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Recovery From Rotator Cuff Injury

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Rotator Cuff Repair Procedure

3 Keys to Rehab a Rotator Cuff Tear & AVOID Surgery [UNIQUE EXERCISES]

Youll either receive general or regional anesthesia. If you have general anesthesia, youll sleep through the procedure. In the case of regional anesthesia, youll be groggy but awake. Regional anesthesia will leave your arm and shoulder numb, so you shouldnt feel anything during surgery. This numbness may last for up to 16 hours.

A rotator cuff repair is usually done with either an arthroscope or as a surgery with an open, large incision or a very small incision. If your surgeon repairs your rotator cuff with an arthroscope, theyll put the small camera in one hole, and then make one to three additional small incisions for other instruments. The surgeon will use these instruments to reattach your tendon to your bone.

Once the tendon is in the right place, your surgeon will attach it with sutures. Often, surgeons will use small rivets called suture anchors. These rivets may be made of metal or of a material that eventually dissolves. Neither type of rivet will need to be removed. The sutures attach to the rivets, reattaching the tendon to the bone from where it was torn.

If your rotator cuff tear is larger, you may need a traditional surgery approach to fix it. This means a larger, open incision instead of the arthroscopic approach. The incision could be 2.5 to 4 inches long for a regular open repair, or 1.25 to 2 inches long for a mini-open repair.

Can A Rotator Cuff Tear Be Healed Or Strengthened Without Surgery

The majority of rotator cuff tears can be treated nonsurgically using one or more of these treatments:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy

The goals of treatment are to relieve pain and restore strength to the involved shoulder.

Even though most tears cannot heal on their own, you can often achieve good function without surgery.

If, however, you are active or use your arm for overhead work or sports, surgery is most often recommended because many tears will not heal without surgery.

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Rotator Cuff Tear Recovery Time

The rotator cuff tear recovery time tends to be between 3 to 8 months. Its a large gap, I know, but the truth is that tons of factors come into play while healing.

The most relevant is the treatment modality conservative or surgical. Both work well for rotator cuff tears, but the way to recovery differs greatly between them.

Below, youll learn about each phase of the recovery timeline for rotator cuff tears, depending on the treatment. Heres what well cover tap on the bullet to go to its section:

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How Do You Know If You Need Surgery

Not all rotator cuff injuries require surgery. Depending on the severity of the injury, your doctor might prescribe more conservative treatments first. Simple at-home measures like rest and ice can help manage your symptoms while you undergo physical therapy to strengthen the injured tendons. Targeted physical therapy exercises will help you regain strength and range of motion. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories or inject cortisone directly into the injured shoulder.

More conservative approaches to treatment may only temporarily provide rotator cuff pain relief. If the injury is a severe tear that results in constant pain, or it does not respond to more conservative treatment, it is unlikely symptoms will resolve without surgery. Pain and weakness may increase if the tear or tears do not get surgically addressed.

If you think you may need surgery, learn more about if you may need one.

Preparation For Surgery 2 To 4 Weeks

Life After Rotator Cuff Surgery: How to Speed Your Recovery: James M ...

This period is to prepare your shoulder for the surgery. The goal is to have your joint as strong and mobile as possible to reduce the risk of complications and have a quicker recovery.

Your doctor may recommend working with a physical therapist for this. This will ensure you have an individualized treatment to increase your chances of success.

Pro tip: If possible, do your pre and post-operative rehab in the same clinic. The familiarity between you and your therapist can speed up your recovery.

Things youll work on:

  • Rundown about what to expect after a rotator cuff surgery
  • Resistance exercises to strengthen your shoulder muscles
  • Stretching exercises to improve arm and shoulder blade mobility

Success criteria:

  • As close to a full range of shoulder motion as possible
  • No visible redness and swelling

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Wear A Shoulder Immobilizer Or Sling After Rotator Cuff Repair

After surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will typically give you a sling or similar item to immobilize your affected shoulder and limit your range of motion.

The device will help recover surrounding tissue, prevent future injuries, and help reduce swelling in the affected arm.

Following a treatment plan will help you live pain-free and regain motion faster when undergoing surgery.

There are various types of repair procedures, including open surgery.

Although wearing your sling will restrict arm movement and might feel uncomfortable at times, it will help your recovery in the long run, regardless of your type of surgery.

What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What caused the rotator cuff tear?
  • What is the best treatment for me?
  • What can I do to lower the risk of getting another rotator cuff tear?
  • Should I look out for signs of complications?
  • Which signs of complications?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If you work a very physical job or youre an athlete, a rotator cuff injury will likely bench you, but it doesnt have to be the end of your career. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment options, whether nonsurgical or surgical. Your shoulder may be weak and painful for a while, but it will eventually heal.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/28/2021.


