Rotator cuff surgery experience

I finally have a date for surgery and it's mid October.

For anyone who has had this what can I expect for recovery? Like could I be curling and using it by January? That would be 3 months. I have been told it's usually 6 weeks in a sling and then up to 6 months to a year before the full results are noticed. Is it realistic to think I could be normal enough by the three month mark?

Replies

  • kristingjertsen
    kristingjertsen Posts: 239 Member
    I had rotator cuff surgery 5 years ago. Rent or buy an Ossur Cold Rush ice machine and get the shoulder pad. This will help you manage the pain and inflammation after surgery. The first month was very rough. Take your medicine for as long as you need to control the pain and make sure you set up a medication schedule so you don't experience breakthrough pain or overdose yourself (Narcotic pain meds can make you very fuzzy headed and it is easy to forget a dose if you aren't keeping a pain log). Eat a healthy diet before and after surgery which will help with healing. Ask for physical therapy to help you rehabilitate your shoulder. The good news is that the surgery will alleviate most of your pain and allow you to regain your range of motion. Realize that you will probably need to do the shoulder exercises a few times per week for the rest of your life to prevent recurring shoulder problems. Even 5 years out, I still do the exercises and limit overhead reaching and lifting. If I overwork the shoulder, I get pain. Talk with your physical therapist about exercise safety going forward. Good luck to you. You will probably be doing well within 3 to 6 months, but start slow, don't lift more than your therapist recommends, and try to avoid overworking to avoid setbacks. Your shoulder will let you know when you are overdoing it. This isn't the time to grit your teeth and work through the pain. You have to let it heal.
  • AliNouveau
    AliNouveau Posts: 36,287 Member
    That's awesome thanks!!! I already go to physio once a week and will continue to do so once I am allowed to. He told me this is just maintenance right now and then the real work will begin.

    So maybe curling in January is a bit optimistic
  • lrsirius
    lrsirius Posts: 328 Member
    I too had rotator cuff surgery (multiple tears, old scar tissue), mine was in 2012. Had PT twice a week/6 months before and 4 months after. Don’t wait too long after surgery to start PT, makes it easier to loosen any scar tissue. A great therapist is key. Recovery was remarkably painless, I only needed half doses of pain meds for a few days, but I found it helpful to take a half or less dose before PT (my therapist and surgeon both recommended this). My shoulder was back to full range of motion quickly, but it felt mildly achy for over a year as I also had a bit of bone shaved. It will be definitely 3 months but likely closer to 6 before you feel normal-ish. I was back to most activities in that time frame and only had to limit mountain biking/cycling; it took 2 years for me to feel comfortable on a long ride.

    You have probably done this but triple check that you actually need the surgery. Many rotator tears will repair themselves with proper treatment and rehabbing of underlying muscle weaknesses. If your shoulder is freezing up then you probably should go through with it. My therapist worked on professional athletes/rowers and he rarely recommended surgery to anyone, but he thought it was necessary in my case as I still had limitations after 6 months of PT.

    Good luck!
  • sgt1372
    sgt1372 Posts: 3,977 Member
    edited September 2019
    I've at rotator cuff surgery in both shoulders at different times in my life.

    What you was told is correct. 6 wks in a sling, 3 months of PT to get basic strength and ROM back, 6 months til you can lift any meaningful wt again and at least a yr for full recovery.

    If done properly, curls should not directly involve the rotator cuff and you probably could do them w/in 3 months, especially if you use a curling brace wc locks in your upper arms BUT why bother when it could negatively affect your recovery?

    I've had multiple surgeries (not just RCs) and,each time I allowed my body to FULLY recover b4 testing it w/strenuous exercise again.

    I highly recommend that you do the same.


  • sgt1372
    sgt1372 Posts: 3,977 Member
    edited September 2019
    lrsirius wrote: »
    Many rotator tears will repair themselves with proper treatment and rehabbing of underlying muscle weaknesses.

