When undergoing surgery, it’s important to understand what your rotator cuff surgery recovery timeline will look like. Here’s what to know about the process.
If you are experiencing pain due to a rotator cuff, it can be truly traumatizing, can lead to a lot of pain, and impact day to day living. There are times when a rotator cuff can be treated without surgery. However, in certain cases, surgery is the only option to relieve the pain.
The procedure is pretty straight forward but shoulder surgery recovery can feel quite challenging for most individuals. A lot of patients opt for a post surgery recovery center to make the recovery process smoother. Others choose to handle the recovery by themselves. Regardless, it is important to be fully aware of the rotator cuff surgery recovery timeline and what comes with it.
Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Timeline
In this article, we will share what to expect from the recovery period. First things first, think of it as a four-phase process that can last for four to six months. Without further ado, let’s look into the rotator cuff recovery timeline:
Day of the Rotator Cuff Surgery
The rotator cuff surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis. Most patients are not required to stay in the hospital overnight. The surgery takes about three to four hours depending on the work required for torn tendons.
Post-surgery, the surgeon will place the arm in a sling. The sling allows your tendons to be in a more relaxed position and enable you to feel more comfortable. You will be asked to stay at the outpatient center until your pain is under control.
The First Few Days after the Rotator Cuff Surgery
During the first few days of the surgery, you will experience pain and discomfort. Your healthcare provider will provide you with pain medications to control the pain. Along with the pain killers, you will also be asked to take an anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the swelling.
It is best to opt for ice packs to minimize swelling. Icing your shoulder helps immensely with pain management. The goal here is to stay ahead of the pain, rather than chase it. Hence, take the pain medication at regular intervals to stay on top of pain management.
– Sleeping at Night
You need rest to recover post-surgery. However, sleeping comfortably after the surgery is quite challenging. Even the slightest ache in the shoulder disrupts a good night’s sleep. A lot of people find sleeping in a semi-upright position the most comfortable. Sleeping in a recliner position is the best choice.
If you don’t have a recliner at your place, ask your friends or family members to place a mass of pillows to create a puffy backrest. Make sure your elbows are pointing downwards. You can always discuss your options with the surgeon; in some cases, a sleeping aid is required. If you opt for a surgery recovery center, their beds will be able to assist in sleeping in this position.
Sleeping is crucial to your recovery. Hence, it needs to be your prime focus.
Recovery Phase 1: Passive Motion
The first phase of recovery demands passive motion. What does this mean? Well, this essentially means that you shouldn’t be moving your shoulder by yourself. Only your physician or physical therapist will be allowed to move it.
It is important to realize that your rotator cuff muscles and tendons do not work on their own at this point. This phase typically lasts for six weeks based on the size of the rotator cuff tear and the strength of the repair.
By the end of the phase, the physical therapist will tell you how to move your shoulder without damaging the rotator cuff muscles.
– Incision Care
During the initial phases of rotator cuff surgery recovery timeline, make it a point to keep your incisions clean and dry at all times. Avoid applying any creams and lotions till it heals fully.
Recovery Phase 2: Active Motion
During recovery phase 2, your tendons will heal a bit and you will be able to move your arm on your own. A physical therapist may still work with you to strengthen the muscles, minimize shoulder stiffness, and improve overall arm control. Expect to do plenty of recommended home exercises to increase your range of motion.
At this point, do not add any resistance training. This phase can last up to 12 weeks from the day of the surgery.
Recovery Phase 3: Strengthening
This phase is truly the most important phase of recovery. Your muscles will be very weak post the surgery and it’s time to strengthen them in order to return to normal activities. You don’t have to lift heavy weights at this point. With the help of a skilled therapist, use resistance bands and very light weights to strengthen your arms.
Recovery Phase 4: Full Activity
The fourth and last phase of recovery will take at least four to six months. Your complete recovery depends on the size of the rotator cuff tear, the severity of the tear, the outcome of the surgery, and the patient’s commitment to rehabilitation.
Keep in mind that there is a no-one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Each person recovers at a different pace. You and your physician both play an active role in how quickly you will recover. Immediately call your physician whenever you need help.
Recovering from rotator cuff surgery isn’t easy at all. Most patients need about six months to recover from the surgery. Conventionally, most patients will go through the following phases; passive motion, active motion, strengthening, and full activity.
With each phase, your activity level will increase. Be slow, steady, and super patient throughout your rotator cuff surgery recovery timeline. If you live by yourself and don’t have a lot of people to help you with the initial phases of recovery, it is best to book yourself a place in a recovery center.
The right recovery center will be equipped with all the right facilities and you won’t have to worry about anything from food to physical therapies to incision care. Make this choice very carefully as the recovery phase will play a critical role in the outcome of the surgery.
If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out to us and we would love to answer all your questions.