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Rotator Cuff Recovery after Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery

Woman grabbing shoulder in pain.

If you are due to have arthroscopic shoulder surgery, the rotator cuff muscles will likely experience some degree of interference during the procedure. During the recovery period, supporting these muscles can help to aid and speed up healing.

The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for shoulder movement and stability. This muscle group surrounds the shoulder and generally needs time to heal, even if your arthroscopic shoulder surgery is focused on another area of the joint.

Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery Recovery

The time it takes to recover from arthroscopic shoulder surgery is typically much shorter than that of open surgery. Patients may need arthroscopic shoulder surgery to repair damage to the cartilage or correct a dislocation. Open surgeries are usually reserved for more complex procedures, such as repairing fractures, although some orthopedic surgeons still prefer open surgery for conditions or injuries that can be performed through arthroscopy.

Your surgeon will provide estimates for recovery time, but there are also steps you can take to reduce that time and manage post-surgery pain. Maximizing recovery is not about pushing yourself to get back to normal in the fastest time possible. Every patient is different, and it is important to value effective recovery rather than setting a rigid timeframe for returning to activities.

Rotator Cuff Support

Most patients benefit significantly from the use of a sling for support after arthroscopic shoulder surgery. The rotator cuff muscles will need time to begin to heal, which is when the sling will prove most useful. When at rest, additional support can also help your shoulder to heal. An extra pillow under your arm in bed can help keep the shoulder joint stable, and will likely prevent you from inadvertently turning onto the affected side.

Rotator Cuff Development

Giving your rotator cuff muscles the time they need to heal after arthroscopic shoulder surgery is essential. Keeping the shoulder protected and avoiding any activities that would put a strain on the joint is the first line of defense against repeat injury. Where possible, avoid using the affected limb at all so your rotator cuff muscles can mend. You will be provided with exercises during the various phases of post-surgery physical therapy. Don’t rush things, even if you feel that your recovery is complete. It can take up to nine months for rotator cuff muscles to fully recover after arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

Pain Management

Prescribed or over-the-counter medications can help you manage pain while you recover from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. It is normal to experience pain that is at a similar level or worse than what you experienced pre-surgery for quite some time after a procedure. However, it is also important to work with your doctors and physical therapist to establish pain milestones to help measure progress.

Do not abandon your sling too quickly into recovery; you may find that it helps when pain flares up in your shoulder joint or rotator cuff muscles. A sling also provides the muscles with support throughout the healing process, even if you are not necessarily experiencing a huge amount of pain.

At Silicon Valley Orthopaedics, we recommend a gradual return to normal activities as you heal from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, with guidance from your surgical team. It will feel frustrating not being able to use one of your major limbs fully; however, effective recovery often relies on steady rehabilitation.

If you would like an arthroscopic shoulder surgery consultation in Freemont, California, reach out to the offices of Silicon Valley Orthopaedics to book an appointment today.

Posted on behalf of Silicon Valley Orthopaedics

39180 Farwell Dr., Suite 110
Fremont, CA 94538

Phone: (650) 379-4616

Fax: (510) 739-6522


Mon - Fri 8:00AM – 5PM

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39180 Farwell Dr., Suite 110
Fremont, CA 94538

Opening Hours

Mon - Fri 8:00AM – 5PM