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Rotator Cuff Surgery Rehab

0 2 years ago


Date: 22/4/2022

Author: Christopher Lefever PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, USAW

I can imagine you’ve likely stumbled upon this blog post because you’ve recently had rotator cuff surgery. Or maybe you already have surgery scheduled and you’re looking to see what’s in store for you post-operatively with rotator cuff surgery rehab. Regardless of the specifics, welcome! Rest assured, you’re far from alone: rotator cuff tears are very common, affecting 30% of the population older than 60 years and 60% of the population by 80 years (1). Rotator cuff tears are one of the more publicized shoulder pathologies, often discussed in casual conversation in a frequency similar to that of ACL tears in the knee. Furthermore, as we continue to walk deeper into the current era of arthroscopic surgery, we’ve only seen a rise in the number of surgeries like yours. In the last 10 years alone, the prevalence of arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs have increased by over 600% (2).

You may be reading this text on screen with your shoulder secured in a sling. It’s possible that you’re very frustrated and in pain. Depending on your conversation and decision making before surgery with your anesthetist, you may still have your nerve block in. I can imagine that you’re fairly uncomfortable and a bit worried on the recovery process. But thankfully there are things you can do to help improve the likelihood of a successful outcome. Your initial post-operative journey should be threaded carefully with lots of sound advice and reassurance. More importantly, it will include a ton of rest, patience and activity modification. Later on down the road (and when appropriate) progressive loading will become your main focus. But we’ll discuss all of these variables in detail, with timelines and the reasoning behind them.

Know that if you have access to a good physical therapist, the two of you will discuss much of what’s outlined in this article ahead. If you don’t, we have your back — we’ll outline the general themes in your recovery. Naturally, there are often some individualized decisions made in surgery that may change your rehab plan from the themes we’ll discuss here together. Many surgeons also have personal preferences based on experience that will also dictate the speed and course of your rehabilitation. (Listen to your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist closely and appreciate their personalized insights supersede what I can offer through an online blog post.)

This all being said, get your non-surgical arm with mouse in hand ready, strap up your sling, retract those scapulae and read on.


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