What to Expect After a Rotator Cuff Repair

What to Expect After a Rotator Cuff Repair

Injuries to the shoulder's rotator cuff are common and affect close to two million Americans every year. Many cases — about eight in ten — heal without surgical intervention. For the remaining 20%, surgery may be necessary, followed by a multi-phase recovery plan.

At our private practice in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Dr. Jeremy Woodson and our highly trained staff provide state-of-the-art care that includes everything from treatment for injuries to preventive strategies to stay healthy. Whether you're an elite athlete or everyday person with an injury like a torn rotator cuff, we provide personalized treatments to get you back to your active lifestyle as quickly as possible.

Rotator cuff injury

The rotator cuff is a collection of four tendons located in the shoulder. It has multiple jobs, including linking the muscles of the shoulder blade to the arm bone, keeping the shoulder in its socket, and providing the shoulder joint's large range of motion.

Tears can occur either from a sudden injury or from long-term wear-and-tear, including repetitive arm movements like throwing a ball, swinging a bat or racket, or participating in other manual labor tasks.

Symptoms can include pain, weakness, and not being able to move the arm in its full range of motion. Problems sleeping on the sore shoulder and hearing a popping or cracking sound during movement may be other signs.

Treatment options

Many people can opt for nonsurgical interventions like rest, modifying their activity, and performing specific strengthening exercises and physical therapy to improve strength and flexibility. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroid injections, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or stem cell therapies can also help. For some individuals, however, surgery is necessary.

Surgery and recovery

For people who have not experienced relief with nonsurgical interventions or experienced a sudden acute injury, surgery may be the best option. Depending on the individual, the surgery may be performed using a traditional, arthroscopic, or robotic technique.

Recovery typically consists of several phases. Initially following surgery, the arm will likely be held by a sling and discomfort will be controlled with medication and ice. Sleeping may be easiest sitting semi-upright in a recliner or propped up on pillows.

During the first few weeks, recovery focuses on passive motion.

After the tendons have healed sufficiently, the next phase of recovery moves to active motion. During this period, exercises are done with the physical therapist and also at home to strengthen the muscles and decrease stiffness.

Once the active motion phase is complete, strength training, using resistance bands or light weights, is the next step. That is eventually followed by full activity when the shoulder is healed and strong enough.

If you've injured your shoulder either suddenly or through repetitive motions, it's essential to see a doctor as soon as possible for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Call our office today at 405-233-3602 for an appointment.

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