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Discharge Instructions for Shoulder Arthroscopy

You had a shoulder arthroscopy. It is a surgical procedure that helps the doctor diagnose and treat shoulder problems. These include instability, arthritis, and rotator cuff problems. Below are instructions to help you care for your shoulder when you are at home.

What to expect

After surgery, your joint may be swollen, painful, and stiff. The joint will heal with time. But, recovery times vary depending on what was done. For example, with a shaved rotator cuff, you may be told to move your arm soon after surgery to prevent stiffness. But if the rotator cuff repair or treatment is for instability or arthritis, your doctor may want you to limit movement of your arm for a period of time. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding arm movement.


Man leaning over with back straight, supporting himself on back of chair with one hand. Other arm is hanging from shoulder with arrows showing arm moving in circle.

  • Don’t drive until your doctor says it’s okay. And never drive while taking opioid pain medication.

  • Ask your doctor when it is safe to do Pendulum exercises:  

    • Hold on to the back of a chair, or lean on a tabletop with your healthy arm.

    • Do not actively move your arm with your shoulder muscles during this process. Instead, allow your arm to sway gently.  

    • Use your torso to move your affected arm in a circle. First do 20 circles in one direction. Then do 20 circles in the other direction.

    • Repeat the pendulum exercise every two hour(s). When you feel ready, increase the number of circles to 50 in each direction, every two hour(s).

  • Bend your wrist and wiggle your fingers often to help blood flow.

Incision care

  • Check your incision daily for redness, tenderness, or drainage.

  • Wait three day(s) after your surgery to begin showering. Then shower as needed. Carefully wash your incision with soap and water. Gently pat it dry. Don’t rub the incision, or apply creams or lotions to it.

  • Don’t soak in a bathtub, hot tub, or pool until your doctor says it’s okay.

Other home care

  • Take your temperature daily for seven days after your surgery. Report a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) to your doctor. Fever may be a sign of infection.

  • Wear your sling or immobilizer as directed by your doctor.

  • Use pain medication, as needed and as directed. Don't wait until the pain is severe to start using the medication. 

  • Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas—or something similar—wrapped in a thin towel on your shoulder to reduce swelling for the first 48 hours after surgery. Hold the ice pack. Leave the ice pack on for 20 minutes; then take it off for 20 minutes. Repeat as needed.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to seek medical attention

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

Otherwise, call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Increasing shoulder pain or pain not relieved by medication

  • Pain or swelling in the arm on the side of your surgery

  • Numbness, tingling, or blue-gray color of your arm or fingers on the side of your surgery

  • Drainage or oozing, redness, or warmth at the incision

  • Fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or shaking chills

  • Nausea or vomiting


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