The following is a guideline of what to expect from Physiotherapy following a rotator cuff repair. The rehabilitation may differ depending on the muscle torn, how big the tear was, any other associated damage or each surgeons’ specific instructions.
First Four To Six Weeks Post-op:
After the surgery you will be placed in a sling for approximately four to six weeks. This is to limit your shoulder movement and therefore stop the rotator cuff muscles from working.
During the first four to six weeks you sling will be removed for exercises. The exact movements that you will complete will depend on the area of the cuff that has been repaired. Your physiotherapist will move your shoulder for you and teach someone at home to complete same movements.
This is also the time to work on the range of movement in the rest of your arm. While you are wearing the sling, it is important to move your wrist and when your arm is supported you can bend and straighten your elbow.
Depending upon your surgeons’ instructions you may be able to start weaning off the sling prior to the six-week mark.
Six Weeks To Twelve Weeks Post-op:
The six-week mark is a big mile stone as this is the time that you can start to move you shoulder (with assistance) yourself. Your physiotherapist will direct you with what movements you should complete and how much assistance is required.
Over this six week block you will work on mobilising and strengthening your shoulder blade muscles and gaining full active shoulder range.
This is also a good time to slowly increase cardio vascular exercise. Please note that the type of exercise you choose needs to have a low risk of falling over and can not load the shoulder. Walking is a great way to start.
Twelve Weeks Onward Post-op:
From twelve weeks you can start to slowly strengthen your rotator cuff muscles. Please remember that you shoulder has not worked very much in the last three months (or since you initially injured it) and therefore this needs to start very light.
Your physiotherapist will guide you with what exercises and weights to complete to gain the strength back in your shoulder.
The last stage of rehabilitation is returning to exercises that are specific to your function, job or the type of sport that you would like to return to. Talk to your physiotherapist about what you want to be able to achieve and your exercise program will be tailored towards this.
If you have any questions regarding rehabilitation after a rotator cuff repair or if you are due to have surgery, contact the Team of Physiotherapists at Bend + Mend Physiotherapy to discuss a rehabilitation program appropriate for you.