We’ve had the pleasure of working alongside a shoulder surgeon, and we have therefore treated our fair share of people who have undergone a rotator cuff surgery. What’s the rotator cuff you wonder? See this past blog post for an explanation: My Shoulder Hurts, But What is a Rotator Cuff?
What’s the purpose of this post you wonder? We’re going to try and clarify the ins and outs of a rotator cuff repair. There’s LOTS to know, and if you’re going to go through any surgery, it’s nice to feel prepared!
How do I know if I even need a rotator cuff surgery?
Typically, to qualify for a surgical rotator cuff repair, the following statements are true:
Do I have to do pre-operative physiotherapy?
In short, yes, you should. It helps in the following ways:
On this note, we wanted to mention a few other things.
Sometimes, your rotator cuff is injured from an accident, like a fall. Sometimes during these accidents, additional body parts, like our wrists (for example), are injured. Additionally, it’s possible that shoulder pain alone can cause us to alter our posture, stop moving, or over-protect other joints.
We strongly recommend that you properly rehabilitate all other injuries/pains/tight feelings as much as possible before surgery. Rehabilitation may include bouts of physical therapy, massage therapy, or self-management. Your body will be working very hard to heal your shoulder after surgery, so you’ll want to make sure it only has to worry about one single injury.
To reiterate the final point above, physiotherapy can eliminate the need for surgery in the first place! This is true even if your MRI shows a tear in your rotator cuff. In fact, this is even true if you rip a rotator cuff muscle clean off the bone. Everyone is an individual. Everyone’s body heals differently. Everyone has different goals. And, as many of you may remember, imaging findings DO NOT correlate with pain and function. See here: Try Not to Become a V.O.M.I.T.
What else should I do before rotator cuff surgery?
How is rotator cuff surgery performed?
Every surgeon has their individual preferences, however, most surgeons do arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs. Arthroscopic means that the surgeon will use a tiny camera called an arthroscope. The arthroscope is inserted into your shoulder via a fairly small incision. The tools required to fix your rotator cuff are inserted through additional small incisions. Therefore, you’ll likely only have a few small incisions around your shoulder!
To repair the rotator cuff muscle/tendons, the surgeon will use ‘sutures’ and ‘suture anchors’ (or ‘anchors’ for short). The sutures and anchors will help to hold tears together or help to attach a torn tendon securely to the bone. These sutures and anchors are not removed. They are safe to stay in your shoulder for life.
Before we get into the next part of this blog post, it is important to note that everything in this blog post is for information purposes only. This blog post is not intended to be strict medical advice. As previously mentioned, everyone is an individual, and therefore, individual variances do occur. It is important to consult your physiotherapist, surgeon, or doctor for the most applicable advice for you.
What does the typical rehabilitation process look like?
Commonly, postoperative care looks something like this:
How long does it take to heal after a rotator cuff repair surgery?
In uncomplicated cases,
That last point carries some weight to it, and for many reasons! Due to the lengthy recovery associated with a rotator cuff repair surgery, here are some things to consider:
What exercises are safe to do right away after a rotator cuff surgery?
Although you should not move or exercise your shoulder/rotator cuff muscles immediately after surgery (see above), there are a few things you can work on right away. See a physiotherapist and get started on exercises for:
How much function and how little pain can I expect at the end of my rehabilitation?
Alas, the loaded question.
Again, everyone is an individual, everyone heals differently, and therefore final pain and function is highly individualized.
Here are some things we consider:
What are the potential complications associated with rotator cuff surgery?
All steps will be taken to limit complications postoperatively, however, it’s important to understand the possibilities. Complications include:
There’s a lot of information in this blog post. But there’s also a lot to know. Be informed, ask questions (even the hard ones), and look out for yourself.
Let us know if you thought this blog post was helpful, and we will try to post new ones outlining the helpful points for other types of surgeries!
Do you have a rotator cuff injury and need to know more? At Strive Physiotherapy and Performance, we are committed to providing an in-depth assessment to ensure we can work together to find the best plan of action for each individual client. Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on www.strivept.ca to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury.
Tyler Allen & Mike Major
Physiotherapists at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance
Strive Physiotherapy & Performance
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