Preparing for Shoulder Surgery: The Essential Guide for Comfortable Recovery

Published:  09/08/2019

Celebrating 5 weeks post surgery!

Are you having shoulder or rotator cuff surgery soon? 

Having your arm in a sling can make it hard to get dressed, sleep at night, or even just be comfortable throughout the day. After having rotator cuff surgery, I discovered some things that made my one-armed life easier. As I was recovering I made videos so that if you too were going to have surgery you could have a better idea of what to expect. See my videos for my progress, what I learned along the way and a few things you can do to prepare your home. I also put together a list for you of must-have post surgery items you might consider.

Any of these conditions can limit how you get through the day!

✔️ Broken Arm

✔️ Post Surgery Recovery

✔️ Rotator Cuff Injury or Surgery

Prepare Ahead of time

When you come home after surgery, you won’t feel great. You’ll need to wear a sling and be in some pain for a few weeks. You will be limited in the things you can do around your house.

  • Prepare meals ahead for 1-2 weeks and freeze them in containers. Buy easy-to-make or ready-to-eat foods like salads, cereals, fruits, and nuts.
  • A detachable shower head works great when you are limited to only one hand, too.
  • Have plenty of clean easy-to-wear clothing ready for after surgery like sweatpants, t-shirts, and slip-on shoes.
  • After surgery ice will be your very best friend! Buy plenty of ice packs or consider buying an electric ice pack. 
  • You may find that sleeping in bed is not comfortable for the first few weeks. Some patients sleep in recliners as the upright position puts less pressure on the shoulder. If you don’t have a recliner, consider borrowing one from a friend or family member.
  • To help make your recovery a smoother process, consider buying the items below before going in for your shoulder surgery.

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.

Recommended Products for Post Rotator Cuff Surgery

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.

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.

Bed Wedge Pillow with Memory Foam Top

Bed Wedge Pillow

Using a foam wedge after shoulder surgery can be helpful. Sleeping with your arm in a sling or in an uncomfortable position can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. A foam wedge can help support yourbody upright in a comfortable position, reducing pain and discomfort.

Elevating your upper body with a foam wedge can help reduce swelling by allowing fluid to drain away from your shoulder. Preventing stiffness: If you keep your arm in a sling or immobile for too long, it can become stiff and difficult to move. Using a foam wedge can help prevent this by allowing you to keep your arm in a comfortable, slightly elevated position that promotes circulation and range of motion.

Buy on Amazon

Twistable Pillow

Airplane Travel Pillow

The versatile pillow can act as a headrest like a standard travel pillow, but it can also be customized in different shapes to provide neck, leg, head, shoulder, and even lumbar support.  You can twist and shape this mini microbead pillow to meet your needs. Fold it over a chair back, or use it as a seat cushion, a neck rest, a car pillow, a comfy sleeping pillow or extra head support while resting in bed.

Buy on Amazon

Hot or Cold Aromatherapy Wrap

Shoulder and Neck Therapy Wrap - Weighted Herbal Aromatherapy

This aromatherapy weighted wrap can be used hot or cold. For physical therapy, you will need a moist heat pack to put on your shoulder before exercises. This wra[ drapes perfectly and comfortably on shoulders and warms the area to loosen your muscles and get them ready for stretching and mobility exercises.

Buy on Amazon

Ice Therapy Machine System

Ice Cold Therapy System

I did not have an ice machine and regret it! 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.

Cold therapy can help numb the area, reducing the sensation of pain and swelling. By reducing swelling, icing can help promote healing after surgery. This can help reduce the risk of complications and improve your overall recovery time.

It's important to note that while icing can be beneficial, it is important to follow your healthcare provider's instructions on how and when to use ice after surgery.

Buy on Amazon

Dove Body Wash with Pump

Dove Body Wash 33.8 Oz W/ Pump Deeply Nourishing

Use soap from a pump container to make showering simpler with one arm. You will also like having a shower brush (see below) 

Buy on Amazon

Shower Chair

Shower and Bath Chair with Padded Arms

 A shower chair will help minimize your risk of falling since you can sit down while you shower.

A chair is helpful after you’ve had surgery or if you’re taking pain medications which can make you dizzy or tired.

Buy on Amazon

Reusable Gel Ice Pack

Reusable Gel Ice Pack Cold Therapy

My physical therapist uses these reusable gel ice pack after physcial therapy for pain reduction 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 several sizes. I am a small woman and feel that the 11 x 14 that I bought is a bit large.

Buy on Amazon

Strapless Dress

Strapless Dress

You won't be able to pull up your pants with only one arm, a bra will be difficult to put on so an easy to slip-on elastic bodice dress makes it easier to get dressed on your own, ice your shoulder during the day and use the restroom easier. 

