Shoulder surgeries are increasingly common in the United States. From labral repairs to acromioplasties, rotator cuff repairs to shoulder replacement surgeries, countless shoulder surgeries are performed on American patients every day. While the type of surgery performed certainly helps determine the type of rehabilitation recommended, a common complaint spans the gamut of shoulder surgery patients: pain while attempting to sleep. Of course, a good night’s sleep is healthful in many ways, and the lack thereof can lead to a wide variety of physical and emotional problems. To lessen the chances of such unsavory prospects, there are four recommended solutions that can help decrease the pain associated with shoulder surgery recovery.
During early recovery, those recovering from shoulder surgery often find sleeping in a reclined position more comfortable than lying flat on their backs. This can kind of position can be achieved by sleeping in a recliner chair or by using pillows and cushions to elevate the upper body while in bed. As comfort improves, gradually lowering the body by degrees is better than changing from a highly reclined position back to an entirely flat position. If you’re like most shoulder surgery patients, you may find it helpful to sleep in a semi-reclined position for six weeks or more following surgery. If you don’t own a recliner, you may find that planning ahead by purchasing or borrowing one will be helpful.
While pain medicine may be helpful in allowing for a restful night’s sleep, not every patient reacts the same way to the same pharmaceuticals. If pain is causing you to miss out on much-needed sleep following your shoulder surgery, you may benefit by informing your doctor and requesting a different prescription.
Often, healthcare professionals specializing in post-surgical shoulder rehab recommend positioning a pillow under the elbow and hand. This seemingly small adjustment helps position the shoulder so that the rotator cuff tendons receive the maximal blood flow possible, promoting recovery. This positioning can often be achieved in tandem with wearing a physician-prescribed shoulder sling.
Like the incremental adjustments you’ll want to make from sleeping in a reclined position to sleeping flat on your back, spending time without using your shoulder sling can be a helpful way to promote recovery. Of course, you’ll want to ask your doctor before you do so, but often spending some time without the immobilizing sling can contribute to your shoulder’s recovery. While the purpose of the sling is protection during daily tasks, the downside is the forward position in which it holds the shoulder, disallowing restoration of normal mechanics. The longer your shoulder is kept in that position, the harder it will be for it to rest in a normal position again. As soon as your physician gives you the go-ahead to stop using your shoulder sling, we recommend you stop using it altogether—maybe even burn it.
By following those 4 simple steps to shoulder recovery, you will increase the speed of your recovery and give yourself one of the greatest health benefits there is: a restful night’s sleep.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit the PhysioDC website or call them at 202-223-8500.
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