Giving Care: Senior & Disabled Caregiver Resource Blog

How to Dress After Shoulder Surgery

a man at a Rheumatology consultation with a doctor
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By Image Point Fr / Shutterstock.com

Getting dressed after a shoulder surgery, or any kind of surgery that immobilizes your arm, can be a real challenge. In this quick guide, we offer six essential tips for getting dressed after shoulder surgery — from a one-handed dressing technique to post-surgery clothing.

Ask someone else for help.

In the immediate aftermath of your surgery, your swelling and pain will be at their highest, and your mobility will be at its lowest. You will also likely be on painkillers that can compromise your balance and mobility. Thus, it’s a good idea to have a friend or family member around to take care of you in the days following your shoulder surgery. They will be able to help you with many essential tasks, including dressing and undressing yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in the early days, even if you’re not sure if you need it. You don’t want to pop your stitches and set your recovery back.

Practice one-handed dressing techniques.

Once you are ready to begin dressing yourself, follow these steps to get your upper body dressed using one hand:

  1. Place the garment in your lap.
  2. Using your non-injured hand, pull the sleeve over your immobilized arm.
  3. If wearing a pull-over shirt, find the opening for your head and pull it over your head.
  4. Push your fully mobile arm through the other sleeve.
  5. Pull the shirt down over your stomach and back until you are comfortable.

We recommend that you practice these techniques ahead of your surgery, especially if your procedure will be done on your dominant arm. That way, you will have some experience using your non-dominant hand before you come home from the surgery.

a physical therapist lifting a womans arm
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By stockfour / Shutterstock.com

Choose loose, oversized garments.

As with any surgery, loose shirts and pants will be the easiest to take on and off and will also accommodate the swelling after surgery. Look for pull-on shirts and pants with elastic waistbands so that you don’t have to bother with closures in the aftermath of your surgery. If you don’t already own comfortable oversized clothing, see if you can borrow it from a friend or family member or buy some in advance of your surgery.

Shop our Post-Surgery Clothing!

Prioritize front-opening shirts.

If pulling a t-shirt over your head is too hard, even with the strategy we outlined above, then you may find it easier to wear front-opening shirts, sweaters, jackets and even front closure bras. These garments also offer a slightly more formal option if you have to return to work while your arm is still immobilized. The downside of these is that it can be very difficult to operate the closures with one hand, especially if the shirt has buttons. You may need to get help with them, or invest in adaptive clothing with magnetic closures that can be operated with one hand.

a doctor showing a patient an xray of their shoulder
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By taniascamera / Shutterstock.com

Get post-surgery clothing.

If your arm will be immobilized for more than a few days, then you may want to invest in some post-surgery clothing that is specifically designed for people recovering from shoulder surgery. These clothes are designed with limited mobility in mind and make it easier for you to get dressed by yourself or for someone else to dress you. At Silverts, we sell a wide range of post-surgery clothing for a variety of procedures, including shoulder surgery, so that you don’t have to stress about getting dressed after surgery.

Wear slip-on shoes.

You probably won’t be very steady on your feet after surgery, which is why it’s important to pay attention to fall prevention. Hospital socks with rubber grips on the bottom are a great way to keep your feet warm in those first few days after surgery. Once you’re walking around more, shoes with laces might be hard to tie so we recommend shoes with Velcro closures (and non-slip soles) instead.

Ready to prepare your wardrobe for shoulder surgery? We sell all the essentials that you’ll need at our Silverts’ online store, from upgraded hospital gowns that are actually comfortable to wear to adaptive clothing meant for dressing with an immobilized shoulder. U.S. orders over $20 ship free, so don’t be afraid to stock up!

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