How to Manage Pain Following Shoulder Surgery?

pain after shoulder surgery
Pain Shoulder

Depending on the type of repair, an individual's level of pain following shoulder surgery may change. It may assist to take painkillers and apply ice to the shoulder.

Every year, 53,000 Americans in the US undergo shoulder replacement surgery.

Even though having surgery can help you live a healthier, pain-free life, your recovery will probably cause you some suffering.

Every patient's situation is different, so it's crucial to discuss your pain treatment options with your doctor. To make you feel better equipped to tackle what lies ahead, we have compiled some facts.

How long does the pain last after shoulder surgery?

Pain may be anticipated for weeks or even months after the procedure, depending on the type of shoulder surgery and the extent of the repair work required.

To help you recognize when pain is lasting longer than expected after surgery, your doctor should be able to estimate what is typical for your specific procedure.

However, it's crucial to keep in mind that every person will have a unique experience, and discomfort might vary depending on several circumstances.

Why is shoulder surgery recovery so painful?

Many shoulder operations frequently require tissue cutting, drilling, and suturing. The tissues may become painful and swollen as a result of this. Additionally, stiffness and soreness might arise from lack of use because the shoulder and arm are normally immobilized for several weeks after any shoulder surgery.

There is a chance of nerve injury following shoulder surgery, notwithstanding how uncommon it is. As a result, recuperation may take longer and pain levels may be higher.

According to a 2019 study, some outpatient shoulder operations are less painful than rotator cuff repair surgery. The precise reasons why more pain was reported still need more study, as this was based on how participants rated their discomfort in the hours following surgery.

How do I stop my shoulder from hurting after surgery?

There are several ways your doctor can assist you in managing any pain you experience after shoulder surgery.

You might be given a regional anaesthetic (also known as a shoulder or nerve block) before the surgery, depending on the technique. This should lessen discomfort both during and immediately following the treatment. During surgery, your doctor may also administer local anaesthetic injections.

Following shoulder surgery, your doctor will probably recommend medication to manage pain and reduce inflammation:
  • acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • ibuprofen (Advil)
  • naproxen (Aleve)
  • meloxicam (Vivlodex)
  • celecoxib (Celebrex)
Your medical history may influence which medications you receive.

Frequent use of cold packs for the shoulder might also assist to lessen discomfort and swelling. (Ice packs can typically be applied to the incision for 20 minutes at a time, 4-6 times per day, wrapped in a towel.)

To ensure that the shoulder heals properly, you must immobilize it as prescribed by your doctor. This is crucial for both minimizing pain right away following surgery and preventing it in the future.

How do you know if shoulder surgery didn’t work?

Surgery failures are uncommon, but they can happen.

The following are signs of an unsuccessful or failed shoulder surgery:
  • stiffness
  • continued pain and swelling
  • joint instability
  • muscle spasms
A failed surgery might not be obvious right away. After surgery, recovery may take longer than 4-6 months, sometimes even a full year.

After that, work with your physical therapist while exercising patience and allowing the tissues to heal. X-rays and MRI scans may also help doctors identify an unsuccessful surgery.

Nerve damage symptoms following rotator cuff surgery

Following shoulder surgery, nerve injury symptoms can include:
  • numbness
  • swelling and inflammation
  • tingling
  • burning
An individual with a nerve injury may experience episodes where it feels like an electric shock is coursing through their shoulder or arm. Even if the shoulder tissue appears to have healed, this pain may persist for months or even years.

Can you take pain medications after shoulder surgery?

Depending on your surgery, you might be given regional anaesthetic before it, which should lessen your pain both during and immediately after.

Your doctor may also recommend highly potent painkillers like codeine, hydrocodone, or oxycodone for you to take when you have pain before you leave the hospital. It is vital to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about taking these medications because they do carry certain warnings and a higher risk of dependence.

You could be instructed to take ibuprofen in addition to these prescription painkillers to lessen inflammation.

It's crucial to adhere to any instructions for wound care and show up for any required follow-up appointments for stitch removal or progress checks. Avoid using your immobile arm for anything other than the exercises your doctor or physical therapist has recommended.

When to seek medical attention

After shoulder surgery, get in touch with your doctor if:
  • Despite applying pressure, the bleeding seeps through the dressing.
  • Painkillers don't provide alleviation
  • with your arm growth.
  • your hands and fingers tingle and feel numb, change colour, and feel chilly to the touch.
If you experience any infection-related symptoms, such as fever or a yellow-green discharge from the wound, be sure to call your doctor right once.


Following shoulder surgery, some discomfort is normal, but it can be managed with medicine, ice, and rest. It's crucial to contact your doctor as soon as possible if the pain becomes intolerable or you exhibit any infection-related symptoms.

It's crucial to talk to your doctor if discomfort lasts longer than expected or returns after getting better. It can indicate that shoulder surgery was ineffective. In addition to collaborating with you to create a treatment plan, your doctor can decide whether additional diagnostic testing is required.


How long after shoulder surgery does it stop hurting?

Up to 6 weeks after surgery

Why am I in so much pain after shoulder surgery?

Typically the result a damaged nerve.

What is the best painkiller for shoulder pain?

Ibuprofen and naproxen

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