After Your Surgery

Pain relief:

It is normal to be in some discomfort following an operation. This usually improves significantly over the first few days and then more gradually over the first few weeks.

Local Anaesthetic (LA) and blocks:

LA will be injected around the incision(s) at the end of the procedure. A nerve ‘block’ may also have been used at the start of the procedure. These will provide good pain relief for 6-24 hrs. If you have had a ‘block’ you may also have a numb, tingly or floppy arm. This will recover but may take 24 to 48 hours. You will usually be given painkillers +/- anti-inflammatories to take home with instructions when to take these. It is best to take the painkillers regularly initially and then later step down to ‘as required’ when the pain settles.

Wound care:

It is common for there to be some blood-stained fluid to come from your surgical wounds. The wounds should be kept clean and dry for two weeks when they will usually be checked in the clinic. Swelling and discharge is particularly common after key hole (arthroscopic) surgery, your shoulder and elbow will be swollen from the fluid used to distend the joint. The retained fluid is absorbed over the first few days after surgery but it is normal for some of this to leak out as a blood stained fluid from the surgical scars. You will normally have a large absorbent dressing over the shoulder when you return from Theatre. This will be removed before you are discharged and the splash-proof dressing changed if needed.

Post-operative swelling:

Limitation of swelling is the most important thing you can do for yourself after the surgery. After any operation on the shoulder or arm swelling will occur. An ice pack wrapped in a tea-towel applied to the top of the dressings will help in the first 2 weeks.

Elevating the hand as much as possible will help whether you are standing sitting or lying down.

Clinic follow-up:

You will typically be reviewed at two weeks post-surgery when the wounds will be reviewed.


This should normally be with the therapist you were seeing prior to surgery. If you have no specific therapist, if this is not convenient or you would prefer otherwise alternative rehabilitation arrangements will be made. You may see Dr Smith’s Physiotherapist at Key time points. Dr Smith will contact your therapist to discuss your rehab programme.

The recovery following surgery is usually straightforward, but is dependent on the type and extent of surgery and the severity of the pathology at the time of the surgery. It is crucial that you follow the rehabilitation guidelines, doing too much too soon could disrupt the surgery and effect your long-term outcome.

Driving - you must have:

‘Sufficient range of motion, sensation and power to achieved required movements to operate ignition, turn and hold steering wheel, operate secondary vehicle controls and operate gears and hand brake’ – Austroads 2012

You should not drive within 24 hours of a general anaesthetic. You should not drive in a sling, cast or splint. You should not drive when taking pain medication which may effect your ability to drive (including codeine). You should be able to drive under normal circumstances AND also be able to perform emergency manoeuvres safely and without pain.

Your motor insurer may have specific regulations with regards to this. You should check this with them

Return to work:

The required time off work will depend both on the nature of your work and the type of operation you have undergone. For most individuals with an office-based job, you may return to work if you can get there safely and can do you work comfortably in a sling cast or splint (if required). Employment requiring heavy lifting should be avoided.

Return to Sports:

The required time of sports will depend on the surgery undertaken, the level of participation and the nature of the sport itself.

Washing and bathing:

The dressings used are typically splash proof but not waterproof. You will be able to shower, while attempting to keep the effected shoulder out of the spray as much as possible. If the dressings do become soaked they will need to be changed as soon as possible. Your sling can be removed for showering and a disposable paper sling used instead or rest your arm against your abdomen or let your arm hang down by your side.

(02) 9587 4720

St George Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine
Suite 201, Level 2
St George Specialist Centre
131 Princes Highway
Kogarah NSW 2217