Most arthroscopic shoulder operations can be done as day case procedures. This means you can go home on the same day as your surgery and do not need to stay in hospital overnight. It is advisable for you to have someone at home with you, should you need help. If your surgery is later in the day or if you don’t have help at home you may need to stay in hospital for one night. Open shoulder procedures may require an overnight stay.

Going home 

You will need to be picked up from hospital and driven home as you will not be able to drive. You will need somebody to stay with on the night of surgery if you have had a general anaesthetic. 

Pain Management 

You will be prescribed regular pain killers which you should take as soon as advised by the nurse on the ward. You may have had a nerve block as part of your anaesthetic. This should make your shoulder comfortable immediately after surgery. This will wear off over a period of 12-18 hours and it is important that you have taken oral pain killers to help. 

Commonly prescribed post operative pain killers 

  1. Co-codamol 30mg / 500mg. This medication has paracetamol and codeine in it. Each tablet has the same amount of paracetamol as one standard 500mg paracetamol tablet. You can take 2 tablets four times a day. It can commonly cause drowsiness, nausea and constipation as side effects
  2. Tramadol 50mg - 100mg. This medication is similar to codeine. You can take 50-100mg (one to two tablets) four times a day. It can commonly cause nausea, drowsiness and vivid dreams as side effects
  3. Ibuprofen 200mg to 400mg. This medication is an anti-inflammatory. You can take upto 400mg three times a day. You should not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication if you suffer from asthma or heartburn

Looking after the wounds 

The wounds may be closed with steri-strips (paper stitches) or stitches that may not need to be removed. Occasionally stitches that require removal may be used. The wounds will be covered with waterproof dressings. An absorbent dressing or nappy may be placed on top to absorb the excess fluid from the surgery. 

The day after surgery the nappy can be removed. If the waterproof dressings are loose they can be changed for replacement waterproof dressings that you will be given on discharge. You can also buy new waterproof dressings from a chemist. 

Once the dressings are in place you may shower getting the dressings wet, but it is best to avoid giving the affected limb a soaking. You will need to keep the operated arm by your side and so you may need help washing the non-operated arm. We would advise that you try to keep the dressings dry for the first 2-3 days though.

Some types of stitches may need to be removed. If such stitches are used , these may be removed at your GP surgery or at the hospital at 10-14 days after surgery. This appointment will be made for you when you are discharged from hospital.

Managing in a sling 

Your arm will be placed in a sling after surgery. The length and type of sling will depend on the exact operation you have had. More in depth information about particular operations can be found in the operations pages. 

You may be discharged with a refillable ice pack that fits around the shoulder and can act as a sling. This is called a cryocuff. It can be used for the first few days after surgery and night for up to a week after surgery. Please watch the following video on how to fit and use a shoulder cryocuff

If you have had a simple shoulder arthroscopic procedure or a broken bone fixed around your shoulder you will be provided with a simple poly-sling. This is easy to take on and off. Please watch the following video on how to fit it and perform simple exercises

If you have had a rotator cuff tendon repair or stabilisation (labral repair) you will be in a special sling with a wedge (an "Ultra-sling"). This can be more tricky to take on and off. Please watch the following video from the manufacturers on how to fit it

Getting Dressed

It is normally easier to wear button up shirts and clothing to start with. When dressing put your operated arm in first before re-applying the sling. When undressing remove the operated arm from the sleeve last ("in first, out last").


This can be difficult for the first few weeks after surgery. You may have to leave your arm in the sling at night time but may loosen the straps to achieve a comfortable position. Sleeping in a reclining chair can often help in the first few days after surgery until you feel comfortable lying flat. When lying down a pillow placed under the operated arm can help to prop it up and make it more comfortable. A few weeks after surgery you may feel comfortable to lie on the unaffected shoulder. Pillows placed in front of you to support the operated arm may help. It is normal to have difficulty sleeping on the operated shoulder for several months. This can persist for 6-12 months. 


Your return to driving will depend on the surgical procedure that has been performed. In general 

  • Simple arthroscopic shoulder procedures – when comfortable – usually within 5-7 days after surgery 
  • SLAP repairs – 3-4 weeks 
  • Stabilisation procedures – 6-8 weeks 
  • Rotator cuff repairs – 6-8 weeks although it may take over 3 months
  • Joint replacement – 6-8 weeks 
  • Broken bone fixation – this depends on the bone(s) that have been fixed

Please discuss with one of us for more information 

Returning to Work 

This will depend upon the procedure you have had done. You can travel on public transport with a sling. You can also work from home if that is a possibility to you. In general if you have a desk based job 

  • Simple arthroscopic shoulder procedures – 2-3 weeks 
  • SLAP repairs – 3-4 weeks 
  • Stabilisation procedures – 3-4 weeks
  • Rotator cuff repairs – 4 weeks 
  • Joint replacement – 6 weeks 
  • Broken bone fixation – this depends on the bone(s) that have been fixed. 

If you have a manual job these timeframes are significantly longer as it will take time for your shoulder to recover to use for lifting etc. Please ask one of us about realistic timeframes. 


You will be given an appointment to see us when you leave hospital. This is normally 2-3 weeks after surgery. You will normally be seen again at 3 months and 6 months post-operation. If there are any problems in between appointments please contact our secretaries to make a sooner appointment. 


You will be seen by the hospital physiotherapist on the day of your admission. They will run through some simple post-operative exercises to do and give you an exercise sheet. 

Your operation note will state when formal post-operative physiotherapy will start. It will state the time needed in a sling and limitations placed on range of movement and muscle strengthening. 

You can decide to have your post-operative physiotherapy at the hospital where you had your surgery or with somebody else. Please check with your insurance company to make sure your physiotherapist is covered.