If your orthopedic surgeon has recommended surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff you probably have a lot of questions what to expect and recovery time. Do I need to take time off work? Can I drive my kids to school? Will it hurt?
Being prepared before your surgery can actually help you recover faster as your less likely to attempt every day tasks that might push your shoulder beyond its limits or delay healing. Find out what to expect so you an enlist the help you need.
Rotator Cuff Surgery
This type of surgery is often performed arthroscopically which is minimally-invasive, in fact, Dr. Goradia prefers arthroscopic surgery for almost all patients. The surgery itself usually takes less than an hour although your surgery may take more or less time depending on the injury and repair needed.
Most arthroscopic shoulder surgeries are performed in a hospital or surgery center as an outpatient procedure, meaning patients can go home the same day, although they will not be able to drive themselves home and may need someone to help them get in and out of the car.
After surgery you will keep your arm in a sling for 3-6 weeks to help keep your shoulder as still as possible and keep the weight of your arm off the tendon. There will be some pain and your doctor will provide instructions for pain relief before you go home. Once at home you will be instructed to apply ice packs frequently which also helps reduce pain and swelling.
During the first week at home plan to have friends or family members help you with every day tasks including
getting dressed, changing your bandages, cooking, bathing or even getting in and out of a chair.
Depending on your level of pain you may feel like you can do more for yourself, but it is important not to push yourself too hard and risk not having the tendon heal properly. Do not expect to drive, cook meals, fold laundry, put dishes away or even get kids dressed and ready for school.
Approximately 1 week after surgery you will see your physician to check your progress and incision. During this appointment your doctor may clear you for very light activity and provide instructions on when to begin physical therapy.
After surgery you should be able to resume very light activity after 7-14 days. Even so, expect to keep your arm in a sling with pillow for 3 -6 weeks and begin exercises and physical therapy for the next 8-12 weeks.
6-12 Weeks After Surgery
At this point in recovery most patients are cleared for occasional lifting, as long as the object doesn’t weigh more than 5 pounds and they aren’t lifting anything overhead.
Exercises and physical therapy will continue and focus on increasing range of motion and regaining strength.
Depending on the type of work you do your doctor may allow you to return. Desk based or light duty work is generally fine at this stage, while jobs requiring heavy lifting or manual labor may not be approved for 3-6 months.
3-6 Months After Surgery
Even though you may not be fully recovered and will continue to gain strength most people can return to normal activity within 3-6 months after rotator cuff surgery.
Your doctor may still recommend exercises and will provide guidelines on any weight restrictions or other modifications.
Do I Need Rotator Cuff Surgery?
Only a doctor can make that diagnosis, but the most common symptom is pain that tends to be over the front and outer part of the shoulder. It is worse when your shoulder is moved in certain positions. Other symptoms include:
- A popping sound or tearing sensation in your shoulder
- A dull ache deep in the shoulder
- Pain at night that prevents you from sleeping on the affected side
- Muscle weakness, especially when lifting the arm
If these sound familiar, or you’ve been told you need rotator cuff surgery, call Dr. Goradia for an evaluation. As a well-know shoulder expert he developed a new surgical technique for massive rotator cuff tears that have poor tissue quality or are severely retracted and scarred. Patients often consult Dr. Goradia for a second opinion regarding a rotator tear if they have been told elsewhere that their tear cannot be repaired at all or that it can’t be done all arthroscopically.