After Shoulder Surgery: Clothing & Hygiene

After the pre-op appointment with my doctor I actually had to book a second appointment because I still didn’t know what to expect with this rotator cuff surgery.  I had learned a lot from the elbow surgery barely a month before this one, but everyone said it would be different.

Even so, my first questions were the same:  what will it be like re’ dressing myself, maintaining personal hygiene, taking care of myself, etc.  Because I live alone in an attic apartment with an outside entrance, “heads up” information was priceless.

However, my incommunicative doctor offered zip insight into “life after rotator cuff surgery.”  Left to my own devices, I searched the internet, asked questions of people I knew who had had similar surgery, but mostly, I drew from what I’d learned during the elbow surgery experience.

My intention with this series is to share what worked for me–as a gift to anyone out there facing a similar ordeal–especially those on their own, who have no tribe to take care of them.

Here’s what I learned about personal hygiene and clothing

About Personal Hygiene

21WbtebKlCL._AA160_Buy itemson-a-stick–loofah-on-a-stick, sponge-on-a-stick, and a flat surface sponge-on-a-stick–for personal hygiene and applying lotions and analgesics.

Use diluted liquid soap on your wash cloth or “stick” item—like Dr. Bonner’s, diluted 1 to ten as directed, in a small plastic bottle with an easy-to-open flip lid

Stock up on flushable wipes. Need I say more?


Practice now with your electric toothbrush so you can use it with either hand.  A toothbrush is a poor choice with your non-dominant hand unless you think walls and clothes with white dots is chic.

Practice with your water pic unless you enjoy being sprayed. Water pic can replace flossing for this brief time, or you can buy those little dental “pipe cleaners” to use instead of floss.

About clothing


Get over wearing a bra if you have either elbow or shoulder surgery.

Dark tees of 100% cotton with a print on the front are more modest than tees without prints in lighter colors.

Give yourself permission to go without panties; pulling up one waistband with one hand is lots easier than pulling up two.

Give yourself permission to “be in it” and wear the same clothes every day when you’re at home—especially true if you have to haul your laundry downstairs and drive to a laundry mat.

Buy a couple of pairs of sweat pants with elastic waistbands if you don’t already have them. Better yet, get some skirts or kilts—so much easier than wrestling pants up and down.  Caution!  Forget the sweats with ties at the waistband instead of elastic.

If you live in a cold, snowy climate, invest in a pull-over-the-head serape and a cheap “rain poncho” for shoveling snow so your sling doesn’t get wet. Or buy a jacket several sizes too big after trying it on over a “pretend sling.”

Pull-on shoes, not lace-up nightmares.  Anklets (no-show socks) are easier to put on with one hand than regular socks.

Hang your clothes inside out on a coat hanger in a south-facing window; let the sun freshen clothing.

Hope this helps!  Next:  “Stock up before surgery!”

[Written by an older woman who lives alone in an attic, who has no tribe taking care of her, who had her surgery during winter (snows), who has to go up and down her outside stairs for trash, groceries, and laundry on an old-surgery knee that sometimes buckles so she has to hold the hand rail with one hand leaving no hands to carry stuff, who has only her non-dominant hand to do stuff—in short,  The MOTHER of Invention.]

Related Posts:

Other Resources for Rotator Cuff Surgery:

4 responses to “After Shoulder Surgery: Clothing & Hygiene

  1. Judy Willgoss

    I am amazed at your organizational skills. Independence certainly has its advantages, as in tough times like these. And … you are forever the teacher … that will always be with you.

  2. Ha! Thanks, Judy. This little series is the result of my list of “53 things learned from shoulder surgery”-an ongoing list on a steno pad–which I broke down into little topics for the blog.

  3. Would you add my bra for shoulder patients link to your site as a resource? I have been through two rotator cuff surgeries and invented this solution. It may be useful for some of your readers.

  4. Yes, Susan. I will leave your comment as is. Normally, Askimet (spam control) would have deleted it anyway, before I even saw it, because you included a website. The stars must be with you. Thanks for asking. Although, if you had the same surgery I did, I can’t see how you could put on a bra or why you’d bother considering the bulky cast required for, what, two months? Based on what I read prior to my own surgery, on the experience of women friends who had it, and my own experience, I cannot recommend any kind of bra for the brief time a woman is inconvenienced by the surgery prior to active PT.

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