The rotator cuff is made up of four strong tendons that meet in the shoulder. These tendons serve the highly important purpose of holding the shoulder joint in place and offering stability, so if one of these tendons is damaged, you can have a lot of issues. Rotator cuff surgery can definitely help most people after a rotator cuff injury, but what is recovery like? Let’s take a closer look.
Types of Rotator Cuff Surgery
Rotator cuff surgery recovery can vary slightly depending on which type of surgery you have. Here is a look at two of the most common procedures that may be done if you have rotator cuff damage.
Arthroscopic surgery is done using a small camera and mini instruments to perform the repair without making a large incision in your shoulder. Arthroscopic surgery is the most standard type of rotator cuff surgery used today, is an outpatient procedure, and comes along with less recovery time. The less-invasive procedure is also less likely to cause complications.
Open surgery is essentially making a large incision to repair the damaged tendons. This more invasive surgery is not a preference but can be required if a patient has more issues going on with their shoulder that need to be addressed during surgery. Open surgery may also be necessary if the damage is more extensive than usual or involves more tendons. Arthroscopic surgery is less invasive, and open repair can require a longer period of recovery.
Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Time
Recovery will involve immobilizing the shoulder while it heals and using physical therapy to rehabilitate the shoulder after surgery. Here is a good overview of what to expect at different points of your recovery after rotator cuff surgery.
Immediately After Surgery
Right after surgery, you will feel tired and possibly a bit sore. You can expect some swelling around the site of the incision. Most people do go home right after surgery as long as there are no major complications to contend with.
1 to 6 Weeks After Surgery
The first six weeks of your recovery will be the most critical. Most patients wear a sling during this time to help prevent moving the shoulder excessively, which will impede the healing process. You must refrain from:
- Sleeping on the same side of the shoulder surgery
- Lifting any weight at all with the shoulder
- Raising your arm over your head except during physical therapy
You will be required to do some level of physical therapy during this time. However, your use of your shoulder will be relatively limited. The exercises done at this point will be more passive in nature—you will primarily be working to retain your range of motion. Because the shoulder will be mostly immobilized during this time, you may need a little help at home with things like getting dressed, preparing meals, and showering.
7 to 12 Weeks After Surgery
Moving into the second phase of rotator cuff surgery recovery, you will get to resume some everyday activities that don’t require lifting. However, this can also depend on your personal healing process and you should always adhere to your surgeon’s advice.
Physical therapy will be ramped up during this stage; most patients will have at least a few sessions a week. You will be doing more exercise to gain muscular control of your shoulder and regain your range of movement.
Even though you will be working toward more use of your shoulder, it is important to be mindful of your limitations. Most surgeons recommend continuing to refrain from lifting for the most part until you are 12 weeks into recovery.
12 Weeks After Surgery
By the time you move beyond the 12-week mark, you should be much better at moving your shoulder and should have regained a substantial amount of strength. Your surgeon will likely recommend that you increase your activity level, slowly and progressively, from this point forward. You may still occasionally have some stiffness and soreness as your body heals.
6 Months After Surgery
The majority of patients are in a good place with their recovery at the six-month mark. Some research has shown that about 90 percent of people who have undergone arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery are pleased with the outcome by six months and mostly well into living their ordinary life.
You may have a final follow-up visit with the surgeon somewhere around the six-month mark of your surgery, but this can depend on your recovery rate and healing progress beforehand. Some surgeons do a follow-up visit sooner and only ask that you get in touch if you have any problems.
Complications that May Occur During Recovery
Even though the bulk of patients have a good outcome with rotator cuff surgery, a few patients experience complications. A few complications that can occur include:
- Stiffness of the shoulder
- Retearing the repaired tendon
- Nerve injury
- Deltoid detachment
In many cases, these complications can be avoided when you work with a skilled surgeon and follow your recovery plan to the letter.
Find Out More About Rotator Cuff Surgery
When you are dealing with a torn rotator cuff, surgery can be the one step you take that gives you some relief. If you would like to know more about shoulder surgery in Tampa, reach out to Full Circle Orthopedics today to book an appointment.