    I'm sorry but it is NOT true that a RC tear can repair itself. Once torn, a ligament will ALWAYS remain torn. Tendons on the other hand can heal but an RC tear is a ligament tear and it will NEVER heal.

    However, it is true that you can sometimes overcome (at least in part) the physical limitations associated w/a ligament tear by strengthening the muscles around it.

    For example, I have a 3way ligament tear in my left knee (ACL, MCL & PCL) suffered while skiing over 30 yrs ago that I chose not to have repaired w/surgery because of the complexity of the operation and the length of PT and recovery required.

    I was able to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee over time so that I could engage in normal activities BUT if I ever twist my knee in the same way that caused the 3way tear, the knee will still painfully pop out.

    The only way to avoid this from happening is to wear an orthotic brace which prevents the knee from twisting. I bought and used one shortly after my injury and could ski aggressively with it on.

    However, the shoulder is much more complex than the knee and there is no device available that will allow you to use your shoulder with a RC tear in the same way as you can ligament knee tear.

    If there were, I would have bought 2 of them, one for each shoulder that had an RC tear in order to avoid the need for surgery as I did for my knee.
  • AliNouveau
    AliNouveau Posts: 36,287 Member
    lrsirius wrote: »
    I too had rotator cuff surgery (multiple tears, old scar tissue), mine was in 2012. Had PT twice a week/6 months before and 4 months after. Don’t wait too long after surgery to start PT, makes it easier to loosen any scar tissue. A great therapist is key. Recovery was remarkably painless, I only needed half doses of pain meds for a few days, but I found it helpful to take a half or less dose before PT (my therapist and surgeon both recommended this). My shoulder was back to full range of motion quickly, but it felt mildly achy for over a year as I also had a bit of bone shaved. It will be definitely 3 months but likely closer to 6 before you feel normal-ish. I was back to most activities in that time frame and only had to limit mountain biking/cycling; it took 2 years for me to feel comfortable on a long ride.

    You have probably done this but triple check that you actually need the surgery. Many rotator tears will repair themselves with proper treatment and rehabbing of underlying muscle weaknesses. If your shoulder is freezing up then you probably should go through with it. My therapist worked on professional athletes/rowers and he rarely recommended surgery to anyone, but he thought it was necessary in my case as I still had limitations after 6 months of PT.

    Good luck!

    Thanks. I've done physio for over a year and it's done nothing. The MRI shows an almost full tear, 2 small ones and a bicep tear which could be genetic but since it causes pain too it's probably going to need to be repaired. It's painful every day and has no strength. I'll keep up physio and my activities until it's repaired
  • AliNouveau
    AliNouveau Posts: 36,287 Member
    sgt1372 wrote: »
    I've at rotator cuff surgery in both shoulders at different times in my life.

    What you was told is correct. 6 wks in a sling, 3 months of PT to get basic strength and ROM back, 6 months til you can lift any meaningful wt again and at least a yr for full recovery.

    If done properly, curls should not directly involve the rotator cuff and you probably could do them w/in 3 months, especially if you use a curling brace wc locks in your upper arms BUT why bother when it could negatively affect your recovery?

    I've had multiple surgeries (not just RCs) and,each time I allowed my body to FULLY recover b4 testing it w/strenuous exercise again.

    I highly recommend that you do the same.


    Thanks. I meant curling the sport. Shoving a 40lb granite rock along the ice haha. Bicep curls are out for me because of a split tear in that tendon.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,876 Member
    AliNouveau wrote: »
    I finally have a date for surgery and it's mid October.

    For anyone who has had this what can I expect for recovery? Like could I be curling and using it by January? That would be 3 months. I have been told it's usually 6 weeks in a sling and then up to 6 months to a year before the full results are noticed. Is it realistic to think I could be normal enough by the three month mark?

    Not remotely...
  • AliNouveau
    AliNouveau Posts: 36,287 Member
    sgt1372 wrote: »
    lrsirius wrote: »
    Many rotator tears will repair themselves with proper treatment and rehabbing of underlying muscle weaknesses.

