Regaining Normal Rotator Cuff Function After Surgery

By Western Berks on December 20th, 2015

Surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff is often a last-resort treatment, one that requires extensive rehabilitation to return your shoulder to full range of motion without pain. For most people, full recovery will take from 4 to 6 months, depending upon the reason for the surgery, the type of surgery and the patient’s level of activity.

No two people are exactly alike, and neither are two recoveries from rotator cuff surgery. For one thing, a rotator cuff tear is more common in the older population. The muscles and tendons of the shoulder lose their elasticity and are often damaged performing repetitive daily activities. In addition, the reason one person needs rotator cuff surgery may be completely different from the reason another needs it. Athletes, especially those participating in repetitive overhead sports, such as baseball, football, tennis, squash or lacrosse, often incur rotator cuff injuries. While less common than repetitive use injuries, trauma, often the result of falling on an outstretched hand, can also tear the rotator cuff tendons, necessitating surgery.

The type of surgery performed, along with the patient’s general health, will have a dramatic impact on the length of recovery. If an active, healthy athlete with good muscle tone (and high-quality tissues) has a minimally invasive repair for a small tear caused by a one-time sports injury, recovery time could be 3 to 6 months. Alternatively, if the rotator cuff problem is degenerative in nature, due to years of overuse and strain, the resulting large, complex tear might necessitate an open repair, which involves far more extensive surgery. If so, the recovery period could be much longer, perhaps even up to a year. Scar tissue, smoking, poor nutrition or other health issues can also slow down recovery progress.

Physical therapy plays an important role in recovery from rotator cuff surgery. Western Berks Physical Therapy can develop an individualized physical therapy program, instruct you how to perform the exercises and advance them at a comfortable rate to help you regain your shoulder’s range of motion and reduce your pain.