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How long is Physical Therapy after rotator cuff repair?

Updated: 23 hours ago

When you have a surgery to fix your rotator cuff tear, physical therapy is extremely important for getting your shoulder back to its best. But how long does it last? Well, let’s dive deeper into some things that may influence your recovery time.

Tear Size Matters

First of all, the size of the tear in your rotator cuff is a big deal. Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint, helping to keep it stable and allowing you to move your arm properly. Tears usually occur in the tendon (tendons attach muscles to bones). If it’s a small tear, you might not need as much therapy. Obviously if it is a larger tear or "massive" tear, things can take much longer. Your therapist will tailor your treatment plan based on the severity of the tear. Bigger tears usually require more time immobilized in a sling and the initial phases of recovery are much more conservative. They'll gradually increase the intensity of exercises and stretches as your shoulder heals and the tissues build tensile strength.

Starting with a Healthy Base

Your overall health and fitness before surgery can also make a difference. If you’re already in good shape, your body might bounce back quicker. Regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle can contribute to a smoother recovery process. On the flip side, if you have other health issues or are generally less active, it could take a bit longer to see progress. Nutrition also plays a huge role in recovery. For instance, a diet that is high in sugar can cause increases in inflammation.

Physical Therapist stretching rotator cuff

Where’s Your Range of Motion?

Before surgery, your shoulder’s range of motion matters too. Range of motion refers to how far you can move your shoulder in different directions. If you can move it pretty well, therapy might be shorter. We always encourage people to have the most mobility you can get before going into surgery. Generally, the more range of motion you have going into surgery, the more you have coming out as well.

How Long It Was Bugging You

If you’ve been dealing with a nagging rotator cuff issue for a while, it could affect your therapy time too. Chronic rotator cuff tears can lead to muscle weakness and loss of function over time. Your rotator cuff can even retract, causing the surgery to be more difficult for the surgeon and potentially more aggravating for the muscle after repair. If your tear is pretty acute (recent) then your muscles have a much lower chance to have atrophied before surgery.

Back to the Grind

Once you’re on the road to recovery, your therapist will likely give you some tasks to do at home. These could include exercises or stretches to keep your shoulder strong and flexible. Consistency is key to seeing results, so make sure to stick to your home exercise program as prescribed. As you progress, your therapist will gradually decrease the frequency of your appointments.

Eventually, you may reach a point where you no longer need regular therapy sessions.

It’s important to note that the average recovery time after rotator cuff repair is about 10-12 weeks. However, this timeline is highly variable and can vary based on individual factors such as tear severity, overall health, and adherence to rehabilitation protocols

. Additionally, just because you are done with physical therapy doesn’t mean you will be 100% recovered. It’s common for patients to continue experiencing improvements in strength and function for several months after completing therapy.

In conclusion, the duration of physical therapy after rotator cuff repair depends on a variety of factors. By working closely with your therapist and following their guidance, you can maximize your chances of achieving a successful outcome. Remember to be patient with yourself and celebrate each milestone along the way!

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