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Key Points About Rotator Cuff Injury

  • Your rotator cuff is one of the most important parts of your shoulder. It allows you to lift your arms and reach up.
  • Injury and breakdown are the 2 main causes of rotator cuff tears.
  • Symptoms may include pain that keeps coming back, muscle weakness, limited ability to move your arm, and grating or cracking sounds when moving your arm.
  • Treatment may include rest, medicine, strengthening and stretching exercises, and surgery.

Recover Better Faster Stronger

Exercises for a rotator cuff tear to help you recover quickly

Full recovery may take up to 6 months to feel like yourself again after a surgical repair. What may help speed up recovery and more importantly a rapid return to full strength is targeted amino acid supplementation. Rebuilding soft tissues like muscles, collagen, and connective tissues require first and foremost the nine essential amino acids that humans cannot synthesize themselves. Your doctor may advise consuming a protein shake each day to increase your supply of these amino acids, but an essential amino acid supplement can do the same much faster. Learn how here.

Up to 25% off Amino

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Our information has been awarded the PIF TICK for trustworthy health information. It also follows the principles of the The Information Standard.

What Is The Rotator Cuff And What Does It Do

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that come together as tendons to form a “cuff,” or cover, over the head of the humerus .

The four muscles supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor originate from the scapula . The rotator cuff tendons attach to the head of the humerus in bony spots referred to as the greater and lesser tuberosities.

The rotator cuff helps to lift and rotate the arm and to stabilize the ball of the shoulder within the joint.

The rotator cuff tendons cover the head of the humerus , helping you to raise and rotate your arm.

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Rotator Cuff Surgery And Recovery

Going into any surgery can be scary, and there are always lots of things to consider. Feeling prepared when you walk in is nice, but wouldnt it be even nicer if you could walk in AND out feeling completely prepared for your recovery and future?

Weve had the pleasure of working alongside a shoulder surgeon, and we have therefore treated our fair share of people who have undergone a rotator cuff surgery.

Read on for all the ins and outs of a rotator cuff repair! Theres LOTS to know, and if youre going to go through any surgery, its nice to feel prepared!

How Much Does Rotator Cuff Surgery Cost

Rotator Cuff Tear Physiotherapy

The price of rotator cuff surgery will depend on several factors. Estimates range from $6,628 to $11,180, but talking to your insurance carrier is the best way to get an accurate estimate for you. The price of the surgery will hinge on variables such as your insurance coverage, your annual deductible, your coinsurance and your out-of-pocket maximum. The cost of the surgery will include the surgeon, anesthesia, imaging, lab tests and the hospital. You could receive separate bills for each of these services. When talking to your insurance company, it can be helpful to reference specific codes related to shoulder arthroscopy. Commonly used codes for arthroscopic rotator cuff repair include:

  • 29821: Shoulder arthroscopy

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What Is The Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Timeline

The Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Timeline varies significantly and can take 6 months or more. A shoulder immobilizer may be required for 4-6 weeks for maximal healing. There are four common phases.

  • Phase 1:Passive motion: 1-6 weeks depending upon the size of tear and strength of the repair.
  • Phase 2: Active Motion: 6-12 weeks. You start moving your shoulder with the contraction of your muscles.
  • Phase 3: Strengthening: 12-16 weeks. Injury, surgery, early phases of restricted motion result in weakness that now must be restored.
  • Phase 4 Full activity: 16-24 weeks. Strengthening with continued improvement in range of motion and return to play.

Different rehabilitation protocols have been evaluated. In a recent study, 64 patients were followed after rotator cuff surgery. Aggressive early passive rehabilitation was compared to early passive rehabilitation with no significant difference between the two groups at 1 year. Unfortunately, 23.3% of the patients that underwent aggressive early rehabilitation had re-tears of the rotator cuffs . Immobilization vs early mobilization following surgical repair has also been evaluated with no difference in tendon healing or clinical outcome .

Recovery Phase : Full Activity

Full recovery after rotator cuff surgery often takes four to six months. Complications can extend this timeline.

Recovery time often depends on:

  • The size of the rotator cuff tear
  • The severity of the tear
  • The outcome of the surgery
  • The patient’s commitment to rehabilitation

Keep in mind that there is no one-size-suits-all treatment plan. Everyone moves through these phases at a different pace.

Your physician should play an active role in your recovery. Place a call when you need help, because a delay could set your recovery timeline back.

Discuss any specific questions you have about your rehab plan with your surgeon.

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Tips To Speed Your Recovery From Rotator Cuff Surgery

At Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow, located in Atlanta and Marietta, we want to help you understand your surgical procedure and quickly recover.

So if youre concerned about your recovery, let us help with some torn rotator cuff surgery recovery tips.

Many people think you must return to normal immediately and do everything yourself. A big part of recovery is asking for help. Moving your arm unnecessarily, even while you sleep, should be avoided.

Getting enough sleep every night will help speed up your recovery time. You can recover from these tears or shoulder joint issues in many practical ways.

