What to Wear After Shoulder Surgery

Recovering from almost any surgery can be difficult – especially if you’re on your own for the most part. We often don’t realize how much we rely on parts of our bodies until we’re recovering from a surgery and cannot use them for an extended period of time.

Having shoulder surgery is one such area since it will often mean you cannot lift that arm for a while – even to put a shirt on, and trying getting dressed without using an entire arm. The good news it that there are a few tips and tricks you can use to make the next few weeks of recovery easier to get through.

What to Wear

Having shoulder surgery will make you realize very quickly how much you use your shoulders on a daily basis. Everyday tasks can become very difficult during this time of healing, especially getting dressed.

There are a few ways you can make getting dressed easier during this time so that you can focus on healing and not damage any repairs that may have been made.


You may not pick button-down shirts on a regular basis, but during this time of healing they will likely be the best option for you to easily get yourself dressed every day.

The garments will be much easier to get into if they open in the front and you don’t have to lift your arms to get them over your head and arms into the shirt. You may also wish to choose jackets (if the weather calls for it) with Velcro and zippers so they are also easier to get into.

Lose clothing

You can also make your own shirts that will accommodate your needs during this time. One thing you can do is purchase a larger sized t-shirt, cut it from the neck to the arm (on the side you’ve having surgery) and attach Velcro straps on the side that’s open. This will help make it easier to put your arm through the shirt and then you can close it after you’re into it.

Choosing sweatshirts, if you’re going to cut the sleeves off, is a great option as they often have larger openings for their arms than regular shirts do. If you’re going to cut the sleeves off of a sweatshirt, you might want to take some care to sew the seams so they don’t fray too much.


Have you ever tried to get into and pull up a pair of pants with just one arm? What about doing up jeans with just one hand? It’s going to be just a little difficult if you have been instructed to not use your shoulder for a certain period of time.

During this time of recovery, it’s going to be much easier for you if you wear pants that have stretch and/or an elastic waist band that just pull up. This may include leggings or yoga pants, and they will be much more comfortable for you to spend lounging around while you recover at home.

Additionally, wearing pants that just pull on will help you avoid having to worry about buttons or zippers on the lower part of your body which may be difficult to get to when you can’t move your shoulder very much or have been advised not to strain yourself.

Loose Fitting Clothes

Depending on the type of shoulder surgery you had, you may have to wear a sling (or similar assistive device) for a while as you heal. To make your life easier, you may want to find a few looser pieces of clothing to wear during this time.

Baggy clothes are going to be much easier to get on by yourself when you can’t use one of your arms as you normally would. These don’t have to be clothes you’re going to wear long-term, but just for the time you’re healing and need items that are a little easier to get in and out of.

Built-in Bras

For women, getting a bra on and off is going to be difficult during this time. For the next little while, you may want to consider wearing tank tops with a built-in bra so that you don’t have to worry about getting a bra on when you can’t move your shoulder very well.

white bra

If you need more support than the built-in bras can provide, no need to worry. This may be a time where you purchase and wear bras with a front closure. The front closure means you don’t have to reach behind you to close the clasp or try to twist the bra around your body to get it on. See what are the best bras after shoulder surgery.

If you don’t own a front closing bra, there are many sports bras that are built like this and you can purchase a couple cheap ones to get you through this time. If this isn’t an option at all for you, you may need to ask a friend or family member to help you with this part of getting dressed until your shoulder heals properly.

Slip on shoes

Have you ever thought about using your shoulder to put your shoes on? No? Well, you aren’t the only one, but in fact bending over to tie up your shoes may put unnecessary strain on your shoulder right after surgery.

If possible, and weather allows for it, try to make sure you’re wearing slip-on shoes during this time. This will prevent you from having to bend over and tie up your shoes plus then you won’t have to use your shoulder that you just had surgery on.

Another tool to help you wear shoes without bending is a shoehorn or shoe schlipp. 

Getting Help After Surgery

After shoulder surgery, you will probably need a little bit of help around your house (and not just with getting dressed) because you won’t be able to do the same daily tasks you are used to doing.

Help with chores

If you live alone, you will likely to need to arrange for friends and family to come in and help you with some of the chores around your house. You will not have use of your arm and shoulder for quite some time so you will not likely want to let chores go undone for this period of time.

You also won’t likely be able to drive for quite some time, so you’ll probably need to ask friends and family for help with getting to and from any follow-up appointments you have, as well as picking up groceries.

Cooking Meals

If you live with someone who can help you with cooking and preparing meals, this will be super beneficial during this time of healing. If you live alone, you may want to explore the option of batch cooking a bunch of meals before you go in for surgery and freeze them so you just need to take them out and reheat them.

cooking healthy food

On top of this, you can also consider a meal delivery service for the short-term while you are recovering until you go back to being able to use both arms like you normally would.

Detachable Shower Head

You may have an incision after surgery that you aren’t supposed to get wet, so having a detachable shower head can be very helpful for being able to bathe yourself while keeping your incision dry.

This might also be a great way to keep your independence, especially if you live alone. Additionally, you will also probably want to make sure you have non-slip bath mats and non-slip shower shoes in the bathroom so that you don’t fall right after your surgery.

Get Some Extra Pillows

For a little while you will probably need to sleep a little differently than you’re used to. Extra pillows will help take the stress off your shoulder and give you the support you need for your shoulder during this time.

bed pillows

Make sure the pillows are soft enough to give you some extra support for your shoulder, rather than being too stiff and you end up rolling over on your shoulder you just hard surgery on.

Purchase Laxatives

This might seem like an odd thing to think about, but there is reason behind it. Due to the medications prescribed during and after a surgery (like narcotics and pain killers), patients often experience some form of constipation and/or difficulty going to the bathroom.

By using laxatives, you can help prevent this constipation and strain when going to the bathroom. You can also make sure you’re eating foods that are rich in fibre, as they can help keep your digestive tract moving.

This can also help you a lot to make sure you are not reaching and straining too much when using the washroom, and still able to take care of yourself without asking for help.

Sum Up

Recovering from shoulder surgery may be a little painful and uncomfortable, especially since most of us don’t realize how often we use our shoulders until we can’t use them for a bit.

By taking a little bit of time to prepare for the time after surgery – like making sure you have clothes that are easy to put on and a little help around the house – you will likely find that your recovery time is that much easier and relaxing for you.

If you have questions about exactly what you need to do during this time, reach out to your doctor to make sure you are not straining your shoulder in ways you shouldn’t be.