8 Tips to Speed Recovery After Rotator Cuff Surgery

From throwing a baseball to waving hello to lifting heavy objects, shoulders make it possible to perform a wide variety of tasks. Sometimes, however, a sudden injury or repetitive movement can damage the muscles and tendons in your shoulder, resulting in a torn rotator cuff.

In many cases, these issues respond to treatment at home, but when pain continues over a prolonged period, it's time to see a specialist. At Orthocenter, the largest orthopedic group in New Jersey’s, Monmouth/Ocean County areas, our specially trained physicians begin with reviewing your symptoms and conducting an exam. Diagnostic imaging like X-rays and MRIs may help gather more information, and exploring the rotator cuff arthroscopically is another option.

We offer several types of surgery, including minimally invasive arthroscopic rotator cuff repair and superior capsular reconstruction when necessary. Any procedure involves recovery time, but these eight tips can help make it as quick and pain-free as possible.

Wear a sling

To speed recovery, it is important to keep your shoulder immobilized initially after surgery so your tendon can heal. A sling provides stability and support and serves as a good reminder not to move your arm in its entirety (rotating your wrist and wiggling your fingers are OK).

Sleep carefully

Sleeping in a somewhat upright position is often most comfortable following rotator cuff surgery and has the added benefit of helping you avoid the extra pressure on your shoulder that can result when lying flat. Use pillows to help prop you up, or place something under the mattress to raise it slightly. Some people find sleeping in a recliner or wide armchair is a good solution.

Wear a sling even when you sleep to prevent too much movement, and consider propping up your arm on pillows to help reduce swelling.

Ask for help

Accept offers of assistance from family and friends. Especially in the initial recovery period, you may need help with daily activities like showering and dressing, cooking, and other chores. Arrange for rides while your driving is restricted.

Watch for complications

Complications are rare, but it's important to know the signs just in case. Call your doctor if you experience a fever of 101 degrees or more, redness or discharge from the incision, sudden and severe pain, or numbness or tingling in your fingers or hand.

Do the physical therapy

Physical therapy exercises help improve the stability, range of motion, and strength in your shoulder. Attending sessions with the physical therapist as part of your accelerated rehab program and doing the exercises at home is crucial to a successful recovery.

Keep comfortable

Rest is key to recuperation, so try to stay as comfortable as possible. Use an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a light cloth) to help reduce inflammation during the first three to five days after surgery. After that period, heat can provide some relief for pain and stiffness.

Take medication as directed. Anti-inflammatories also help you successfully complete your physical therapy exercises.

Be mindful of your movement

While certain motions — particularly with the wrist and fingers — are safe to perform during recovery, avoid putting stress on your shoulder as it can delay healing. This includes such movements as reaching behind you, raising your arm overhead or out to the side, lifting anything heavy, and placing weight on your shoulder. Wearing a sling can help discourage you from making these motions inadvertently.

Pace yourself

It's easy to think your shoulder is feeling better and then start to do too much too soon. Don't. Anything from resuming sports to challenging yourself with more difficult exercises without doctor approval runs the risk of causing re-injury to your shoulder.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain that time hasn't healed or other treatments haven’t helped, the Orthocenter team can provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. To make an appointment, call one of our offices in Red Bank, Morganville, or Marlboro Township, New Jersey, or click to book it online.