Rotator cuff surgery is a common procedure performed to repair a tear in one or more of the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder. After the surgery, physical therapy is an essential part of the recovery process. The rehabilitation program typically consists of several stages, each designed to help you regain range of motion, strength, and function in your shoulder. Here are the physical therapy stages of rehab after rotator cuff surgery.
Initial stage (Weeks 1-2)
During the initial stage of physical therapy, the focus is on controlling pain and swelling, and promoting healing. Your physical therapist will likely recommend ice and compression to reduce swelling, and gentle range of motion exercises to prevent stiffness. You may also wear a sling to immobilize your shoulder and protect it from further injury.
Intermediate stage (Weeks 3-6)
During the intermediate stage, your physical therapist will begin to increase the intensity of your exercises. You will likely perform passive range of motion exercises to gradually improve your shoulder mobility, as well as light strengthening exercises to rebuild the muscles around your shoulder joint. You may also begin to perform functional activities that simulate everyday tasks, such as reaching overhead or carrying a light object.
Strengthening stage (Weeks 6-12)
During the strengthening stage, you will begin to focus on building strength in your rotator cuff muscles. Your physical therapist will prescribe exercises that target each muscle group, including the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. You may also begin to perform resistance exercises, such as using weights or resistance bands, to increase the challenge and build more strength.
Return to activity stage (Weeks 12-16+)
The final stage of physical therapy is focused on preparing you to return to your normal activities. This may include sports, work, or other hobbies that require shoulder function. Your physical therapist will work with you to develop a plan to safely transition back to these activities, while continuing to monitor your progress and provide guidance as needed.
It’s important to follow your physical therapist’s instructions carefully and attend all recommended therapy sessions. With time and patience, you can expect to make a full recovery and regain full function in your shoulder after rotator cuff surgery.