Preparation for Surgery – Shoulder Surgery

Shoulder surgery is never a fun experience but at least with these tips you can be more self-sufficient and prepared for the basics.

I’ve had 7 shoulder surgeries, all as a single working woman. Thank god for my friends who helped out when family was several states away.

Let’s get right to it!

Things to get BEFORE surgery:

Hygiene Helpful Items:

  • Electric Toothbrush – cheap children’s one will do for 2-3 weeks (especially if your surgery is on your dominant arm)
  • Flushable Wet Wipes – yep that bathroom thing isn’t easy with the non-dominant arm
  • Pump Bottle Shampoo, Conditioner and Body Wash – flipping and squeezing a shampoo bottle and catching the contents will feel be hard without 2 hands
  • Shower head with a hose – takes 5 minutes to remove your standard shower head and replace with a cheap $15-20 head with the hose (don’t forget the plumber tape so the threads are ok for ease to switch it back later) – Purpose of this is the after surgery ability to shower, feel clean at least from the waste area down all on your own, no more hospital smell or that orange betadine staining your clothes and sheets. ** This also becomes handy when you have longer hair for others to help of you to flip your head and shampoo with minimal shoulder use.
  • Waterproof Large Bandaids – Generic Drug store ones work just fine, but have plenty of them around.
  • Hair dresser Appointment – Ladies that have long hair or just can’t stand to have dirty hair….make an appointment 2-3 days post-op with a cheap local hair salon for just a wash and blow out. Try to go when they aren’t busy and let them know you’re post-op. Typically they will give you a nice head massage which always feels good.  And if you have ridiculously long hair like I do, get them to french braid it so the clean feeling lasts longer and you don’t have to fuss with it at all.


Recovery Items to have on hand:

  • Compression Sleeve Ice Machine – THIS IS YOUR LIFESAVER!!! These can be bought on eBay or borrowed from friends, or your doctor’s office will sell you one at $250plus….Either way so worth it! This baby will reduce your pain 10x more than the pills!
  • Lots of ICE – get extra bags. Your ice machine will not keep up and you don’t want to run out.
  • A good comfy couch or recliner to set up in for 2-3 days
  • Good tv or movie selection – though you will likely sleep through half
  • A table or station set up so you don’t have to get up and down. With your pills, lots of water, snacks, tissue…etc.
  • Good comfy pillows and blankets.
  • And just in case a bucket/trash can.


Attire: (this one is more geared towards the ladies)

  • Bras: Easy to slip on and off with one arm, like a straight not racerback sports bra or bralette style or even a bandeau. Clips of any kind are hard to do with one hand to work them. After a while you can clip in front with two hands and spin to the back. It will likely be months before you can clip behind your back.
  • Tops: tank tops, button downs and full zip up tops are your new wardrobe. Anything going over your head will need to be loose enough to maneuver back out of later and that isn’t easy and can be painful…recommend avoiding over the head tops for several weeks.
  • Bottoms: Loose fitting is best, as tight pants are hard to wiggle into, buttons and zippers will not be easy either with one hand. I lived in my gym shorts and yoga pants!
  • Work Attire: If you can’t get away with loose yoga pants, tank top and a long button down sweater, then go with sleeveless loose dresses with the sweater option, but remember no backside zippers or anything overhead unless very stretchy to get back out of later.
  • Shoes: Slip on all the time! If you want to be able to wear athletic shoes at some point without the reaching and tying of laces – I recommend race laces, like Yankz or Lock Laces (see amazon) — Not Hickies, I could never get these to feel snug in the right places and loose in the right places (way to fidgety).


Food: (this one is more geared towards the single people)

  • Stock up on bland simple foods you don’t need to cook but will satisfy you.
  • Make sure the bags are open ahead of time or in easy to open with one hand containers.
  • If you do plan to cook, microwave! Lifting pans and pots even with the good arm will cause some pain in the other. At least the first couple of days, everything will be painful/uncomfortable.
  • Or plan for food delivery – Doorstep Delivery is a great option to not have to bug friends for every meal.


Day of Surgery:

  • Day of Surgery Attire – Simple is Best!
    • Slip on gym shorts or pants (depending on time of year and your preference for warmth) – shorts with the panty liner built in make it much easier to get dressed post-op….one less step to navigate (and if you are single with a friend doing the driving that you’d rather not have dress you, nurses will gladly help instead)
    • Nothing will go over your head! So, if a bra is a must – then get the sports bra or bralette with straight straps (not racerback style) and plan to only use the one strap and tuck the other one in. – NO underwire as you’ll likely fall asleep in these clothes. I’m on the smaller side, so I always preferred something I could step in and pull up, but the clip kind works if you have help to clip it in front and the spin bra around. This takes a little practice but is handy when going back to public settings and a bra is needed.
    • Tank Top – Loose enough to step into and pull up one strap on good arm, but let other strap hang under the other underarm
    • Comfy Full Zip Up Sweatshirt or Button Down Sweater – Again nothing that goes over the head, even later you may get something on but will not be able to get it back off without major stretching of the attire.
    • Slip On Shoes – No lace tying will happen for weeks. So, prepare to wear flip flops, sandals, boat shoes, Crocs or tennis shoes with no laces or race laces (more on this later)
    • Hair – loosely braid it with no metal bands – comfy enough to lay down on but keeps it out of the way of the cap and won’t be matted when you wake up….brushing it will be the last thing you want to deal with.
  • Make the Nurses your new Besties! Food and coffee go a long way to say thanks for caring about me. I always brought with me a box of coffee and a dozen donuts for the staff, along with one donut in a separate bag with my name on it for my post-op meal. The nurses and staff appreciated this gesture and are more maybe just a little more attentive to you post-op. Plus Ginger Ale and a Chocolate Cake Krispy Kreme Donut are so good when you wake up starving.
  • Things to ask your doctor(s) to provide:
    • Anti-nausea Medication (Pre and Post Op) – if you are anything like me heavy painkillers make me feel sick or get sick, and the day of surgery with an empty stomach lots of medication…the last thing you want is to get sick (it will hurt!) or feel sick for hours.
      • Pre-OpAnti-Nausea Patch – makes post-op much easier to manage
      • Post-Op anti-nausea pills to take with every painkiller – makes the first few days better


That should get you set up for a simpler recovery. If you have a specific situation and want advise, please message me. I’ll gladly give more information and tips.