Surgery for Rotator Cuff Tear

with Rehab

ExitCare ImageRotator cuff surgery is only recommended for individuals who have experienced persistent disability for greater than 3 months of non-surgical (conservative) treatment. Surgery is not necessary but is recommended for individuals who experience difficulty completing daily activities or athletes who are unable to compete. Rotator cuff tears do not usually heal without surgical intervention. If left alone small rotator cuff tears usually become larger. Younger athletes who have a rotator cuff tear may be recommended for surgery without attempting conservative rehabilitation. The purpose of surgery is to regain function of the shoulder joint and eliminate pain associated with the injury. In addition to repairing the tendon tear, the surgery often removes a portion of the bony roof of the shoulder (acromion) as well as the chronically thickened and inflamed membrane below the acromion (subacromial bursa).

REASONS NOT TO OPERATE

  • Infection of the shoulder.

  • Inability to complete a rehabilitation program.

  • Patients who have other conditions (emotional or psychological) conditions that contribute to their shoulder condition.

RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS

  • Infection.

  • Re-tear of the rotator cuff tendons or muscles.

  • Shoulder stiffness and/or weakness.

  • Inability to compete in athletics.

  • Acromioclavicular (AC) joint paint.

  • Risks of surgery: infection, bleeding, nerve damage, or damage to surrounding tissues.

TECHNIQUE

There are different surgical procedures used to treat rotator cuff tears. The type of procedure depends on the extent of injury as well as the surgeon's preference. All of the surgical techniques for rotator cuff tears have the same goal of repairing the torn tendon, removing part of the acromion, and removing the subacromial bursa. There are two main types of procedures: arthroscopic and open incision.

Arthroscopic procedures are usually completed and you go home the same day as surgery (outpatient). These procedures use multiple small incisions in which tools and a video camera are placed to work on the shoulder. An electric shaver removes the bursa, then a power burr shaves down the portion of the acromion that places pressure on the rotator cuff. Finally the rotator cuff is sewed (sutured) back to the humeral head.

Open incision procedures require a larger incision. The deltoid muscle is detached from the acromion and a ligament in the shoulder (coracoacromial) is cut in order for the surgeon to access the rotator cuff. The subacromial bursa is removed as well as part of the acromion to give the rotator cuff room to move freely. The torn tendon is then sutured to the humeral head. After the rotator cuff is repaired, then the deltoid is reattached and the incision is closed up.

RECOVERY

  • Post-operative care depends on the surgical technique and the preferences of your therapist.

  • Keep the wound clean and dry for the first 10 to 14 days after surgery.

  • Keep your shoulder and arm in the sling provided to you for as long as you have been instructed to.

  • You will be given pain medications by your caregiver.

  • Passive (without using muscles) shoulder movements may be begun immediately after surgery.

  • It is important to follow through with you rehabilitation program in order to have the best possible recovery.

RETURN TO SPORTS

  • The rehabilitation period will depend on the sport and position you play as well as the success of the operation.

  • The minimum recovery period is 6 months.

  • You must have regained complete shoulder motion and strength before returning to sports.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Any medications produce adverse side effects.

  • Any complications from surgery occur:

  • Pain, numbness, or coldness in the extremity operated upon.

  • Discoloration of the nail beds (they become blue or gray) of the extremity operated upon.

  • Signs of infections (fever, pain, inflammation, redness, or persistent bleeding).

EXERCISES

RANGE OF MOTION (ROM) AND STRETCHING EXERCISES - Rotator Cuff Tear, Surgery For

These exercises may help you restore your elbow mobility once your physician has discontinued your immobilization period. Beginning these before your provider's approval may result in delayed healing. Your symptoms may resolve with or without further involvement from your physician, physical therapist or athletic trainer. While completing these exercises, remember:

  • Restoring tissue flexibility helps normal motion to return to the joints. This allows healthier, less painful movement and activity.

  • An effective stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds. A stretch should never be painful. You should only feel a gentle lengthening or release in the stretch.

ExitCare Image ROM - Pendulum

  • Bend at the waist so that your right / left arm falls away from your body. Support yourself with your opposite hand on a solid surface, such as a table or a countertop.

  • Your right / left arm should be perpendicular to the ground. If it is not perpendicular, you need to lean over farther. Relax the muscles in your right / left arm and shoulder as much as possible.

  • Gently sway your hips and trunk so they move your right / left arm without any use of your right / left shoulder muscles.

  • Progress your movements so that your right / left arm moves side to side, then forward and backward, and finally, both clockwise and counterclockwise.

  • Complete __________ repetitions in each direction. Many people use this exercise to relieve discomfort in their shoulder as well as to gain range of motion.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.

ExitCare Image STRETCH – Flexion, Seated

  • Sit in a firm chair so that your right / left forearm can rest on a table or on a table or countertop. Your right / left elbow should rest below the height of your shoulder so that your shoulder feels supported and not tense or uncomfortable.

  • Keeping your right / left shoulder relaxed, lean forward at your waist, allowing your right / left hand to slide forward. Bend forward until you feel a moderate stretch in your shoulder, but before you feel an increase in your pain.

  • Hold __________ seconds. Slowly return to your starting position.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.

