How To Successfully Recover From Rotator Cuff Surgery

Posted on: 13 October 2015

The rotator cuff is a band of tendons primarily responsible for keeping your shoulder together. Injuring it causes pain and instability in your shoulder, including the risk of a dislocation. Surgical repair of this structure is necessary to return it to its normal functionality. Here is what you need to know to recover successfully from rotator cuff repair so you won't have future issues with your shoulder.

Recovery is a Lengthy Process

The tendons in the rotator cuff connect a number of muscles to the shoulder joint. This holds the bones in the shoulder in place while allowing a wide range of motion. Tendons have a limited blood supply flowing through them compared to muscles, so an injury takes longer to heal. The typical shoulder injury is a tear in the tendon that must be sutured together. It takes several weeks for the tendon to heal sufficiently to support the forces that the muscles place on the shoulder without being re-injured.

What to Expect After Rotator Cuff Surgery

The shoulder surgeon will send you home with your arm in a special sling that holds your shoulder close to your body. You can move your hand, wrist and forearm while in the sling, but not the shoulder. You'll wear this sling constantly for several weeks, removing it only to bathe. This is to allow the tissues in your shoulder to heal sufficiently to move onto the next phase of your recovery--physical therapy.

Therapy on Your Shoulder

Once your doctor is satisfied with the healing in your shoulder, you'll begin a long program of physical therapy to restore normal movement of your shoulder. To be successful, this is a long and slow process to prevent re-injuring the shoulder during the therapy.

Physical therapy is a two-step process, each taking several weeks to complete. Patience and determination are necessary during your therapy. When your shoulder is feeling better is when you are most at risk of re-injuring it. You'll be tempted to overdo it and stress your shoulder beyond its limits. Re-tearing the tendon at this point can happen, requiring another surgery and starting back at square one with your recovery.

Muscle Flexibility

Returning the shoulder muscles to their normal flexibility is the first phase of physical therapy. The therapist will work with your shoulder to put it through its normal range of motion. They will show you exercises that you can do to slowly stretch the muscles out to their normal length. Your shoulder will feel stiff from being immobilized for several weeks, but it will loosen up as you slowly regain flexibility.

Muscle Strengthening

The second phase of physical therapy is to strengthen the shoulder muscles so they can support your shoulder without being injured. Even though it's been months since your shoulder surgery, you are still at risk of injuring yourself if you push the shoulder beyond what it is ready for. The physical therapist will help you set a pace and know the limits beyond which you must not go.

It takes months to return a shoulder to normal after a rotator cuff injury. If you'll be returning to participating in sports activities, your recovery will be even longer. Your patience in doing the therapy on your shoulder will pay off with a fully-healed shoulder that can withstand the rigors of normal daily activity.

For professional help with this problem, contact a company such as Interior Alaska Orthopedic & Sports Medicine.