The fastest you can hope to recover from a torn rotator cuff is several months. But it can take even longer if you're not patient and push yourself beyond the limits of your healing. Here is why this shoulder repair takes so long to recover from and how to heal as quickly as possible.
Slow Healing Results in Long Recovery Times
When you injured the rotator cuff in your shoulder, tendons that attach the muscles to the bones in the shoulder separated from those bones. Those tendons have a limited blood supply in them, which makes healing slower than in other tissues in the body. Orthopedic surgeons reattach the tendons to the bones, or sew together tears in the tendons, to repair the rotator cuff. These repairs are temporary until the body heals the tendons and tendon-to-bone connections completely. This healing can take weeks and during that time you are vulnerable to easily re-injuring your shoulder.
Rest is Required During This Healing
You'll go home from the hospital with your arm in a sling so you can't move your shoulder. You'll be instructed to not use your shoulder for any activities for several weeks while the healing progresses. Even a small force on your shoulder now will tear out those temporary repairs. If that happens, you'll go back for more surgery.
Your doctor will tell you to not remove your sling except when you take a bath. When the doctor determines that the repairs are healing well, you'll start on a long course of physical therapy to build up the strength and flexibility in your shoulder.
Starting Physical Therapy
Several weeks after your surgery, you'll begin working with a physical therapist to regain movement in your shoulder. The therapist will slowly move your shoulder through its normal range of motion to stretch the muscles. Initially, your shoulder will feel tight and the motion will be limited. When not in a therapy session, you must keep your shoulder in the sling.
This is another time when you must be patient. If you become frustrated at the slow progress and try to do too much with your shoulder, you can still injure it. The repairs that your surgeon did are partially healed and will hold up to the passive exercises that you do with the physical therapist. But a sudden force on your shoulder can still damage those repairs.
Strength Training and the End is in Sight
The passive physical therapy will happen for a few weeks. Then your shoulder will be strong enough that you can go without your sling and begin to strengthen the shoulder muscles. The therapist will show you exercises to do to begin building up the muscle mass in your shoulder. You still need to observe the limitations that your doctor and therapist put in place. Even at this late stage of healing, you can injure your shoulder. As the muscles regain their strength, they will do a better job of holding the shoulder structures together so it's harder to damage them.
The months of healing required to fully recover from a torn rotator cuff are just a fact and you can't speed that up. You can slow the healing down if you become impatient during the healing process. Focus on the incremental progress you make during the recovery time. Follow the pace set by your doctor and physical therapist and your shoulder will heal completely so you can return to using it normally.
To learn more, contact an office like Town Center Orthopaedic Associates.