What can you do with one hand, after rotator cuff surgery



Yes, MaChatte I would still like to hide too, but if we write some of my experience down, maybe it will help somebody else preparing for rotator cuff surgery and the immobilization of recovery afterward.  I read quite a few articles that helped me learn to think one handed before my surgery, so maybe I can add some things for people. Typing is hard after the surgery, but you can write a long blog beforehand and add to it after you’ve had post-op experience, lol.   Love the WordPress process, being able to publish then with one click!

The best thing for me is that my operated shoulder is not my dominant hand.  You have to learn to think an entirely different way if that’s not the case with you.  I read one article that said that if your operated shoulder  is your dominant hand, that bathroom hygiene should be practiced ahead of time.  OK,  we got that said and out of the way, but that’s important.

But you also can’t write if your dominant hand is in the sling, and depending on how ambidextrous you might be, everything you do all day could cause you more problems, as if any of us wearing this sling don’t have enough problems.

I tried really hard to pre-plan a lot of routine activities, and made some changes in my house to make things easier.  I did that by imagining my elbow stuck to my side and only my wrist and fingers able to move, while I walked around in my house doing ordinary things.  What I learned was a lot, and could probably be easier discussed by saying what you can’t do with one hand.  Here’s some ideas  that hopefully will get you thinking……and planning…so that your immobilization and recovery go as well as they can.  You need to behave yourself and follow your surgeon’s instructions, to let the shoulder heal, so you can get out of that sling!  Then there’s extensive PT, but that’s another issue.

You get out of bed.  Do you normally use the op hand to help push yourself up out of bed? Not any more.  And good luck finding a position to sleep in, especially with a large sling including the pillow if yours has a pillow under you arm. People suggest a recliner if you’re lucky enough to have one and also lucky enough to be able to sleep sitting up.

You can brush your teeth one  handed, but you know how you wash your hair with two hands?  No you don’t.  (You might find yourself getting a little more relaxed about that hairdo…) And there will be bird baths for a while when you can’t get in the shower due to possible infection in your stitches. (Surgeon’s instructions being the only directions on the timing!)  And we all know that bird baths are….for the birds!  So you do the best you can.  You know how you use a towel to dry your back, with both hands?  No you don’t.  A terry cloth robe can substitute for a towel, kind of a towel you wear, and dry the rest of you with your good hand. You can’t use a curling iron the way you normally do ladies, holding the hair up with one hand and curling it with the other.  Hopefully you have an easy hair do. Oh, and cut your toenails before the surgery. That is just so not happening.

Putting on clothes is a whole big issue.  You have to deal with your op shoulder the way you were taught after surgery, but one thing for sure is that button or zip up the front shirts are the best.  I can’t imagine getting anything pullover on without injuring the op shoulder. Any kind of tight pants, good luck with that, and getting them zipped and buttoned, lol.  Sweat pants or any that slip on easy are good, since you only have one hand to pull them up.  (I love my jeans in the winter, and will just look at them in the closet for a while, hoping this gets over sooner rather than later.) Sox are fun.  It takes a few moves to jimmy them up one handed.  And hopefully you have shoes that don’t tie. Unless you’re some kind of skilled acrobat, you’re not getting the op hand down there to tie shoes right away, maybe after 2 weeks.  Maybe the foot will come up….not me, maybe when I was younger.   Wearing a coat to go away?  You need one with slippy material inside the sleeves, so you don’t require two hands or a helper to slip it on and off, if it’s sticking to your shirt.  Hats are easy one handed things, and hey, maybe you need a hat anyway cos you don’t have an easy hairdo!  🙂

I think we got out of the bathroom, on to the kitchen!  You can cook with one good hand and the op hand adding a little help.  Cooking easy things makes everything better, and you can’t lift any heavy dishes that take two hands. (Not a good time to roast a turkey, unless you have a helper.)   You can wash dishes if you can position the op hand right to hold the dish while you wash it with your good hand, but don’t get the edge of your sling wet. I rearranged my cabinets to change a couple stacks of heavier glass dishes around so I could handle using a couple of them.  No sense having a concussion and broken glass trying to wrangle heavy glass at some upper level, with one hand.   Paper plates are good for a while too.  Or, maybe you have a dishwasher, mechanical or human.

There’s other  stuff to think of, like reading a paper newspaper.  You could lay it down on the floor since you can’t hold it up and turn pages.  But it’s hard to read it then with a cat laying on it.  Folding sheets is fun, but the fitted ones were always hard to do with two good hands.  Laundry is ok if the clothes basket is light enough for one hand.  The cat needs to stay out of that process, or at least out of the laundry basket.

Oh you can pick up a 10 pound cat one handed and carry her around.  It will cause the rear end of the cat to swing around a little, which may or may not be agreeable to the cat.

One never knows the weight of an arm till you bear that weight on your neck.  Your neck and back might ache…..watch your posture, keeping your shoulders back. That will help.

Now I hope writing some of this down helped get somebody pre-op to thinking about ways to make the recovery period easier.  I have to laugh about all this a little, cos it is a life changing surgery and recovery.  Hopefully your life won’t have to change for too long, and your recovery is quick and healing complete afterward. Your doctor’s instructions are the most important rules to remember, cos only he knows what’s best for your case.  But you need to adapt your own life to make it easier to get thru this, and then to be able to get on with other activities that you will miss during your recovery. I’m going to grow things in the spring, without the use of a shovel, hoe or rake all summer, because my surgeon said the healing actually goes on that long.  If there’s a way to garden, I’ll find it!

Good luck if you’re having this surgery! I can tell you that the first 4 days or so are the worst, and then things start to get better.


14 responses to “What can you do with one hand, after rotator cuff surgery

  1. I have a shoulder problem that is getting worse… many things I can no longer do,,,, so who knows I might be going this route. Sending you healing vibes.

    • Thanks! Did you get it checked out to see what the problem is? I had arthritis and bone spurs in the joint, but that’s the easy part and wouldn’t even have required the sling. The bad parts were the torn rotor cuff and a piece of bicep muscle torn away from the bone.

  2. Thanks Herman. Feeling good now, as opposed to feeling really lousy the first couple days, makes everything better already. Now it’s just a bunch of inconvenience, which one can deal with when you know there is an end in sight. 🙂

  3. It is amazing all the little things we take for granted. I think people can adapt quite well and I am sure you will find some way to garden.

    • Oh yes I will. With some minimal help from my kids, all small garden tools, and good determination plus good earth. 🙂 More 12′ Lima beans, etc!

  4. My heart goes out to you! It’s not an easy thing that you are going through. I think it’s really wonderful of you to write this post. I feel safe in saying I’m sure it will be helpful to those going through this. I lucked out with my shoulder. My rheumatologist thought it might be a torn rotator cup but it turned out to only be tendonitis. I remember how relieved he was that it was not a torn rotator cup and after reading all that you have been going through I can see why!

    • I’m glad yours turned out to be easier to take care of, Jackie. This is definitely no picnic. The good thing now is it’s already half over: there’s light at the end of the tunnel! Till the evening my neck and back hurt from the weight of the arm being carried by the sling around my neck. Soon, tho, it goes away, (the 25th, yesss) I’ll be cleared to drive and also start PT to strengthen the whole shoulder and get it moving again after 4 weeks of immobilization. I’ll be ready for all of that! Thanks. 🙂

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