    I'm sorry but it is NOT true that a RC tear can repair itself. Once torn, a ligament will ALWAYS remain torn. Tendons on the other hand can heal but an RC tear is a ligament tear and it will NEVER heal.

    However, it is true that you can sometimes overcome (at least in part) the physical limitations associated w/a ligament tear by strengthening the muscles around it.

    For example, I have a 3way ligament tear in my left knee (ACL, MCL & PCL) suffered while skiing over 30 yrs ago that I chose not to have repaired w/surgery because of the complexity of the operation and the length of PT and recovery required.

    I was able to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee over time so that I could engage in normal activities BUT if I ever twist my knee in the same way that caused the 3way tear, the knee will still painfully pop out.

    The only way to avoid this from happening is to wear an orthotic brace which prevents the knee from twisting. I bought and used one shortly after my injury and could ski aggressively with it on.

    However, the shoulder is much more complex than the knee and there is no device available that will allow you to use your shoulder with a RC tear in the same way as you can ligament knee tear.

    If there were, I would have bought 2 of them, one for each shoulder that had an RC tear in order to avoid the need for surgery as I did for my knee.

    This is true. They noted on my MRI I have good muscle bulk. This is because 3 years ago when my shoulder started hurting I made a concerted effort to work on them in an effort to help it. I took muscle relaxers for a back issue in March and wow I then realized the muscles are what's holding it together.

    I read for the tears they're like when you get a hole in say you're jeans. If it's small it can be preserved and worked with, once it reaches a certain size just accept the jeans are toast
  • sgt1372
    sgt1372 Posts: 3,977 Member
    AliNouveau wrote: »
    sgt1372 wrote: »
    I've at rotator cuff surgery in both shoulders at different times in my life.

    What you was told is correct. 6 wks in a sling, 3 months of PT to get basic strength and ROM back, 6 months til you can lift any meaningful wt again and at least a yr for full recovery.

    If done properly, curls should not directly involve the rotator cuff and you probably could do them w/in 3 months, especially if you use a curling brace wc locks in your upper arms BUT why bother when it could negatively affect your recovery?

    I've had multiple surgeries (not just RCs) and,each time I allowed my body to FULLY recover b4 testing it w/strenuous exercise again.

    I highly recommend that you do the same.


    Thanks. I meant curling the sport. Shoving a 40lb granite rock along the ice haha. Bicep curls are out for me because of a split tear in that tendon.

    LOL!

    In that case, I'd say no unless you just toss them which from which I've seen is done mainly w/your body momentum but certainly not if you are a "brusher" wc I think would be too stressful on your shoulder.
  • AliNouveau
    AliNouveau Posts: 36,287 Member
    sgt1372 wrote: »
    AliNouveau wrote: »
    sgt1372 wrote: »
    I've at rotator cuff surgery in both shoulders at different times in my life.

    What you was told is correct. 6 wks in a sling, 3 months of PT to get basic strength and ROM back, 6 months til you can lift any meaningful wt again and at least a yr for full recovery.

    If done properly, curls should not directly involve the rotator cuff and you probably could do them w/in 3 months, especially if you use a curling brace wc locks in your upper arms BUT why bother when it could negatively affect your recovery?

    I've had multiple surgeries (not just RCs) and,each time I allowed my body to FULLY recover b4 testing it w/strenuous exercise again.

    I highly recommend that you do the same.


    Thanks. I meant curling the sport. Shoving a 40lb granite rock along the ice haha. Bicep curls are out for me because of a split tear in that tendon.

    LOL!

    In that case, I'd say no unless you just toss them which from which I've seen is done mainly w/your body momentum but certainly not if you are a "brusher" wc I think would be too stressful on your shoulder.

    ya the sweeping is amazing exercise for the shoulders but hurts like heck. Most people at my level of curling aren't very effective with sweeping so I could always just not sweep

    bicep curls I've been warned about and I'm limited to about 5lb and the instructions are if it hurts stop. It usually hurts. In good news my left arm muscles are quite beautiful from being used to compensate for the injured right one