Preparing for Rotator Cuff Surgery

I recently had shoulder surgery. Luckily for me, it was just a shortening of my shoulder bone and a removal of some bone spurs versus doing a repair of the rotator cuff.  For those of you who are wondering what the difference is – shoulder surgery like I have involves a six to eight WEEK recovery period.  A rotator cuff repair involves a six to eight MONTH recovery period.

Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Rotator Cuff Surgery from Four Aces Mercantile


Prior to my surgery, the surgeon did not know what type of surgery would be required for me.  So I had to prepare for the worst.  I focused on preparing for rotator cuff surgery.  For information on typing after a shoulder surgery, please go to this article.  Some of the things I looked at for preparing for rotator cuff surgery:


What is Rotator Cuff Surgery
Sleeping After Shoulder Surgery
Eating / Drinking After Rotator Cuff Surgery
What to Wear After Shoulder Surgery
Recovery After Shoulder Surgery


Preparing for Rotator Cuff Surgery


What is Rotator Cuff Surgery

I headed to YouTube after talking to my doctor to see just exactly what rotator cuff surgery was all about.  One video I watched was from Cleveland Shoulder:



Sleeping After Shoulder Surgery

Recommendations I Received:

This was an important issue to me as I have problems sleeping anyway.

The first thing that was suggested was that I get or borrow a good recliner as I would probably be sleeping sitting up.  The second suggestion was to use sleeping pills.  The third suggestion was pillows.  All of these suggestions were made by Physio DC.

Here’s an example of a special lift recliner:

My friends at Myku Medical have this lift chair right  now for $599.  It also includes free curb side delivery.

Lift Chair from Myku Medical


  • Overall Width 31”
  • Overall Height 41”
  • Floor to top of seat 18”
  • Seat Depth 19”
  • Seat Width 20”
  • Heights best suited for 5’4”-5’10’’

If you need a bigger recliner, they have those as well.  Just click on the chair above to see their selection.  They also may offer a white glove delivery service for an additional charge – please contact them directly about adding on this service to your recliner order.

My Results:

I did NOT make it thru the first night in my recliner (I already had a recliner and didn’t think I needed the lift chair).  Even though my chair itself was comfortable, I had to get up multiple times due to the amount of liquid the IV had put into my body.  My recliner would not let down the foot rest without using the lever which was on the right side of the recliner.  And it was my right shoulder that was operated on.  So I had to yell for help when I wanted to get out of the recliner.  I should have got the lift chair like Myku Medical offers.

LOL I would suggest you sit in your recliner before your surgery and pretend you can’t use your shoulder or arm to get out of the recliner.  Also pile on the pillows that you will need to prop up your arm.  Now that you are seated – can you get yourself out of the chair by yourself?  Does it take you an excessive amount of time?  Both of these are very legitimate concerns to test for.  If you can’t get out of the chair or if you cannot get out in a reasonable amount of time, your helper in the morning may discover that you’ve had an embarrassing “accident” overnight.

If your chair doesn’t pass these tests, then see if your friends have an appropriate chair they can lend you.  OR call around to medical equipment places to see if they can rent you an appropriate chair. Or buy one from Myku Medical.

MY Solution

I ended up sleeping in my bed, propped up with blankets behind me and pillows beside me.  I sleep on the left side of the king size bed so I could use my left shoulder and left arm to help me roll out of bed.  The bathroom was just steps away and with a bright night light in there, I could easily see my way to walk there during the night.


Food and Drink After Surgery

After surgery your arm will be in a sling until the doctor says you can go without it.  The sling will be worn even at night except for physical therapy and when you take a shower.  You should not use your arm to do anything at home except for writing, drinking, and eating.  Your physician or your therapist will advise you when you can do more.

That means you have to be able to open up your water bottle or soda can with one hand.  You won’t be pouring from a pitcher unless you can hold the pitcher with your arm that did NOT have surgery. Thus preparing for rotator cuff surgery also includes carefully buying the food and drink that you will consume after surgery.  You won’t even be able to hold a half-gallon of milk – so you have to think about how you are going to prepare yourself a quick bowl of cereal.

