How Long Will Recovery Take? We Answer Your Questions About Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Time

How Long Will Recovery Take? We Answer Your Questions About Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Time

OrthoAspen Can Answer Your Questions About Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery

Sometimes it happens suddenly and traumatically: a painful tearing sensation in the shoulder that occurs while rock climbing, lifting a heavy object or falling. Other times it emerges gradually: a slow degeneration caused by repetitive, high-impact use of the shoulder or simply from everyday wear-and-tear.

Whatever the cause, a rotator cuff injury can cause serious symptoms—and severely impair the function of your arm and shoulder. That’s why OrthoAspen specializes in the provision of rotator cuff tear treatments, both non-operative and surgical. And it’s why we follow our treatments with carefully prescribed and monitored treatment plans to ensure long-term success.

While many rotator cuff patients would ideally like to return to athletics and adventure immediately following surgery, ample post-surgical rest and therapy is needed to allow healing to occur before normal (and especially high-impact) activity can be resumed. With that in mind, rotator cuff surgery recovery time is a key concern for the majority of patients.

We can help to clarify what to expect from the recovery process following a rotator cuff surgery procedure and the recovery timeline you can anticipate.

Your Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Timeline

What will the rotator cuff recovery process entail for you? And how long will the full process take? The answer to these questions depends upon the size and severity of your rotator cuff tear, your overall orthopedic health, and the type of surgical procedure you undergo. There are several surgical treatment options, but by far the most common procedure is an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. Occasionally there may be a need for an open repair.

Whatever your recommended surgical procedure may be, there are general recovery guidelines you can anticipate. The major stages of recovery are featured below.

  • rotator cuff surgery recovery timeStage One: Post-Surgical Recovery
    The first stage of recovery begins immediately following your operation and typically lasts six weeks. Your surgical incision will be stitched, and you will be carefully monitored for any complications. The stitches are dissolvable and do not require removal after surgery. During the first six weeks, your arm and shoulder will be immobilized (typically in a sling). Pain will be managed as needed using a nerve block and medications. A nerve block is a very common procedure done by the anesthesiologist just before the case. This involves injecting numbing medication around the nerves that exit the neck and travel to the arm. The purpose is to control pain immediately after surgery for the first couple of days. You may or may not start physical therapy as early as one week after surgery. This depends on the size of the tear and the specific surgical repair that was performed. Your surgeon will discuss this with you at your first post-operative visit. If you start physical therapy at one week, it’ll involve passive range of motion of the shoulder. That means the physical therapist moves your arm instead of you moving your arm yourself. Moving your arm yourself will activate those rotator cuff tendons that your surgeon repaired and may compromise the integrity of the repair.
  • Stage Two: Rehabilitation
    After approximately six weeks, the use of the sling will be discontinued, and your surgeon will start you on active and passive range of motion rotator cuff exercises as part of a personalized physical therapy regimen. This stage of rehabilitation focuses on restoring the motion of the shoulder as opposed to strengthening. From six weeks to 12 weeks, you can use your arm normally and position your hand anywhere in space, but you should not lift anything heavier than a cup of coffee. You should not push, pull or lift anything as well.
  • Stage Three: Long-Term Restoration
    After approximately 12 weeks, your physical therapist will begin to prescribe strength training exercises. As strength is restored, your ability to use your arm and shoulder and perform (light) activities will likewise be reintroduced. Long-term restoration may take several months; throughout the course of this period, you can consult with your physician and physical therapist about the reintroduction of more strenuous activities.

Rotator Cuff Treatments at OrthoAspen

If you’ve experienced a rotator cuff injury, the shoulder specialists at OrthoAspen can provide you with the most effective, comprehensive care available. If you have questions about treatment options or rotator cuff surgery recovery time, contact OrthoAspen today.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400