How Long Does it Take to Heal from Rotator Cuff Surgery?

Getting Ready to See a Shoulder Surgeon in San Francisco and Wondering what to Expect?

Rotator cuff surgery is a common treatment provided by a shoulder surgeon in San Francisco for a torn rotator cuff. The procedure is sometimes the easiest and most straightforward aspect of treatment, while the rehab and recovery is the most challenging. Here is a timeline of the major steps following rotator cuff surgery:


Recovery Phase 1: Passive Motion

The first phase of recovery is passive motion only. This may last up to 6 weeks, depending on the size of the rotator cuff tear and the strength of the repair.

Passive motion means the rotator cuff muscles and tendons are not doing any work. When the rotator cuff muscles contract, tension is placed on the repair that was performed. Passive motion means that the shoulder moves without placing tension on the repair. An orthopedic surgeon in San Francisco would assist you in learning passive movement techniques you can perform outside of therapy sessions.

Recovery Phase 2: Active Motion

Active motion is initiated when there is sufficient healing of the tendons to allow them to start moving the arm, but before any extra resistance is applied. You may be limited to active motion for up to 12 weeks from the time of surgery. Active motion means that you can move your own arm, but not against resistance.

Recovery Phase 3: Strengthening

The strengthening phase of recovery is the most important. Because of the injury, surgery, and early phases of recovery, the muscles of the rotator cuff have become weak. Once the repair has adequately healed, it is important to begin strengthening the muscles to allow you to resume your normal activity level.

The rotator cuff muscles do not need heavy weights for effective strengthening. Techniques that isolate the proper muscles for strengthening using light resistance bands or weights can provide an excellent workout.

Recovery Phase 4: Full Activity

Full recovery after rotator cuff surgery often takes 4 to 6 months and in some cases longer. The critical factors that determine the length of the recovery are the size of the rotator cuff tear, the ability to adequately repair the tendons, and the commitment to rehabilitation.

Knowing when to progress from one phase of rehab to the next is an art. Not all people will progress through rehab in the same way, and each individual must adhere to their prescribed rehab protocol.

This is a broad outline of the stages of rehabilitation that follow rotator cuff surgery. Keep in mind, that every patient, every tear, and every surgery are a little different. While having these steps is a helpful guideline, each patient needs to discuss their particular progress with their shoulder injury specialist in the Bay Area.

Are You Looking for a Shoulder Surgeon in San Francisco?

Do you have specific questions about rehabilitating from rotator cuff surgery? Contact Dr. Jeffrey Halbrecht for a consultation

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