Rotator Cuff Therapy

How long after surgery can you start rotator cuff therapy?

Your doctor will refer you to physical therapy within the first 6 weeks of your rotator cuff surgery. Each surgeon has their own protocol, so this will depend on your surgeon and your surgery procedure.

What therapy exercise can I do after surgery?

Early on, you will only be able to do passive range of motion (PROM) exercise. Your therapist assists in maintaining and gaining new motion that may have been limited in the early stages after your surgery. You will be able to progress to isometric strengthening exercises to increase muscular engagement. Eventually you’ll progress to band and weighted strengthening exercises for shoulder, upper back and arm muscle groups.

What happens at 6 weeks after rotator cuff surgery?

The tendon is still healing and building strength, and you will be able to begin active lifting, or active range of motion (AROM) activities. These help engage the appropriate shoulder muscles without weight or resistance.

What happens at 12 weeks in rotator cuff therapy?

You will begin strengthening exercises with dumbbells and therabands. At this point, you should have nearly full PROM/AROM, and begin to build strength within the motion you have.

What are the do and don’ts after surgery?

Don’t lift your arm away from your body, which is called abduction. Do not reach behind your back, and don’t push up from the bed when getting up. Early on you won’t want to lift any object with your surgical arm.

When can I lift my arm after surgery?

Usually around 6 weeks, you’ll be able to complete active lifting and motion at the shoulder. You will still be limited by the motion you have, but you will be able to begin movement without weight.

Should I remove my arm sling to sleep?

You should keep your sling on to prevent tension on your shoulder. You can sleep on your back with a towel roll to support your surgical limb, or you can sleep on your uninjured side with pillows behind you to prevent you from rolling over in the night.

What is the fastest way to recover from shoulder surgery?

Early mobilization with physical therapy, once cleared by your surgeon, then with consistent stretching and strengthening.

How much time is needed to recover?

Most rehabilitation programs require 4-6 months of consistent therapy to allow for return of motion and adequate strength for return to normal activity. If you plan to return to sports or athletic activities, this timeline may take longer.

Why does my shoulder still hurt after rotator surgery?

With inflammation and tendon healing occurring, there will be pain early in the rehab process. As the tendon strengthens, and as you begin to move more, you may experience soreness or pain in new ranges of motion. Muscle soreness is ok, but pain should be discussed with your therapist.

How should I support my shoulder during sleep after rotator cuff surgery?

You can sleep on your uninjured side with pillows stacked behind you to prevent you from rolling backwards or onto your injured shoulder. You can also sleep on your back with a towel roll under your injured shoulder to support and stabilize it.

Can I wear a bra after rotator cuff surgery?

You can. Some doctors recommend wearing light clothing with support, but wearing a bra is ok. Bras may be difficult to put on and take off, so you will want to find something comfortable. There are multiple bras made for patients after rotator cuff surgery as well.

How much should I limit movement after rotator cuff surgery?

Early on you will be limited to moving your wrist and elbow. You will not want to actively move your arm for the first 4-6 weeks, and some motions (overhead, lifting to the side, external rotation) will likely be limited for at least 6 weeks.

How long will I be off work after surgery?

Of course, this depends on your work requirements functionally. For lower physically demanding jobs, you may be able to return around 3 months. For jobs which require more lifting and mobility, time off could take longer. Your surgeon will clear you for work based on your job requirements.