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Sleeping in a Chair after Shoulder Surgery

You may find sleeping in a chair after shoulder replacement or rotator cuff surgery preferable to lying in bed. If so, and your doctor approves, here are 3 ways to help you get comfy.

Are you recovering from a shoulder replacement surgery or rotator cuff repair, or getting ready for an upcoming shoulder operation? If so, you'll want to make sure you have a comfortable place to rest and recover.

For many people with chronic shoulder pain, the most comfortable spot in their home to relax or sleep with a painful shoulder is their recliner chair—and sleeping in a chair is often a short-term necessity for people recovering from shoulder surgery.1 This is because laying all the way flat on the back can increase the pain on the shoulder, or simply be too difficult of a position to get into. If you’re planning on spending a few nights in your recliner, here are 3 simple ways to make this spot a little more comfortable.

3 Ways to make sleeping in a chair after shoulder surgery more comfortable

1. Prop up with pillows

Shoulder surgeries can be helpful when it comes to improving a person's function and pain level. But pain and swelling during the initial recovery period is likely. Sometimes pain can increase if the shoulder is left hanging or drooping.1

If you plan on resting or sleeping in your chair, unless your surgeon advises otherwise, try placing a pillow underneath your surgical arm so that it's more supported. This can also protect your arm from sudden jarring movements that might otherwise happen if you fall asleep and your arm slips off the armrest.

Just be mindful that you don't move your arm in any way that disrupts the integrity of your immobilizer sling (if you have one—generally used for rotator cuff procedures) or would put your arm in a position that would violate any mobility precautions determined by your surgeon.

2. Keep desired items close by (and on the non-surgical side)

You've just settled in, kicked your feet up, and gotten yourself perfectly comfortable in your chair—and then you remember you need X, Y, or Z. To avoid this frustrating inconvenience, be sure to keep your desired and most-used items within reach of your chair, and consider placing them on your non-surgical arm’s side so they're easier to reach.

Items to keep nearby include:

  • Remote
  • Phone and charging cord (consider buying an extended cord for even easier use)
  • Tissues
  • Books and other reading material
  • Eyeglasses
  • Water and snacks

While you're at it, make sure you're wearing comfortable and loose-fitting clothes so you won't find yourself fidgeting a lot (nor struggling to get your pants down when you eventually get up to use the bathroom).

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Depending on the type of shoulder surgery you have, you may find that it takes a little while to start moving more easily again. And while it's important to move during your recovery, you want to avoid straining yourself unnecessarily. Ask your doctor for tips and instructions that are compliant with your activity and movement restrictions.

Don't be afraid to ask for help from your loved ones, whether that's grabbing something for you in the kitchen or assisting you in getting dressed. If your recliner chair's handle is on your surgical side, you'll definitely want someone to pull the handle for you so you can kick back.

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  1. (n./d.) 4 Great Tips For Sleeping After Shoulder Surgery. Optivus Physical Therapy. https://optivusphysicaltherapy.com/2016/05/sleeping-after-shoulder-surgery/

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