TIME IN HOSPITAL
After arthroscopic decompression (removal of spurs without rotator cuff repair), the patients are discharged on the day of surgery. A sling is used for a few days, and range of motion exercises are begun as symptoms will permit. Since no repairs of tendons have been carried out, then no damage will occur from a vigorous range of motion exercise program. Although this is an arthroscopic procedure, considerable surgery has been done. It will take 2-3 months to regain full motion and strength, and sometimes longer for the soreness to subside.
You will be given a physical therapy prescription and instructed by the physical therapy staff in appropriate exercises both before and after the surgery. After rotator cuff repair, patients are also discharged on the same day of surgery. Exercises after rotator cuff repair are different from those done after simple spur removal. Due to the repair requiring the tendon being sown back to bone, this repair has to be protected to allow healing. This protection lasts typically for six weeks. An exercise technique called passive range of motion is used in patients who have had this done. This means that you do not use your muscles to move the arm and shoulder. It is done for you either by the physical therapist, a family member, or by you doing it using your other arm.
This is carried out for, again, usually six weeks after surgery. After one month has passed, another technique called active assistived range of motion is begun, which means that you begin to use your own muscles but are helped by either the physical therapist, a family member, or you doing it using your other arm. This is done for the next two weeks. At six weeks, you can begin to exercise on your own using your own muscles. A varying degree of help from the physical therapist from this point on is necessary.
A vigorous home program is necessary in all cases. Recovery from surgery to repair rotator cuff tears takes usually 3 months or more. Recovery from surgery for larger, massive tears, can sometimes take 4-6 months. Return to normal daily activities which involves use of the operated shoulder can be judged from the above. Non-lifting activities below waist level can begin at 4-6 weeks. Return to athletic activities, overhead work, and heavy lifting will require at least 3 months or more.