Life After Rotator Cuff Surgery: How to Speed Your Recovery

Your shoulder endures so much motion and stress that an injured rotator cuff often needs surgery to restore optimal strength and stability.

After your procedure, it’s vital to give your shoulder enough time to heal, but you may speed up your recovery by following these tips from experienced orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Lee at Orange Orthopedic Associates.

Come to grips with the time factor

Although there are steps you can take to speed your recovery, muscles and tendons need a certain amount of time to heal.

The length of time varies, depending on your age, nutritional status, and the extent of your injury. But you can’t get around the physical process of healing, which takes about 6-10 weeks.

What’s more challenging than waiting up to 10 weeks? The fact that you may feel better before your shoulder fully heals. You’ll be tempted to get more active because you feel fine, but it’s easy to reinjure the muscle or tendon with minimal activity if it hasn’t completely healed.

Your rehabilitation begins in 10 weeks, and most patients can get back to normal daily activities in about 12 weeks. However, you won’t be able to participate in vigorous sports for about 4-6 months.

It may help to remind yourself that chronic shoulder instability due to improper healing is a real risk that can permanently keep you out of the game. Think of your 4-6 months as the opportunity to regain optimal function so you won’t have to give up the activities you love.

Follow your postsurgical care instructions

You’ll speed your recovery by diligently following your discharge and self-care instructions. One of the most important instructions is to rest when you feel tired. I understand that’s hard when you have a busy schedule and responsibilities, but your body requires rest to heal.

There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about rest because the amount needed differs for each person. The key is to rest when you feel tired; don’t push yourself to the point of fatigue.

You’ll also have specific instructions for keeping your shoulder immobilized, which is essential for the fastest possible recovery. If you have any questions about your post-surgery instructions, don’t wait for your follow-up appointment. Call the office so we can help.

Prepare your environment to support recovery

Think about all the things you do that require you to raise your arm or use it to push or pull because you’ll need to avoid these movements while your shoulder is healing. Even the simplest daily activities like brushing your teeth or reaching into the kitchen cabinet won’t be possible.

In the week before your surgery, go through your house, moving the most essential items so that they’re within your reach while your shoulder is immobilized and in a sling.

Many patients don’t think about how they’ll bathe while keeping their shoulder immobile. A shower chair, detachable shower head, and pump soap can make it easier.

Lying down to sleep can be a problem because you’ll need to wear your sling at all times. You may want to get a reading pillow with arm rests to put on your bed, or you could consider sleeping in a recliner for a short time.

Get the nutrition you need to heal

Your body needs more nutrients and energy than normal while it heals tissues. In addition to eating a well-balanced diet, you may need more of key nutrients such as:

A deficiency in any of these nutrients will interfere with wound healing and slow your recovery. Supplements are a great way to fill in the gap if there’s a chance your diet falls short.

If you were under general anesthesia, be sure to include high-fiber foods, such as oatmeal, beans, broccoli, and shredded wheat or all-bran cereal, in your meal plan. These foods will help you avoid constipation, which is common after anesthesia.

As your surgeon, I’m dedicated to promoting a fast yet optimal recovery. Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions before you come in for your follow-up appointment.

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