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Physiotherapy after Rotator Cuff Surgery

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

If you have had rotator cuff surgery, or are considering it, you probably already know that the surgery is done to fix tearing in the rotator cuff, and sometimes includes cleaning the space between the rotator cuff tendons and shoulder blade. Post-surgery shoulder physiotherapy will be required afterwards to help with healing and returning strength and function. Patients often ask when it is best to begin this physiotherapy.

What are the rotator cuffs?

First, let’s look at what the rotator cuffs actually are. The rotator cuffs are a group of muscles and tendons that keep the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) attached into the socket of your shoulder. These muscles are the primary muscles that are responsible for raising and rotating your arm. The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis.

What is a rotator cuff tear?

This common injury can be the result of daily overuse from repetitive movements (degenerative tear), or as a result of an injury (acute tear). People who play certain sports like tennis or baseball are more likely to experience a degenerative tear, but these are also common in specific work environments where repetitive lifting or overhead work is required (think painters).

When to begin physiotherapy?

More severe rotator cuff tears often require surgery to heal. After surgery, there will be a time where you will be required to wear a sling and limit any shoulder movement. This is often a period of 4-8 weeks and your doctor will discuss this with you. During this time, it is important to keep the rest of your body moving by going for walks. There may also be very light arm and shoulder exercises that you are asked to begin within a couple days of surgery. It is important to take it easy on these and just focus on the slow movements.

After an average of about 4-6 weeks, the more intense physiotherapy and shoulder rehabilitation will begin. This phase will involve working with a physiotherapist on specific exercises that are designed to help return range of motion and strength to the shoulder. Physiotherapy requires that you follow the exercise routine while at home as well, for the full duration that is recommended.

Advanced Physiotherapy is here to help you with all post-surgical therapy needs. Make sure to give us a call.


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