It only took a second to tear your rotator cuff while throwing that baseball. It will take months of recovery to be able to pitch that ball again. Your shoulder surgeon recommended a repair of your rotator cuff, which just begins the process. Here is what you can expect from this surgery and the following recovery back to health.
Why Recovery Takes So Long
The rotator cuff uses a tendon to attach muscles to your shoulder bone. The force of a shoulder injury tears this tendon away from the bone. Tendons have a limited blood supply and it takes longer to heal. During the surgery, the tendon is sewn back onto the bone. It takes weeks for your body to form a permanent bond between that tendon and the bone.
During that time, you are at risk of pulling the tendon away from the bone when you move your shoulder. Movement of your arm is restricted to your hand, wrist and elbow while the shoulder is healing. Once your doctor is satisfied that the tendon has healed to the bone, you'll begin the process of building your strength back up in that shoulder.
When Happens When You Get Home From Surgery
Your arm will be in a sling and your doctor will instruct you not take it off except for bathing. The sling holds your arm close to your body, which is the best position for your shoulder to heal.
Expect to have some pain for a few days while the initial healing of the incision, muscles and tendon occurs. You'll have pain and anti-inflammatory medications prescribed to help you be comfortable.
You'll be shown range of motion exercises to keep your wrist, elbow and arm strong and flexible, but you'll do these with your arm in the sling and without moving your shoulder. You'll also have to learn how to do your daily activities at home and work without moving your shoulder.
After a few weeks, the tendon will have healed and your doctor will start physical therapy on your shoulder. This will consist of passive exercises where the therapist moves your shoulder through its normal range of motion. This is to make your shoulder muscles and tendons flexible again. You will be shown how to do some of these exercises at home, but you'll still not use your shoulder for daily activities. When not exercising, your arm must remain in the sling.
After a few weeks of passive physical therapy, your doctor will approve some strength training for your shoulder. You'll work with the therapist with small weights and begin the long task of building up the muscles in your shoulder. During this time, you'll be able to do some of your daily activities without your arm in the sling. But this is also the period in which you can easily re-injure your shoulder by overdoing it. Your doctor will set strict limits as to what you can do with your shoulder.
It takes months to fully recover from a rotator cuff tear and get back to your normal level of activity. It will take even longer to get your shoulder in shape to play sports again. You can't rush the time it takes for the tendon and muscles to heal or you risk re-injuring your shoulder. Patience will be your greatest asset during recovery from your shoulder surgery. For more information, contact a professional like those at Interior Alaska Orthopedic & Sports Medicine.
As an adult in my 50s, I find that my body isn't as strong as it used to be. But I don't let that stop me from enjoying life! In fact, I make every effort to get the treatments I need from my doctor to improve my health. I know that I'm not a senior yet, but I do all I can to prevent the health problems that affect that age group. Because of this, I put together a health blog for people over age 50. My blog isn't a review of what you can easily find on the Internet. It's a plethora of unique information designed to help you find the services you need fast. What my blog doesn't do is tell you what to do for your health. Instead, it offers guidance and options. Please, enjoy the blog and happy reading.