What Does Recovery from Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery Involve?

Due to its minimally-invasive operative approach, arthroscopic shoulder repair is performed faster than traditional open shoulder surgery and involves fewer traumas. After the operation, patients spend 1-2 hours in the recovery room and are provided medication to address discomfort if needed, after which they are discharged and return home to focus on healing.

During the first 4-6 weeks of recovery, patients will be required to keep their shoulder immobilized in a sling; while this can make daily activities challenging, it's a key part of ensuring adequate healing and preventing future pain and stiffness.

Pain and swelling are common during recovery and can be alleviated with ice and pain relief medication like opioids, NSAIDs, or local anesthetics. Although pain killers help prevent discomfort, patients must be cautious of the stronger varieties known to cause dependency issues with chronic use.

Rehabilitation is essential to ensuring a faster recovery time and returning to daily activities. Depending on the nature of the repairs, the surgeon will recommend a rehab plan designed to help patients gradually regain the joint's strength and range of motion. They will likewise recommend avoiding specific movements that can strain the shoulder and cause reinjury, such as reaching behind, raising the arm above the head, or lifting heavy objects.

Arthroscopic surgery is performed with a high success rate and overall good outcomes. While rare, certain complications can arise, and patients should seek medical attention if they experience any of the following:

  • Excessive or continuous bleeding
  • Pain that isn't responding to medication
  • Increased swelling of the shoulder or arm
  • Tingling or numbness in the lower hand
  • Discolored discharge or redness around the wounds
  • Body temperature higher than 38°C/101°F

Since every procedure addresses different types of injuries in separate individuals, recovery time varies depending on each case's particularities. Minor repairs may not require sling immobilization, and patients can return to regular activities after a shorter recovery period.

More complicated procedures that involve extensive repairs require a more extended recovery period of up to 6 months, with a full recovery to previous activity levels lasting up to 12 months. Even if it's a slow process, committing to rehabilitation and following the surgeon's recommendations are crucial to ensure a successful outcome.