ExitCare Image STRETCH – Flexion, Standing

  • Stand with good posture. With an underhand grip on your right / left and an overhand grip on the opposite hand, grasp a broomstick or cane so that your hands are a little more than shoulder-width apart.

  • Keeping your right / left elbow straight and shoulder muscles relaxed, push the stick with your opposite hand to raise your right / left arm in front of your body and then overhead. Raise your arm until you feel a stretch in your right / left shoulder, but before you have increased shoulder pain.

  • Try to avoid shrugging your right / left shoulder as your arm rises by keeping your shoulder blade tucked down and toward your mid-back spine. Hold __________ seconds.

  • Slowly return to the starting position.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.

ExitCare Image STRETCH – Abduction, Supine

  • Stand with good posture. With an underhand grip on your right / left and an overhand grip on the opposite hand, grasp a broomstick or cane so that your hands are a little more than shoulder-width apart.

  • Keeping your right / left elbow straight and shoulder muscles relaxed, push the stick with your opposite hand to raise your right / left arm out to the side of your body and then overhead. Raise your arm until you feel a stretch in your right / left shoulder, but before you have increased shoulder pain.

  • Try to avoid shrugging your right / left shoulder as your arm rises by keeping your shoulder blade tucked down and toward your mid-back spine. Hold __________ seconds.

  • Slowly return to the starting position.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.

ExitCare Image ROM – Flexion, Active-Assisted

  • Lie on your back. You may bend your knees for comfort.

  • Grasp a broomstick or cane so your hands are about shoulder-width apart. Your right / left hand should grip the end of the stick/cane so that your hand is positioned "thumbs-up," as if you were about to shake hands.

  • Using your healthy arm to lead, raise your right / left arm overhead until you feel a gentle stretch in your shoulder. Hold __________ seconds.

  • Use the stick/cane to assist in returning your right / left arm to its starting position.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.

ExitCare Image STRETCH – External Rotation

  • Tuck a folded towel or small ball under your right / left upper arm. Grasp a broomstick or cane with an underhand grasp a little more than shoulder width apart. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees.

  • Stand with good posture or sit in a chair without arms.

  • Use your strong arm to push the stick across your body. Do not allow the towel or ball to fall. This will rotate your right / left arm away from your abdomen. Using the stick turn/rotate your hand and forearm away from your body. Hold __________ seconds.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.

STRENGTHENING EXERCISES - Rotator Cuff Tear, Surgery For

These exercises may help you begin to restore your elbow strength in the initial stage of your rehabilitation. Your physician will determine when you begin these exercises depending on the severity of your injury and the integrity of your repaired tissues. Beginning these before your provider's approval may result in delayed healing. While completing these exercises, remember:

  • Muscles can gain both the endurance and the strength needed for everyday activities through controlled exercises.

  • Complete these exercises as instructed by your physician, physical therapist or athletic trainer. Progress the resistance and repetitions only as guided.

  • You may experience muscle soreness or fatigue, but the pain or discomfort you are trying to eliminate should never worsen during these exercises. If this pain does worsen, stop and make certain you are following the directions exactly. If the pain is still present after adjustments, discontinue the exercise until you can discuss the trouble with your clinician.

ExitCare Image STRENGTH - Shoulder Flexion, Isometric

  • With good posture and facing a wall, stand or sit about 4-6 inches away.

  • Keeping your right / left elbow straight, gently press the top of your fist into the wall. Increase the pressure gradually until you are pressing as hard as you can without shrugging your shoulder or increasing any shoulder discomfort.

  • Hold __________ seconds. Release the tension slowly. Relax your shoulder muscles completely before you do the next repetition.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.

ExitCare Image STRENGTH - Shoulder Abductors, Isometric

  • With good posture, stand or sit about 4-6 inches from a wall with your right / left side facing the wall.

  • Bend your right / left elbow. Gently press your right / left elbow into the wall. Increase the pressure gradually until you are pressing as hard as you can without shrugging your shoulder or increasing any shoulder discomfort.

  • Hold __________ seconds.

  • Release the tension slowly. Relax your shoulder muscles completely before you do the next repetition.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.

ExitCare Image STRENGTH - Internal Rotators, Isometric

  • Keep your right / left elbow at your side and bend it 90 degrees.

  • Step into a door frame so that the inside of your right / left wrist can press against the door frame without your upper arm leaving your side.

  • Gently press your right / left wrist into the door frame as if you were trying to draw the palm of your hand to your abdomen. Gradually increase the tension until you are pressing as hard as you can without shrugging your shoulder or increasing any shoulder discomfort.

  • Hold __________ seconds.

  • Release the tension slowly. Relax your shoulder muscles completely before you do the next repetition.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.

ExitCare Image STRENGTH - External Rotators, Isometric

  • Keep your right / left elbow at your side and bend it 90 degrees.

  • Step into a door frame so that the outside of your right / left wrist can press against the door frame without your upper arm leaving your side.

  • Gently press your right / left wrist into the door frame as if you were trying to swing the back of your hand away from your abdomen. Gradually increase the tension until you are pressing as hard as you can without shrugging your shoulder or increasing any shoulder discomfort.

  • Hold __________ seconds.

  • Release the tension slowly. Relax your shoulder muscles completely before you do the next repetition.

Repeat __________ times. Complete this exercise __________ times per day.