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10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor and PT Before Shoulder Surgery

Updated: May 11, 2023

Preparing for Shoulder Surgery

If you have had surgery in the past or are expecting to have surgery in the near future, you know it can be overwhelming at first. The amount of uncrentainty, doubt, and questions that you have can often lead to feeling under prepared and anxious. It's okay to feel this way, but, in my experience, a little preparation can help diminish this feeling.

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Communication with Your Doctor and PT

This is by far the most important aspect of preparing for shoulder surgery. It's easy to get overwhelmed when you go into a meeting with a surgeon and they tell you you need surgery. You'll often only get 10-15 mins in 1-2 pre-operative appointments before the surgical date so it's important to establish lines of communication early. You'll probably have a million questions which can make it difficult to gather all the information you need beforehand. Establishing a team around you can help alleviate your own stress and make the process run much smoother.

Key Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Shoulder Surgery

You'll most likely only get a few minutes to ask questions to the doctor prior to surgery, so you better make them count.

As a Physical Therapist who has worked with hundreds of post-operative patients, here are my Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor and PT Before Shoulder Surgery:

Here are some key questions to ask:

  • What is your experience and comfort level performing this procedure? How many similar procedures have you performed?

  • What do you see as the biggest challenge in this surgical procedure?

  • What is the typical recovery in the short and long-term for this procedure?

  • What are the outcomes? What are the rates of return to sport or long-term disability? What are the primary complications or long-term impairments?

  • How will this surgery help to decrease my symptoms (pain, instability, etc)?

There are many more questions you can ask, but this is a great place to start.

Key Questions to Ask Your PT Before Shoulder Surgery

I highly recommend touching base with a Physical Therapist prior to surgery. Maybe you already have a PT that you're comfortable with or maybe you need to find a new one. Finding the right PT for you and your surgical procedure will pay dividends in the long run.

Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Do you have experience working with this type of surgery in the past?

  • Have you seen this doctors patients in the past?

  • If yes, was this doctor easy to communicate with and set clear expectations about the rehab process?

  • What is your typical experience rehabbing this type of surgery? (The PT's experience may drastically differ from the post-op protocol and/or what the surgeon tells you!)

  • What are the biggest obstacles to overcome when rehabbing from this type of surgery?

Physical therapists are experts at rehabiliation, especially after a surgical procedure. The more details you can give the PT prior to surgery, the more they can prepare and coach you along the first few days and week.

Give these questions a try and feel more prepared and confident heading into surgery!


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