When a rotator cuff injury is severe and when non-surgical options have all been exhausted, surgery may be considered. It takes a lot of time and patience to recover from rotator cuff surgery. You’ll need to work to regain both freedom of movement and strength in the affected shoulder and arm. Painkillers will help with the initial pain following your operation. But what else can you do to help your recovery from rotator cuff surgery? Here are five tips:
Take Your Time
Recovering from rotator cuff surgery can take a considerable amount of time. You will need to take time off from work. The amount of time you need will depend on how physical a job you do but it can vary from three to eight months. During the surgery your rotator cuff tendon is reattached to the humerus bone. During the healing process stitches will hold the tendon in place. Over time the tendon begins to reattach itself to the bone but this generally takes around six weeks. Even after six weeks the connection is fragile and shouldn’t be put under any unnecessary strain. This may be frustrating but you need to be patient; it’s important to allow your rotator cuff plenty of time to recover in order to prevent further injury.
Avoid Certain Arm Movements
Some arm movements are best avoided in the early days and weeks following rotator cuff surgery. These can slow down the healing process as they put undue strain on your recovering rotator cuff. Movements to avoid include:
- Any lifting
- Putting your arm out to the side
- Reaching behind your body
- Reaching your arm over your head
- Putting weight on your arm or shoulder
Reference this list of movements regularly as, when you’re going about your day to day life, it can be easy to forget which movements will help and which will hinder recovery.
Wear a Sling
A sling is an essential part of your recovery. It will help to keep your arm immobilised and rested while the tendon builds strength. You’ll also feel much more comfortable with a little extra support for your shoulder. You should wear a sling for the majority of the time during the first six weeks after the operation and always at night. It’s a good idea to spend a little time out of the sling during the morning and afternoon. Slowly building up the time you spend out of the sling over time will allow your arm and shoulder to build strength and freedom of movement. You’ll also need to take your arm out of the sling to do your daily physiotherapy exercises.
You should seek physiotherapy as soon as possible after your operation. Only an expert can help you through the specifics of rotator cuff surgery recovery. Your physiotherapist can guide you as to the safe range of movements to attempt and how far to push yourself and they will liaise with the surgeon during the course of the rehabilitation to make sure all goes to plan. They’ll be easily able to recognise if any problems with recovery are occurring and work to resolve them.
Understand the Phases of Recovery
Understanding the two distinct phases of recovery can help you to stay within safe limits and avoid pushing yourself too hard in a bid for recovery. For the first six weeks of recovery your aim is to build up range of movement. Beyond six months, the aim is to regain and build up strength. This is good to keep in mind but you should always consult with your physiotherapist before attempting any new exercises or returning to work.
The guidance and support of a physiotherapist is essential to navigating your recovery from rotator cuff surgery. By taking it slowly and following expert advice you can hope to regain your movement.