The Average Recovery Time Following Rotator Cuff Surgery

What is a Rotator Cuff?

Anyone can be susceptible to a shoulder injury. Younger people usually see tendonitis from overuse activities such as a pitching baseballs. Once you reach the age of 40, the tendons began to deteriorate, so older people usually see tendon tears. The rotator cuff is 4 separate muscles in the shoulder joint, that form tendons and connect to the bone. One muscle in the front and back, 2 muscles on top, the rotator cuff is responsible for lifting your arm up over your head and moving your arm to the side.

Rotator Injuries

In your body, circulation and blood supply is crucial for muscle tissue to repair and maintain itself from everyday wear and tear. Poor blood supply in the tendons make them vulnerable to injury, especially with aging. A rotator cuff injury is when a tendon tears from the bone, usually causing pain on the outside of your arm and weakness or inability to lift your arm over head. There are two types of tears. One is gradual and happens from attrition and the second is traumatic that occurs from a fall, dislocation or other arm injury.

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Recovery from a rotator cuff injury happens in phases 1. The first phase would be to immobilize the tendon to allow it to start healing on its own. The patient will be in an arm sling for approximately 3 to 4 weeks. A physical therapist is required to assist the patient in moving the arm and restore range of motion. Patients are not allowed to move the arm on their own for the first 4 to 6 weeks, so they will not endanger the repair.

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Strengthening Phase

After 3 months following rotator cuff surgery, most patients will be able to lift 5 to 10 lbs 1. over their head and can initiate strengthening exercises on their own. It is imperative to continue moving the arm so that the shoulder does not get stiff. By 6 months after surgery, most patients regain approximately 75 to 80 percent of their strength back. Full recovery from rotator cuff surgery can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months, depending on the patient 1. A study of rotator cuff surgery recovery published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, issue 1, in 2008 showed continued strength gains 2 years after rotator cuff surgery 1.