This dress comes in LOTS of various colors and prints. 

Buy on Amazon

Slip On Pants

Pull Up Elastic Waist Pants - Under Armour Women's Ultra Light

Keep in mind you won't have two hands to use to pull up your pants. And forget about being able to zip a zipper! 

You will appreciate the convenience and comfort of a pull on pant. And you will want to be comfie as you recover from your surgery. I practically lived in these elastic waist, loose fitting, no waist tie Under Armour pants. If these aren't your style search for other slip on pants on Amazon. 

Buy on Amazon

Bra Front Zip

Zip Front Sports Bra Wireless Post-Surgery

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

Buy on Amazon

Slip-On Shoes for Men

Men's Sketchers Slip-on Shoe

Ever tried to put on a pair of shoes with one hand? These Sketchers slip-ons are highly rated, comfortable and easy to put on by yourself one handed.

Buy on Amazon

Slip-On Shoes for Women

Skechers Women's Slip-on Sneaker

Putting on a pair of shoes one handed is nearly impossible. This pair is stylish, comes in several color combination and is asy to slip on. 

Buy on Amazon

Post Surgery Shirts

Post Shoulder Surgery Shirt - Unisex Sizing

Getting dressed is difficult with one arm in a sling. To make it easier, wear over sized tops. I spent most of my time at home in my son's large t-shirts and a post surgery shirt.

This post surgery shirt snaps open to allow for easy on and off.

Buy on Amazon

Laptop Pillow Desk

Laptop Desk

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. 

Buy on Amazon

Medical Bedside Table

Medical Bedside Table

Another "must-have" item. I kept this medical bedside table beside my bed or recliner stocked with my laptop, phone, meds, snacks, water, pen, and paper. It was a convenient solution for mealtimes, working on my computer, and writing. It is designed to roll underneath a bed or couch and easily raises or lowers. A light upward touch on spring-loaded locking handle allows the over bed table to be raised or lowered to any height between 29"- 40".

Buy on Amazon

Waterproof Shower Bandages

Waterproof Wound Bandage

You will need to cover the dressing to keep it dry while showering for at least the first 3 days after surgery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions for you. So, have some waterproof shower bandages to keep the wound sites dry. This brand has multiple sizes available. 

Buy on Amazon

Arm Sling

Arm Sling

The sling I was sent home with from the hospital was crummy. So I got on Amazon and chose this sling and really liked it. 

Ask your doctor which type of sling 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.

Buy on Amazon

Shaving Your Legs Can Be a Problem

Braun Epilator

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.

Buy on Amazon

Miscellaneous Items To Make your Recovery More Comfortable

Shower Brush

Long handled shower brush to wash your back.

Keep 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. Fruit cups are an especially good choice. 

Senna Natural Laxative. Being on prescription pain pills and inactivity can cause constipation. 

Aquaphor to put on your incisions to help them heal and prevent scarring. 

A travel pillow or this one shown in the 3rd video to prop your arm on as you are resting. 

Acetaminophen and/ or Ibuprofen. Ask your doctor which one is right for you. 

Buy on Amazon


Healing Wounds: Aquaphor vs. Neosporin Your doctor might recommend keeping your wound moist to aid healing. Aquaphor is a common choice for this, but is it better than Neosporin?

Studies show Aquaphor may be more effective than Neosporin for wound healing. It helps by:

  • Keeping the wound moist: This creates an ideal environment for healing.
  • Boosting natural healing processes: Aquaphor may increase blood vessel formation, collagen production, and dead cell removal.
  • Potentially fighting infection: While not an antibiotic, Aquaphor may have some antimicrobial properties.

Important Reminders: Always consult your doctor for wound care advice. Clean hands are essential when applying any ointment to a wound.

Sign Up for My Newsletter!

Maria Faires, RD 2023

Want the scoop on the latest nutrition research, healthy recipes, and nutrition tips and new exclusive programs delivered directly to your inbox?

Write and let me know you'd like to subscribe to my newsletter! *

I'm a Dietitian and Master Personal Trainer who educates and inspires people LIKE YOU to shape their eating, exercise and lifestyle habits so that they can live their healthiest lives!    

*I will never share your information! 

Be The First to Know!

Categories:   Health Conditions 

Tags:   #correctiveexercise #exercise

Active Nutrition is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for websites to earn advertising revenues by advertising and linking to Amazon. If you click on one of my recommended item links and then place an order through Amazon, I receive a small commission on that sale, at no extra expense to you of course. This is a way to support me and my work every time you shop at no cost to you.

Connect with Maria