Arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery is a minimally invasive procedure used to repair torn rotator cuffs. Due to the minimally invasive nature of this procedure offered at Mattalino Orthopaedic in Phoenix, AZ, the recovery period is briefer than the recovery period required following open shoulder surgery. To help you decide whether this torn rotator cuff repair surgery is right for you, read on to learn more about the recovery process.
How Long Is Recovery After Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery?
Total recovery and rehabilitation after arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery take approximately 22 weeks. However, you won’t need to take 5 months off from work to recover. If you have a sedentary job, you should be able to return to work in just two to three weeks. If you have a job that requires a lot of pushing, pulling, or lifting with your arms, you may need to take three to four months off from work to focus on your rehabilitation.
What To Expect During Phase 1
The first 10 days following your arthroscopic shoulder surgery make up the first phase of the recovery process. During the first six days of phase 1, you will need to protect your shoulder by wearing an abduction brace and sling both morning and night. Your physical therapist will take you through some gentle supine exercises to prevent muscular atrophy and protect your range of motion. They will also go over what exercises to practice at home.
During days seven through 10 post-op, you will need to practice neuromuscular rehabilitation. Furthermore, the range of motion (ROM) that your physical therapist will take you through will increase. In addition to wearing your sling day and night at home, you will need to refrain from stretching, moving suddenly, lifting anything, and extending your shoulder. You will also need to keep your incision site dry and clean and not use your hands to support your body weight.
What To Expect During Phase 2
Days 11 through 42 make up the second phase of your recovery. Remember, people with sedentary jobs can generally go back to work two to three weeks after their arthroscopic surgery. However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done on your rehabilitation, and it is vital that you continue to protect your shoulder. You will need to keep wearing your sling at home through the end of the second week, but you can take it off during PT and at-home exercises.
During weeks three and four of your recovery, you should expect to get to 170 degrees of flexion and a total passive ROM. Your physical therapist will work on isotonic elbow flexion with you, and you will be expected to work on stabilizing and strengthening your scapular on your own. Also, you should begin applying heat to your shoulder before you work on your ROM exercises to release tension and loosen your muscles. For greater efficacy, get in the pool.
Weeks Five and Six
Depending on how you’re feeling, you should be able to remove your sling by the fifth week of your recovery period. During this time, you should continue applying heat to your shoulder before your exercises to ensure you’re as loose and relaxed as possible. Your physical therapist will walk you through AAROM (active assistance ROM) work during these two weeks of your recovery period. Among the exercises you should do include:
- Bicep curls
- Internal rotations
- External rotations
- Prone horizontal abduction
- Prone rowing
- Upper body erging under 90-degrees
What To Expect During Phase 3
During the third phase of your recovery period, weeks seven through 14, your goal is no longer to protect your shoulder. Your new goal is to restore your active range of motion (AROM) completely. By the end of this phase, you should be able to resume your usual daily activities without trouble. Some of your usual activities, like driving, you will be able to start at the beginning of phase three.
During your physical therapy sessions in the seventh week post-op, your physical therapist will walk you through more AROM exercises. If you’re able to not hike up your shoulder blade or shoulder to lift your arm, some of the exercises you will be given include:
- Elbow flexion
- Elbow extension
- Prone extension
- Prone rowing
- Shoulder abduction
- Supine rotations
- Prone horizontal abduction
If you still need to hitch your shoulder up to lift your arm, you will be asked to continue working on the same exercises you’ve been working on. You should also expect to work on stability exercises and stretches to ensure you don’t lose your hard-earned improved ROM.
Weeks Eight Through 14
During weeks eight through 11 of your recovery, you will continue to work on the aforementioned active range of motion exercises. You will also be expected to work on side-lying external rotations. During weeks 12 and 13 of your recovery period, if your AROM exercises are going well, you will be asked to work on lateral raises. You should expect daily activities to be easier and more comfortable. During week 14, you will need to work on:
- Bicep curls
- Forward punches
- Shoulder shrugs
What To Expect During Phase Four
During weeks 15 through 22 of your recovery period, you should be able to complete all of the daily activities you did before you tore your rotator cuff. This fourth and final phase of your recovery should be dedicated to adding more shoulder strength and range of motion. If you were an athlete prior to your shoulder injury, now is the time to work on training specific to your sport.
Am I a Good Candidate for This Procedure?
An initial evaluation is required to verify whether arthroscopic surgery for your rotator cuff is appropriate for you. If you’re in relatively good overall health, there is a good chance you will be considered a good fit for this operation. However, depending on the nature of the damage to your rotator cuff, you may be a better fit for rehabilitation with a physical therapist, lots of rest, and pain management through NSAIDs.
What Should I Expect During My Procedure?
You can expect your arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery to be performed on an outpatient basis. In other words, none of your recovery must take place in a hospital. Your procedure may be performed under local, regional, or general anesthesia. If you are given general anesthesia, you will be asleep during your procedure. Also, your entire body will be numb. Local anesthesia will not put you to sleep. It will just numb your shoulder.
When you come in for your procedure, you will be asked to sign a release of liability waiver and taken into a private operating room. You will then be asked to remove your clothes and put on a gown. We will sterilize the affected shoulder and administer anesthesia to ensure you stay numb throughout your procedure. Then, we will make a very small incision through which an arthroscopic camera is inserted. Then, we will:
- Make incisions for the tools we need to use
- Repair or replace the injured tendons
- Repair any damaged muscles
- Remove any bone spurs
- Close the incisions
- Apply a sterile dressing
- Discuss post-op expectations
What Pre-Op Preparation Steps Must I Take?
The first preparation step you must take is attending an initial evaluation to verify that this surgery is right for you. To reiterate, depending on the nature of your injury, you may be able to rehabilitate your shoulder at home. We also need to make sure you are healthy enough for surgery by discussing your medical history, including your current health, in great detail. For instance, we need to know about:
- Chronic conditions you have
- Recent illnesses
- Current illnesses
- Drugs you take
- Supplements you take
Some medical conditions that will preclude you from qualifying for this procedure include untreated diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. During your initial evaluation, we will provide you with a complete list of other steps to follow to prepare for your surgery.
Schedule Your Consultation With a Phoenix, AZ Orthopedic Surgeon Today
It should come as no surprise if it takes you 22 weeks to recover from arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery and rehabilitate your shoulder fully. However, you won’t need to stay home from work during your entire recovery and rehabilitation process. If you think you may benefit from arthroscopic surgery on your shoulder, contact us today at Mattalino Orthopaedic in Phoenix, AZ to schedule an initial consultation and learn if you qualify.