An Orthopedic Specialist’s Guide to Shoulder Impingement Surgery Recovery

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By following these four simple steps, you can can expect to have a successful recovery within six to eight weeks of your shoulder impingement surgery.

Shoulder impingement — otherwise known as swimmer’s shoulder or tennis shoulder — is a condition that often affects athletes and weightlifters. It occurs when the tendons in the shoulder become inflamed, usually as the result of a bone spur. This injury can cause pain and loss of mobility that is likely to intensify if left undiagnosed.

Fortunately, shoulder impingement can be treated with physical therapy or, in more serious cases, arthroscopic surgery. During this procedure, a surgeon inserts micro-instruments into the shoulder to remove the inflamed bursa (a cushioning sac located in the shoulder joint) and any bone spurs. This minimally invasive surgery effectively repairs the area and helps prevent further complications.

Though arthroscopic surgery requires no hospital stay and generally comes with a short recovery time, there are important steps patients can take to ensure an optimal outcome. Our orthopedic specialists recommend following these guidelines to help your shoulder return to full strength after your procedure.

1. GET A PROFESSIONAL DIAGNOSIS

If you’re experiencing pain in your shoulder, it’s important to visit an orthopedic specialist. Shoulder impingement is usually diagnosed with a physical exam and X-rays. Your physician will be able to identify any bone spurs or protrusions that may be causing the problem. If your shoulder pain is accompanied by weakness, he or she may recommend an MRI to determine if you have a rotator cuff tear as well.

2. TRUST THE HEALING PROCESS

After your operation, you’ll be required to wear a sling for a few days to keep the shoulder immobilized. Once your physician instructs you to remove the sling, it’s important not to place too much strain on your shoulder and avoid lifting weights. You can support your body’s natural healing process during this time by drinking a lot of water and eating a healthy diet of antioxidant rich foods.

3. COMPLETE YOUR PHYSICAL THERAPY PROGRAM

To regain mobility in your shoulder, your doctor will generally recommend that you begin gentle physical therapy exercises a few days after your procedure. Under the guidance of a physical therapist, you’ll likely start with stretching exercises and a massage of the rotator cuff muscles. Then you can focus on building strength in your shoulder to help prevent further injury. If you’re a swimmer, sports rehabilitation may help you continue to swim during your recovery with techniques to keep pressure off of your shoulder.

4. REST AND RELAX

You can expect to recover from shoulder impingement surgery within six to eight weeks. During this time, be sure to relax and give your body time to heal. The pain will likely subside within two weeks, but you can continue to ice the area and take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling. After about eight weeks, you should be able to return to your regular activities.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or considering pursuing treatment for shoulder impingement, set up an appointment with New York Bone & Joint Specialists today. Our experienced shoulder specialist Dr. Leon Popovitz will discuss your options and determine if arthroscopic surgery is right for you. With our physical therapy team, we’ll support you through every step of your recovery process, from the initial diagnosis to the final follow-up.

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