levels. He then modified his choices and gave me a sheet with pictures and progressive goals for the maneuvers. I cannot post them here, because that is his livelihood–even gym employees do not get professional training for free. If you’re near Sedona, Arizona, I highly recommend a consultation with Roger Scharnhorst at Snap Fitness!

Do your shoulder exercises, and everything else you know about being fit–walk, do lunges, take your supplements, etc.

Stuff You’ll Need

  1. Recliner to sleep in for two to six weeks. I was able to borrow one through Facebook. Set up your bedding, a table lamp, drinking water, phone charger, etc.,  for what will seem like “where you live” 24/7.
  2. Wipes. Two different men who knew what I was facing whispered to me, “wipes–your new best friend.” If you’ll be going to work, or anywhere outside your home, you’ll want a supply of individually wrapped flushables. (Don’t use sanitizing wipes!) I chose Dude Wipes, Single Moist Wipes, with Aloe Vera .
    Since you won’t be bathing or showering for at least a few days (2 weeks for showering), I recommend using wipes as frequently as possible, just to stay fresh.
  3. Slip-On Shoes. If you don’t have comfortable–and safe–slip-ons you can wear everywhere, convert your athletic or tie shoes to slip-ons more economically than buying new shoes. I chose FeetPeople Curly (or Twister) Shoelaces because of the wide variety of colors. I got red for work (uniform colors) and grey for walking/hiking. Curly laces can be adjusted for a snug fit all the way up the vamp, and stretch when you put weight on your foot, maintaining even pressure. I will probably continue to use these because of this comfort factor. (Don’t just loosen your ties to covert to slip-ons. You cannot afford to stumble, trip or fall during your recovery!)
  4. If you wear socks, I recommend footies. Pulling regular socks up with one hand is time-consuming and no small amount of frustrating.
  5. Button front shirts in 1-2 sizes larger than you usually wear, preferably wrinkle proof. The shirts do not need to be large enough to go over any part of the sling–just large enough to offer no binding or resistance on your shoulder. You can buy Velcro shoulder shirts that attach at the shoulder, but they need to be hand-washed (you have only one hand) and are an unnecessary expense.
  6. Pants, including underwear if you like, usually a size larger, that you can pull on and off with one hand, usually your non-dominate hand. Nothing to say you can’t go with a skirt or kilt, but you will not be able to work zippers or waist-high buttons. Pockets are good. I lucked out with one pair of sweats I found that had a cargo pocket, left side only, perfect for credit card, cash, and a couple of Dude Wipes!
  7. Battery-operated toothbrush. We have a water pic, but I decided cleaning and drying it, putting the bits away daily, was more than I wanted to do. Just a quick brush for $5-$10. And tooth powder or paste you can get at with one hand. (You will have the use of your fingers, with no arm movement, so you can hold that cap and twist the tube.)
  8. Shampoo and conditioner in pump bottles you can operate with one hand.
  9. Bath gel in a pump. Net mesh bath ball similarly useful.
  10. Hair product accessible and useable with one hand

Of course, your needs and your knowledge of yourself–and how much help you expect to have 24/7–may cause you to modify this list quite a bit. These items have helped me, some more than others. Please add your experiences and comments or suggestions below.

Next episode will cover preparations beyond “stuff,” things to do in the weeks leading up to your surgery and subsequent 6-week immobilization.

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