With proper preparation and a high-caliber rehabilitation plan, you can return to the activities you love quickly following rotator cuff surgery.
The rotator cuff is an important part of the shoulder that helps support and raise the arm and makes many physical activities possible. Often affecting athletes, a tear or rupture in this area is generally the result of trauma or gradual wear and tear. This injury can be debilitating, leading to pain, weakness, and a limited range of motion in the shoulder.
Minor tears in the rotator cuff may be treated with rest, icing, and physical therapy. More severe tears usually require surgery, especially for active young people who wish to restore full range of motion in the shoulder joint. Your surgeon will likely recommend a minimally invasive procedure called arthroscopic surgery to repair the injury. Using small incisions and micro-instruments, he or she will reattach the torn tendon and remove any bone spurs.
Arthroscopic surgery is an outpatient procedure designed to reduce recovery time. However, you should follow a few important guidelines to ensure that you enjoy a quick and successful rehabilitation period. The following tips will help you prepare for your procedure and avoid any setbacks afterwards.
1. FUEL YOUR BODY
Before and after your procedure, be sure to eat healthily and stay hydrated. It’s important to drink plenty of water and enjoy a nutritious diet rich in antioxidants in the weeks preceding the surgery. These small changes can boost your body’s ability to repair itself and get you back in top shape.
2. USE PROPER SUPPORT
You can expect to keep your arm in a sling for about a month after your procedure. The sling may feel like an inconvenience, but it’s an essential part of the rehabilitation process. Even if you start to feel better, keep wearing your sling until your doctor says it’s ready to come off.
3. STOCK UP AND ASK FOR HELP
After your surgery, be careful not to lift heavy objects or raise your arm too high. As you regain your strength, make sure you have someone to help you around the house or keep necessary items within easy reach. You’ll also want to have ice packs and nonsteroidal inflammatories on hand to relieve pain and boost healing.
4. FOLLOW YOUR PHYSICAL THERAPY REGIMEN
You’ll likely be ready to begin gentle physical therapy within a few days of your operation. Once your sling is removed, you can incorporate more intensive exercises to rebuild your strength. Though physical therapy may be uncomfortable, it’s important to stick with your recommended treatment plan until you recover your range of motion.
5. SLOWLY INTRODUCE EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES
Pain should subside within two to three weeks of your procedure, but you should continue to avoid strenuous exercise for at least five months. You can begin to introduce low-impact activities like the elliptical or gentle biceps curls after six weeks. Though the recovery process may seem slow, most patients are able to return to their favorite sports and activities within six months.
If you’re suffering from a rotator cuff tear, the orthopedic specialists and in-office physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint can guide you through a safe and smooth recovery. Dr. Leon Popovitz is an internationally recognized physician and arthroscopic surgeon with extensive experience treating shoulder injuries. Schedule an appointment today for an expert consultation.