Mental Inventory of Food Stores

Just go thru your refrigerator and pantry and take a quick inventory in your mind.  What item(s) are in there that you use on a daily or semi daily basis that will be difficult for you to handle one handed?  Eggs?  They have liquid egg beaters.  Milk? Before surgery pour into smaller containers that you can pour from with one hand. Meal prep? Use food processors instead of chopping with the hand you aren’t supposed to be using.

Microwave meals are an option too, though a less nutritious one.  If you don’t have family around to help with this, consider contacting the local Senior Center.  They often have one hot meal they cook per day.  And lots of places have senior or disabled buses that you can call to take you to a Senior Center or to a doctor’s appointment as driving is an issue.

No Driving for a While

Driving will also be restricted as you can injure yourself by having to maneuver quickly.  Your ability to move your head / upper body to see may also be impacted for a while, thus making it unwise for you to drive.  For more information about driving or when you can return to playing hobby sports, go here.


Recovery after Shoulder Surgery

This is a great video on some easy to do exercises to prevent stiffness from a physical therapist (some of them different from what my own therapist gave me), a demonstration of how to get in/out of your sling, suggestions of how to sleep in a bed, dressing tips and tips for prepping your home.



What to Wear After Shoulder Surgery

I initially thought I would be limited to button front shirts, but I changed my mind after watching this video:



I made this graphic in polyvore to show you the items you should stock up on to wear for the six weeks / months of your recovery:

Shoulder Surgery


My Outfits

What I found that worked for me was a camisole top made of either the fabric that bras are made of or made of cotton.  You won’t be able to tolerate bra straps over the incisions on your shoulder (the suggestion of a sports bra did NOT work).  I wore this as a bra – no support but at least the “girls” weren’t exposed.

The sleeveless button up top worked – as long as I made sure that the arm hole was big enough.  It has to have plenty of room so your arm can breathe and also can fit thru (your arm may swell and in the beginning it will be bigger with all the bandages).  What I found even better were tank tops with low hanging arm holes.  Thus the need for camisoles to cover the “girls”.

T-Shirts = NO

T-shirts were not comfortable in the beginning. You have to wear your sling 24/7 when you are first out of surgery. The only time you have it off is in the shower, at the doctor’s office and while you are doing physical therapy. I found that t-shirts with the regular neckline and the shoulder seams were too hot and rubbed too much with all of the other gear on. They are also a lot harder to get off your body (at least in the beginning).

The pull up pants are a must.  Or practice putting on your button up jeans, or even zip up jeans with just one hand.  Yep, see what I mean?

Slip on shoes for the same reason.  Though the slip ons I bought didn’t fit after surgery.  I have a wonderful hubby who put my sneakers on for me and tied them.  Thanks honey!



Overview & Request for Comments !

So what do you think of the tips I listed above?  A couple of things that I didn’t mention.   Unless you live close by to your surgeon and the person who fitted your sling, ask your physical therapist after surgery if it is fitted correctly to you.  I had an Ultrasling IV by DonJoy sling with the stablilizer.  Since I didn’t end up with the rotator cuff surgery, I didn’t need to use the stabilizer but since that was on the sling I took to the hospital, that was what I went home in and used.  I could have saved myself days of discomfort if I had asked my physical therapist.

Have Your Physical Therapist Look at Your Sling

The second issue with my sling was that the person who fitted it to me, got the straps all wrong.  The big ring goes in back of you, the padded shoulder strap goes on top of your shoulder and the small ring goes in the front with the seat belt clips (that attach to the arm pouch).

Ice Pack Hack

Oh, and if you are offered an additional ice pack football pad like contraption that you have to pay $70 or more extra because your insurance doesn’t cover it, save your money in the beginning.  You are going to be home so you don’t need a contraption that keeps your ice pack in place.  Buy some large gallon size freezer bags and put some frozen peas in several of them.  Adjust the amount of peas till you get a good size for your shoulder.  You will want 2-3 so you can keep changing them around.

And buy a small plastic nerf type ball if your sling doesn’t come with one (if that is part of the football ice pack set).  You will spend a lot less than $70 and by the time you actually are getting out of the house, you might not need continual ice packs.  If you do, then you can talk with your physical therapist about what ACTUALLY works for that purpose.

Do you have any suggestions or tips for other people who are preparing for rotator cuff surgery? Please help others by commenting below. Thanks for reading!


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