Shoulder Rehabilitation After Rotator Cuff Surgery

After rotator cuff surgery, you will be given a series of shoulder rehabilitation exercises, which are crucial to getting back your range of motion and assuring the success of the surgery.

Here is an overview of some exercises you will be doing. Begin only if your doctor has advised you are ready.  Do only those exercises he or she recommends.

1. Stretching

Standing with feet apart at shoulder width, put the hand of your sore arm on the opposing shoulder and pull your elbow towards your body. 

With your strong arm, hold the elbow of the sore arm and bring it up gently as you move it away from your body and then bring it across the body.

2. Rotation

You will need a light weight rod for this, of around 2 feet long.  Lie on your back, holding the rod in your good arm.  Your elbows will be next to each side of your body.  Let the surgery elbow rest on a little pillow or towel.  Position your arms with elbows bent at 90 degrees, forming an “L”.  Hands should be pointed straight up.

As you hold the rod with both hands, take your healthy arm and push the rod toward the surgery arm, making the surgery arm move out away form your body. Only do this to the point that is comfortable, creating a bit of a stretch of the affected arm.

3. Shoulder rehabilitation to build back strength: Typically after six weeks or more, you can start these exercises.  Do not begin without approval of your surgeon.

Raising arms to the side:  Stand with feet apart and your injured arm placed at your side. Point your thump up and keep your arm straight, as you raise the arm to waist level.  Avoid raising it directly to the side.  It should be slightly to the front of the body. Hold for 3 seconds or more (the doctor or physical therapist should determine the duration).  Next, position the strong arm across the body; hold the surgery arm underneath your elbow.

Flexing the shoulder:  Face the wall, and let your toes touch the wall. Rest the surgery arm at your side and bend the elbow. This arm should be pointed to the wall.  Now close the fist with your thumb at the top of the fist.  Next, push the fist into the wall and hold a few seconds.  Again, the doctor should decide how long and how hard you should push.  As you get stronger your will know how much to increase the difficulty. You should only use a small amount of your full strength to begin with.

Other shoulder exercise you can build up to include use of a stretchy band held in front or back of your body and stretched between your hands. You may also use a pulley and rope apparatus attached to a doorknob or the top of a door jam, to exercises the arm. Your physical therapist will be familiar with these.  Do not do shoulder rehabilitation without doctor or therapist supervision.



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