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How Long Does It Take to Recover From a Rotator Cuff Surgery?

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You have been advised surgery for a tear in your shoulder joint, and you have many questions in your mind about the surgery and the recovery period.

If you are aware of the fact of how long it takes to recover from the rotator cuff surgery, and what can you do and not do after surgery, it will help you in being prepared mentally, and won’t cause anxiety and apprehension. Let’s take a look!

The Recovery Period After Rotator Cuff Surgery:

Although the recovery period may vary from patient to patient depending on the severity of the injury, it usually takes around 4 to 6 months after surgery. However, it will continue to improve for up to a year.

There are some important precautions recommended by the doctor for the patient to follow after the surgery, like:

  • Immediately after the surgery, you will be asked to keep the shoulder as still as possible and support your arm in a sling.
  • You will require assistance with daily activities, from bathing to shopping, several weeks after the surgery. This is because patients are advised not to push, pull or lift anything for the first 6 weeks.
  • After surgery, you have to keep the shoulder clean and dry for two weeks. You can cover the operated area with plastic while taking a bath. Once allowed, you may softly clean the surgical site.
  • You should avoid applying oils or creams on the affected area.
  • While sleeping, you should keep the operated arm in a sling, and place it on top of a pillow, above the body when lying flat.
  • During your recovery, your doctor will prescribe physical therapy.
  • Immediately alert the doctor if you experience numbness in the operated arm or if any of the following symptoms occur around the operated area:
    • Bleeding.
    • Swelling.
    • Increased pain.
    • Redness.
    • Drainage from the incisions.

What Are The Doctor’s Instructions That A Patient Should Follow After The Surgery?

Doctor’s instructions can include:

Pain Medications:

It is important to follow the dosage and timing of pain-relieving drugs, as they help in reducing the pain and inflammation.

Arm Sling:

A small arm sling helps in faster recovery by immobilizing the joint and preventing any accidental movement. Patients usually wear the sling for 4 to 6 weeks following surgery.


After surgery, for the first couple of days, the doctor may advise you to apply an ice pack on the shoulder for around 20 minutes several times a day. This helps in reducing the swelling and pain.


Slow hand movements like hand to mouth movement are usually allowed during the second to the sixth week after surgery, as long as you don’t move your elbow away from your body.

Physical Therapy:

Rehabilitation exercises play an important role in regaining movement. The therapy starts with slow passive exercise and progresses to active ones.

In all cases, the instructions given by the orthopedic surgeon must be followed strictly in order to minimize the chances of complications and regain full range of motion in your shoulder.

If you or anyone you know are experiencing pain in the shoulders or arms, contact Orthopaedic Associates. We are here to help you feel at your best.

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