A few key ways to speed up the recovery process, reduce shoulder pain, and get your rotator cuff tendons healing are:

  • Know when you should call for help
  • Do the physical therapy exercises
  • Be mindful of your rotator cuff movement

These are the primary ways you can recover from this injury. Lets discuss more tips for healing when youve suffered from tendon tears and rotator cuff injuries.

Rotator Cuff Tear Treatments

Typical Recovery Time after Rotator Cuff Tear Surgery

Your recovery will be determined by a variety of factors such as the severity of the tear, and whether any complications arose during or after treatment. There are a variety of treatment options available and not all of them include surgery.

If the rotator cuff tear is minor, you may require physical therapy and pain relief medication. This alone could help you make a speedy recovery.

To find out what to expect from your rotator cuff tear recovery, book a consultation with one of Mr Andy Richards or one of our other shoulder specialists today.

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How Much Therapy Should I Have After Surgery

Your surgeon can answer this since they are the ones who know how much work had to be done to repair the tendons. The doctors can prescribe therapy based on the work done during the operation. If more than one tendon had to be repaired or if the tendon tear is a big tear, the surgeon may recommend that the therapy progress slower to allow more time for healing on the other hand, if the tear is small, they may allow a little more motion earlier than usual after the surgery.

What Tests Do Doctors Use To Diagnose Rotator Cuff Injuries

Medical History

The care provider may want to take a thorough history of the acute injury as well as any previous symptoms that may suggest a more long-term problem.

Physical Exam

The physical examination often involves observation to look for deformities, muscle wasting, and changes in the appearance of the damaged shoulder compared to the normal one.

Palpation means touching, including feeling the bones that make up the shoulder joint, as well as the shoulder joint itself. These bones include the clavicle , scapula , and humerus . The muscles of the shoulder may be palpated, trying to find areas of tenderness or pain.


Plain X-rays are usually taken as a screening exam to look for broken bones or arthritis and bone spurs within or adjacent to the shoulder joint. Sometimes, calcification can be seen along the tendon. Often, the plain X-ray findings are normal in rotator cuff injury.

Advanced Imaging Studies

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Are There Any Potential Complications

Any surgery comes with the risk of complications. While these are rare, it is essential you become an informed patient before deciding to undergo surgery. The potential complications of shoulder arthroscopy include the following.

  • Infection: Your surgeon will take every precaution to prevent surgical site infection, but bacteria are always present in our environments. Signs of postoperative infection include redness, pain, swelling and drainage at the site of the surgical incision. Infections like these typically need treatment with a long course of antibiotics. While you should be aware of this complication, only 0.16 to 1.9 percent of arthroscopic surgery patients experience deep infection postoperatively.
  • Stiff shoulder: A stiff shoulder is one of the more common complications of rotator cuff surgery, with one study finding 20 percent of patients experiencing postoperative stiffness. While this stiffness may be unpleasant, the study found it typically resolved with six to 12 months after the surgery.
  • Lack of improvement: Arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery has a high success rate, but it is not 100 percent. Lack of improvement is not a true complication, but the result can be disappointing for patients. It is possible patients will find they do not regain full motion, strength and function in the shoulder.
  • Retears: While arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery can be successful, there is a risk of retearing the injured tendon. The risk of this is higher with larger tendon tears.

Go For Physical Therapy

What To Expect After Rotator Cuff Surgery? (Recovery Period)

Make sure you attend your physical therapy sessions if you want to rebuild your shoulder muscles, flexibility, and mobility after the procedure.

Its easy to make excuses to skip out, but this is one of the worst things you can do for your recovery.

Improving after shoulder surgery means putting in the work necessary to get your body back into fighting condition.

Therapy is one of the best ways you can accomplish this.

The physical therapist will help you move and exercise passive motion in a safe environment, where you dont have to be afraid of accidentally hurting yourself.

Participating requires more than just showing up. Actively listen and follow the instructions your therapist gives.

Doing the movements youre assigned at home will play a big part in getting you better faster.

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Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery: What To Expect

UT Southwestern offers minimally invasive rotator cuff repair surgery, which decreases pain, scarring, and recovery time compared with traditional open surgery. The procedure takes 2 to 2 ½ hours, with an hour or two of recovery afterward. Most patients can go home the same day.

During surgery, the surgeon will insert an arthroscope a slender tube with a small lens and light attached through a 1-inch to 2-inch incision in your shoulder. The arthroscope allows us to see inside your shoulder joint and use pencil-sized instruments to remove damaged tissue, repair the tear, and reaffix the connective tissue to the shoulder joint using tiny metal anchors.

Some surgeons perform anchorless repairs to reduce the amount of foreign material left in the bone. Originally done in open surgeries, anchorless repairs are now making their way into arthroscopic surgeries. Here, wire sutures are passed through bone tunnels, then again through the tendon to be knotted around rather than anchored to the bone.

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