5 Tips to Speed Your Recovery from Rotator Cuff Surgery

Your shoulder joint contains a group of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff, which helps hold the top of your arm bone in the socket and facilitates your shoulder's wide range of motion. When these muscles or tendons become torn or strained, your doctor at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow might recommend rotator cuff surgery to repair the damage.

Rotator cuff surgery is usually performed with arthroscopy. This is a minimally-invasive technique in which the surgeon inserts a camera and small instruments through tiny incisions.

To ensure optimal results and the quickest possible recovery, follow these key tips.

1. Wear your shoulder immobilizer or sling

After your procedure, your doctor will give you a sling or shoulder immobilizer to restrict your arm movement. The length of time you wear your sling or immobilizer depends on the extent of your rotator cuff injury and the type of surgery you had.

With many rotator cuff surgeries, you wear a sling or immobilizer at all times for 4-6 weeks. During this time, you can move your hand, wrist, and fingers, but the full motion of your arm is limited.

2. Participate in physical therapy

Physical therapy is an essential part of your recovery process. This program includes specially designed exercises to increase your shoulder strength, flexibility, and range of motion as it heals.

In most cases, rotator cuff physical therapy begins with gentle passive exercises done while your therapist supports and moves your arm. With your doctor’s approval, you move to active shoulder exercises performed on your own. These exercises speed up your healing and help you return to an active lifestyle more quickly.

3. Eliminate pain medication as quickly as possible

It’s normal to feel pain and discomfort after rotator cuff surgery — or just about any surgery, for that matter. While medication can increase your comfort while you heal, it can also mask your pain during physical therapy. This reduced sensation can make it easy to overdo your activity and unintentionally set your recovery back.

The faster you can comfortably eliminate painkillers after surgery, the easier it is to assess your recovery so you can adjust your physical activity as needed.

4. Avoid certain shoulder positions and arm movements

During the recovery process, it’s crucial to avoid movements that can interfere with your healing. These actions typically include:

It’s also important to avoid certain positions while sleeping that put pressure on your shoulder, such as lying flat on your back or the affected side.

5. Don’t rush your recovery

No matter how good you feel, it’s important to listen to your doctor and follow their recommendations after your rotator cuff surgery. Even when you’re feeling little to no pain, activities that put a strain on your shoulder can significantly increase your risk of re-injury. Resuming physical activities before your shoulder has healed also increases your chances of straining other parts of your body, like your elbow or spine.

To learn more about rotator cuff surgery and ways to ensure a fast recovery, call Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow or schedule an appointment online.

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