This picture shows skin changes in the hand post a rotator cuff repair. Although the hand is not directly affected the process of putting the arm in a sling and restrictions of movement post-operatively can have an effect on the whole affected arm.
In this case, the patient was me (after my shoulder op)!
While understanding the theory behind why we keep the affected arm moving post-operatively I was surprised at how changes in the nervous system manifested in swelling and dryness of the hands, leading to this blistering and skin peeling. It resolved in a couple of weeks, once range of movement improved.
This is a great example of why we give active range of movement exercises from the day of the operation for the elbow, wrist and hand and why it’s important to work with a physical therapist post-op. Physical therapy:
- reduces swelling by increasing venous return
- keeps the shoulder from stiffening up
- keeps the tendons healthy and the muscles active – tendons need gentle loading to maintain their health, and
- By doing these small exercises it also helps the pain to settle
If you are seeing changes in your hand or the affected arm feels different it’s always worth having it checked by your surgeon.