Skip to Content

Shoulder Arthroscopy


  • Shoulder arthroscopy (AHR-thras-ka-pee) is a procedure used to examine and repair your damaged or diseased shoulder joint. A joint is a part of your body where two bones meet. A shoulder arthroscopy is usually done to check an injured, unstable, stiff, or very painful shoulder. This may help diagnose some problems with the tissues in your shoulder. These tissues are muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and cartilage. Tendons are strong elastic tissues that connect muscles to bones. Ligaments connect one bone to another. The shoulder problems may include tears, avulsions (pulled out parts of bone), compressions, abnormal changes, and arthritis (joint swelling). Caregivers may also remove, repair, or reconstruct (rebuild) part of the shoulder using shoulder arthroscopy.
  • In a shoulder arthroscopy, small incisions (cuts) are made in the shoulder area. Caregivers will insert special tools and an arthroscope through these incisions to do the procedure. An arthroscope is a long metal tube with a light, camera, and magnifying glass on the end. During this procedure, problems inside your shoulder will be checked and fixed. By repairing your shoulder joint, you may be able to use your shoulders without pain or trouble.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Ask your caregiver when you should return to have your shoulder wound checked and the stitches removed.


  • Avoid doing hard activities, such as lifting, pulling, and pushing. You may also need to avoid playing hard or contact sports for some time.
  • Do not let your affected shoulder get wet unless your caregiver says it is OK. Ask your caregiver when you are allowed to bathe, shower, or swim.
  • Place an ice pack on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for up to 24 hours. You can make an ice pack by putting crushed ice in a plastic bag and wrapping it with a towel. Do not sleep while using the ice pack because you can get frostbite. Do not use it for a longer time than instructed by your caregiver.


Daily exercises are important as the exercises will help you return to your usual activities. These exercises will depend on the shoulder problem you had and the procedure done.

  • Home exercises: You may be asked to do light and easy exercises at first after your procedure. Examples would be gentle elbow, wrist, and hand exercises or shoulder shrugs. Do not do forward bends from the waist or stretch your arm across your chest in front. Also avoid stretching your arm behind your back. Your caregiver may ask you to do more as you get stronger and as the pain decreases. Do only the exercises advised by your caregiver, and do them only as often as your caregiver suggests.
  • Physical therapy: You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.

Wearing an arm sling or a brace:

Caregivers may want you to limit your shoulder movement for some time. You may need to wear a sling or brace. Wearing a sling or brace may help your shoulder heal faster and make you feel more comfortable. A brace may be used to keep your shoulder from moving. A sling may also be used to hold the arm with a bandage to strap it close to the body. Always wear your sling, sling with bandage, or brace, except when showering or bathing. Do not take it off, even while sleeping, unless your caregiver says it is OK.

Wound care:

  • Clean the wound as often as ordered by your caregiver. Do not remove the bandage over your wound unless your caregiver says it is OK. Keep the bandage clean and dry. If you cannot reach the wound, have someone help you.
  • If you have steri-strips (thin strips of tape) over the incision, do not pull them off. As they start to peel off, let them fall off by themselves.
  • Keep the stitches clean and dry. Do not trim or shorten the ends of your stitches. If they are rubbing on your clothing, you can put a soft gauze bandage between the stitches and your clothes.
  • Wash your hands before and after taking care of your wound to prevent an infection.


  • You have a fever.
  • You have more pain and swelling in your shoulder even after taking pain medicines.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure or medicine.


  • You have trouble breathing or chest pain all of a sudden.
  • You fall and injure your shoulder.
  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your shoulder, arm, or fingers feel numb, tingly, cool to touch, or look blue or pale.
  • Your stitches are swollen, red, have pus coming from them, or they have come apart.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Shoulder Arthroscopy (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes