(630) 929-2249

Recovery from Rotator Cuff Surgery

Recovery after rotator cuff surgery is a gradual process that involves a progression from immobilization to physical therapy and lifestyle modifications to recovery. The specific details of the recovery process will vary based on the type and extent of the rotator cuff injury, and individual factors.

Illinois orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ronak Patel is skilled and experienced in arthroscopic rotator cuff repair which is minimally invasive and provides quicker recovery than open surgery. Recovery after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is shorter than with open surgery because there is less trauma and less postoperative pain.  Importantly, studies report that early rehabilitation exercise after surgery can significantly relieve the inflammatory reaction of local tissue and relieve postoperative pain, accelerate healing, and reduce the incidence of postoperative complications.

This is a general overview of the recovery process after arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery. The more complicated the procedure, the longer the recovery.

  1. Immediately after the surgery, patients typically spend an hour in the surgical center for monitoring and pain management. The arm will be immobilized with a sling to protect the surgical site and allow for initial healing. Pain medication will be prescribed to manage postoperative pain and discomfort. A nerve block will assist in pain management during the first 12-24 hours.
  2. At home the arm will be kept in a sling for a few weeks to protect the repaired tissues and promote healing. During this time, it’s important to follow Dr. Patel’s instructions regarding sling use, restrictions on shoulder movement, and limitations on daily activities. These were all discussed at a pre-operative meeting with his team.  It is reasonable to expect some pain and discomfort which can be addressed with icing, short-term prescription pain medication and over the counter anti-inflammatory medication to relieve pain, swelling and stiffness, and improve the ability to participate in physical therapy.
  3. Physical therapy is a crucial component of recovery from rotator cuff surgery. Dr. Patel will work with a physical therapist to design and supervise your exercise program. Typically, therapy begins within a few weeks after surgery. The initial phase focuses on gentle range of motion exercises to prevent stiffness and maintain flexibility in the shoulder joint. The therapist will guide the patient through exercises and stretches specific to their condition.
  4. As the healing progresses, the physical therapy program will advance to include more challenging exercises aimed at restoring strength, stability, and function to the shoulder. This phase may involve resistance exercises, manual therapy techniques, and activities designed to improve shoulder mechanics and enhance overall shoulder strength.
  5. There will be a gradual return to activities. The timeline for returning to daily activities and sports will vary depending on the extent of the surgery, the patient’s progress, and the specific demands of the activities. The physical therapist and Dr. Patel will provide guidance on gradually reintroducing activities, ensuring proper healing and minimizing the risk of reinjury.
  6. Complete recovery from rotator cuff surgery can take several months, and sometimes up to a year. It’s important to continue with rehabilitation exercises and follow-up appointments with Dr. Patel and physical therapist as recommended. Regular exercise and maintenance of shoulder strength and flexibility may be necessary even after the initial recovery phase to prevent future issues.

Throughout the recovery process, it’s essential to communicate with Dr. Ronak Patel, follow his instructions, attend scheduled appointments, and report any concerns or changes in symptoms. Compliance with the prescribed rehabilitation program and lifestyle modifications is crucial for achieving the best possible outcome and a successful recovery.

At a Glance

Ronak M. Patel M.D.

  • Double Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • Past Team Physician to the Cavaliers (NBA), Browns (NFL) and Guardians (MLB)
  • Published over 49 publications and 10 book chapters
  • Learn more