So you’re having rotator cuff surgery?
The thought of having shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff may seem very intimidating and discouraging. The three to four month rehab process can be vigorous and challenging, with various factors playing a role in the rotator cuff surgery recovery process. The severity of the rotator cuff tear, previous shoulder injury, as well as other medical complications are factors that affect recovery.
With that in mind, here is a general of guideline of what to expect during the rehab process.
Phase I: Rest and recovery
For the first several weeks, an individual can expect to be wearing a sling in order to limit the amount of movement in the shoulder to allow the surgically repaired tissue to heal. The sling helps protect the shoulder, and also helps prevent an individual from accidently reaching with the surgically repaired arm. For some individuals, finding a position to sleep while wearing a sling may be the most uncomfortable aspect during this phase of recovery.
Phase II: Time to get moving
The next phase in recovery is regaining motion in the shoulder. One can expect having a physical therapist passively moving your arm, or essentially regaining motion without the patient activating any muscles. As therapy progresses, one will progress with active assistive range of motion using a pulley, cane, or other assistive devices, and then progress to moving the surgically repaired shoulder on their own. Regaining full motion in the shoulder is critical, and can also be one of the most painful and challenging phases of therapy.
Phase III: Getting Stronger
Once full motion is regained, you will begin performing more active exercises to strengthen the shoulder and rotator cuff, as well as ensuring that all the muscles surrounding the shoulder are working properly together. Exercises that you may be performing include scapular push-ups, theraband rows, theraband external rotation, and the use of the body blade. These exercises will help strengthen the shoulder, and prevent future injury with activity.
Phase IV: Returning to Sport/Work
Once motion and strength is restored, the focus shifts to more functional activity, whether that be returning to work activity, or progressing with throwing mechanics in order to return to sport. For some individuals, their course of therapy may end as they may be strong enough to return to their previous lifestyle, while others will be progressed with functional lifting activity and higher-level sport related activity.
These are just general guidelines for recovery after rotator cuff surgery repair, as every individual is different. The shoulder and upper arm is so critical for every day activity, and for me personally, is one of my favorite joints to treat. At Active Physical Therapy, our goal for physical therapy revolves around your goals. We take into large consideration what our patients want out of therapy. Whether that be returning to work, lifting grandchildren, participating in weight-lifting competitions, or returning to a sporting activity, we will continue to work with you until your goals are obtained. We have a return to sport program specifically for overhead athletes, as well as equipment necessary for work conditioning to allow you to safely return to your previous lifestyle. As the medical field continues to evolve, our team at Active Physical Therapy will continue to utilize evidenced-based practice to stay up to date with current literature to best serve our patients. If you ever have any questions, visit our website at activeptcolumbus.com or give us a call at 614-850-0500.
Written by Dr. Kevin Do, PT. Check out his bio for more information about his background and interests!