Practical Tips For Women’s Shoulder Surgery

Woman to Woman ~ Part 2.

(Disclaimer: I am SO not a doctor! Check with your own M.D. for any questions.)

I first posted on this topic in 2012. Here I go again. This time, the right shoulder. So, in part for you, and in part for me, I am revisiting practical shoulder surgery preparations for women. Many of the things I learned also apply to men, but not all. Although some of my guy friends would look cute in the camisoles.

I learned a few things from my previous shoulder surgery. Planning helps! What purchases and preparations can you make ahead of time in order to be ready? Here’s a photograph of a few things that I found helpful.

The sling can feel rough after a few days. I lined mine with a silk scarf. SO much better!

Childproof bottles were impossible. That is not a good thing if your tylenol or prescription painkiller is trapped inside. Keeping them safe from children, store any important medicines where you can retrieve them easily, and actually get to the medicine. I used small open containers on a shelf I could reach with my uninjured arm.
sling linersling foamthe right lid




Hibiclens body wash was recommended for use at home right before surgery. Scrubbing well with this, said my doctor, would help prevent infection.

My sling was made with velcro straps for adjustments. Do you know all the things you can stick to a sling with VELCRO? My cell phone was on the strap near my mouth. All I needed was a velcro cup holder.


  • I cannot make a ponytail with one hand. (I would have cut off my hair with one hand and garden shears if not for butterfly clips).
  • You can’t take a shower right after shoulder surgery.
  • I can sleep very comfortably in a recliner.
  • A bag of frozen peas inside a lightweight plastic bag makes a great ice pack.
  • Painkillers cause constipation in some people.
  • You can attach adhesive velcro tape to almost anything.

I invested in pump bottles of shampoo, body wash, moisturizer, sunscreen, and anything else I use. You can’t take the lid off bottles with one hand! At the time of my first surgery, I was using an old-fashioned ice cube tray for ice. Ever try getting ice out of these with one hand? Thinking ahead about this sort of thing will make your life easier.

Which takes us to bras. It is impossible to hook a bra behind your back for quite a while after shoulder surgery. If you want a bra for support or coverage while you still have dressings on your shoulder, cami tops with a shelf bra can be pulled up and the strap worn over just the other side. Shelf bra cami tops were a life-saver for me. I bought a couple of front-closing T-back  bras for the later weeks, when I could get my arm through a bra again (surgery side first!) but a strap over the shoulder or reaching around my back to hook them was still uncomfortable. 
shoulder supplies (2)

Humor made everything easier! My friends are hilarious. When they aren’t around, there are very silly YouTube videos of goats.

Shoiulder cards


For an independent woman like me, asking for help was a big step, and I learned to do it with grace and gratitude. (See ice cube tray comment, above) Planning limited what I needed help with. So, I just:

  • bought a pack of butterly clips
  • installed a hand-held shower head
  • bought Hibiclens
  • bought a pack of velcro strips
  • bought dry shampoo
  • bought a bag of frozen peas
  • made and froze Mom’s bran muffins
  • paid all my bills.
  • Let my friends know what’s happening.

IMG_1337 This helped me to settle back, rent the movies I wanted to see, read great books, and practice mindfulness, just accepting the gift of enforced time to just be. I followed doctor’s orders, and healed well. When things were difficult, I went to my “Happy Place.” And this time, just before my surgery, that is where I am headed for a few days, to carry that peace with me into and back from surgery. I downloaded movies that don’t require much attention for the first days, and new books. I am actually looking forward to this part of the process. I hope this is helpful to you. If you are reading this for your own surgery, best wishes, and good luck!


9 thoughts on “Practical Tips For Women’s Shoulder Surgery

  1. Hi Mel B I’m having lft shoulder replacement surgery in 3 wks. Love info you provided. Is a sports bra easy to use after surgery. Also is it easier to wear front button shirts or tee shirts. How do you put on slacks. Any suggestions wld be appreciated.

    • Hi, Pam! I hope the surgery was successful! I haven’t had shoulder replacement, but after my rotator cuff surgery did not have luck with sports bras the first year unless they were a t-back, with front closure. At this point I am well enough healed and post-physical therapy enough that I can use any bra. T-back bras (and cross-body bags) are still the most comfortable for me since they do not sit on the shoulder. I would love to read a piece on shoulder replacement!

      • Also, on slacks, anything you don’t need to zip or button is best. I started in a seated position, got my feet through the legs, next using my good arm to pull them up as high as I could. Then I stood where I could still reach the chair arm to steady myself with my good arm. If you absolutely must use pants with a button or zipper, again, use only the good arm. I found that the saline they used in the shoulder surprisingly drained to my waist before being absorbed! It made my slacks tight. I used a coated ponytail tie (like a rubber band) to loop through itself and the buttonhole, then over the button and wore a top that didn’t tuck in. It works for pregnancy, too 😁 But seriously, elastic waist slacks are best.

  2. My left shoulder replacement is coming up on April 9th.

  3. Thanks for all the great info. I have my shoulder surgery next week. Did you see the scarf in your sling or did you just tuck it in?

    • Good luck with the surgery and recovery! I didn’t sew the scarf in place, just draped it in there smoothly. That way you can take it out and wash it if you like. Please be patient and compassionate with yourself. It isn’t easy, but it gets better. Recovering range of motion will take a while, so I found it helpful to measure and reward my progress in small steps, like, “Today you showed up for yourself – you are so strong! Good job ❤️“ Sending you healing wishes and a gentle hug.

  4. Hi Melinda, thanks for all the terrific information you shared from your experiences with shoulder operations! I’m 62-year-old woman and both of my shoulders have been getting worse over the years. I injured my right shoulder in November and again in December and that was when I knew it was time for surgery. Having it done during the dead of winter was good, I not really able to go anywhere anyway – except for the occasional ride with the hubby ❤️ We are still masking and distancing because of COVID-19 so having friends over for coffee or wine isn’t something I’m able to do. We do a zoom with friends and yeah, we drink lots of wine!

    Last summer we bought our dream airstream, quite used but new to us. My husband is retiring next month and we cannot wait to start our next chapter. Having the surgery is the means to an end. So I have to be a good girl & not go down the stairs!

    Some thing I found super useful is wearing a poncho if I need to go outside, got my hair cut very short right before surgery! In the beginning my husband managed a little journal of what meds were taken when… 2 1/2 weeks out, I can do that for myself now. It really helped especially in the middle of the night when I wasn’t sure if I should be taking this or that. I set a three hour alarm on my phone and alternate between Advil and Tylenol 24 seven.

    • Thank you for the great ideas! Good luck with the rest of your healing. An airstream adventure is good motivation to go through this, and to be gentle with yourself as you heal, especially when you start driving. Happy travels! ~ Mel