Rotator Cuff Repair: What to Expect Through Each Phase of Recovery

Rotator Cuff Repair: What to Expect Through Each Phase of Recovery

People usually give their rotator cuff little thought until it’s impossible to ignore. Injuries to your shoulder muscles and tendons can occur in an instant or slowly over time. However, they can all affect your ability to lift or even move your arm.

When these injuries are severe or don’t respond to conservative treatments, minimally invasive surgery is often the best solution.

As an upper extremity orthopedic specialist, Dr. Thomas F. Saylor has extensive skills in performing all types of rotator cuff surgeries. He also has the expertise to perform most of these repairs using arthroscopic techniques at Orthopaedic Care Specialists in North Palm Beach, Florida.

While arthroscopic surgery comes with numerous advantages, including fewer risks and faster healing, it still requires recovery time. 

In this blog, Dr. Saylor explains what you can expect during each phase of your recovery after undergoing rotator cuff repair.

The day of your procedure

One of the best parts of minimally invasive rotator cuff repair is the ability to go home the same day as your surgery. However, that doesn’t mean you’re your old self again. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.

After having rotator cuff surgery, immobilization is an essential aspect of the healing process. To protect your joint and restrict your movements, Dr. Saylor sends you home in a sling to immobilize your arm as much as possible. 

Your immobilization period varies based on your repair but typically lasts 4-6 weeks, and you shouldn’t drive during this period. 

Weeks 4-6

Sometime during the 4-6 week mark post-surgery, physical therapy can begin.

At this point, this only includes passive exercises — or those that involve a therapist’s help. The goal is to slowly strengthen muscles that weakened in the initial weeks of your recovery when they weren’t being used.

During this time, it’s crucial not to sleep or lie down on your repaired shoulder.

Weeks 6-8

When you reach this point in your recovery, it’s time to add active exercises to your physical therapy regimen.

But don’t get too excited — this simply means you can start performing your prescribed exercises on your own. All activities should remain light, and you should continue following restrictions involving your shoulder.

Weeks 8-12

By weeks 8-12, it’s time to get ready to work. At this point, you can often start actively strengthening your arm and shoulder muscles by adding resistance.

Your physical therapist can provide the ideal exercises to target these areas, and you can usually perform them at home.

However, it’s important to note that it can take several months to restore strength in these areas. You should also avoid putting too much force on the joint. For instance, do not push yourself out of a chair or the bathtub.

Weeks 12-16

Congratulations, you’ve made it 4-6 months post-surgery! This is a major milestone in your recovery, and you’ve likely regained strength. 

However, your body is still healing, so you should continue to avoid heavy manual labor, especially digging, gardening, and heavy lifting.

6 months and beyond

Finally, when you reach the 6-month mark, you should feel like yourself again and strong enough to lift your arm and shoulder without discomfort.

Generally speaking, this also means you can resume all regular activities — except for contact sports. Dr. Saylor can provide personalized guidance, but those activities should wait 9-12 months after a rotator cuff repair.

Although a rotator cuff repair may take time to fully heal, it can provide game-changing results for reducing pain and restoring strength and mobility to an injured shoulder.


Do you have a rotator cuff issue? Learn more about conservative and surgical treatment options by calling Orthopaedic Care Specialists today at 561-260-5993 to book a visit with Dr. Saylor.

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