Recovering from rotator cuff surgery

Are you soon to undergo rotator cuff surgery and wondering what recovering from rotator cuff surgery will involve? Then this blog post is for you. Read on to discover what to expect and how physiotherapy in Twickenham can support your healing journey. 

Please bear in mind that although the information and tips in this article are helpful for post surgery recovery, for specific advice and guidance, please contact your GP or physiotherapist for a professional assessment.

What is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a group of 4 tendons in the shoulder that connect the muscles of the shoulder blade to the top of the arm bone. It’s thanks to the rotator cuff that your shoulder is able to control a wide range of movement and remain stable. It also ensures your shoulder stays in its socket. 

Unfortunately, injury from a fall or general wear and tear with age can damage the rotator cuff, leading to weakness and pain. You may have trouble sleeping on the affected shoulder or be unable to achieve a full range of motion. In addition, you may notice a popping sensation whenever you move your arm. These signs and symptoms can make getting through daily activities difficult. Even simple things, such as reaching for something on a top shelf or securing a seatbelt, can become very painful. 

Is surgery necessary? 

Although a non-surgical approach is the preferred treatment method for a torn rotator cuff, surgery may be required in a small number of cases. You may be suitable for surgery if your tear is larger than 3 centimetres, your symptoms have been present for more than 6 months, you’re experiencing serious shoulder weakness or loss of function, or if you have to manoeuvre your shoulders a lot due to work or sports. 

What to expect during recovery 

Full recovery following rotator cuff surgery takes around 6 months. However, this can vary depending on the exact surgery you have. 

Here is what you can expect but make sure you follow your surgeon or physiotherapist’s advice: 

Weeks 0–3

In the first phase of recovery, you will need to wear a sling. For daily activities such as washing and dressing, you will likely need help. It is not recommended to use your affected shoulder except during physiotherapy exercises. 

Weeks 3–6

In phase 2, you’ll be gradually using the sling less as you start to regain active movement. As there should be minimal pain, you’ll be able to return to light work and perform tasks such eating and dressing independently. 

Weeks 6–12

As you increase cuff activation and postural control, you’ll be able to wean out of the sling completely. Key milestones to look forward to include driving, if safe to do so, and running. Your physiotherapist or surgeon can advise when you are ready to ease into these activities.  

Weeks 12 and onward

At 12 weeks after surgery, you’ll be able to engage in more activities that help you regain strength in your shoulder and allow you to use its full range of motion. General strengthening exercises may be introduced. During this stage, it’s important to not push yourself too quickly as this can hamper your recovery process. 

The benefits of physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is an essential part of your post-surgery recovery. Not only is it important for helping you regain movement, it also helps rebuild strength so that you can get back to normal as quickly and safely as possible. 

A combination of neck exercises, elbow exercises and external shoulder rotations are recommended. Our expert physiotherapists will work with you on your post-operative rehabilitation to ensure your speedy recovery. 

Get in touch

If you’re recovering from rotator cuff surgery and could benefit from our physiotherapy services, please give us a call on 020 8898 1231. Our professional practitioners will be happy to help.