Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon
Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon
Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon

Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Time

The rotator cuff is an important shoulder component that provides us with the ability to lift our arm. When the rotator cuff is injured, shoulder function is significantly impaired. Adelaide Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr James McLean can perform rotator cuff surgery through an arthroscopic (key-hole) or mini-open surgical approach (depending on important, individual patient and surgical factors).

Dr James McLean has provided these recommendations as a rough guide to rotator cuff surgery recovery. Use this guide only for reference and discuss your individual situation and requirements with Dr McLean prior to your scheduled surgery to avoid disappointment.
Types of rotator cuff surgery:

The following techniques are used by Dr McLean to repair a rotator cuff tear:

  • Arthroscopic repair– A camera is inserted through a small incision that allows Dr McLean to view the inside of your shoulder on an attached monitor. Dr McLean can then repair tears by inserting other instruments through further button-hole sized incisions.
  • Open repair– Dr McLean makes a surgical incision, opens the shoulder, moves the deltoid out of the way, and repairs the tear. This method is used for larger or complex tears.
  • Mini-open repair– This method combines the previous two techniques. Damaged tissue or bone spurs are repaired or removed using arthroscopy (key holes) and then mini-open surgery is used to repair the rotator cuff. Wherever possible, Dr McLean uses minimally-invasive techniques for faster recovery and minimal pain.

What to expect after rotator cuff surgery

Patients will usually be in hospital for no longer than one day. Some patients are discharged on the same day, depending on the type of surgery they have had. Immediately after surgery, you will be advised to keep your shoulder ain a sling to protect the repaired tendon. The frequent application of cold packs to the area will help reduce your pain and swelling. Dr McLean will prescribe you pain medication according to your needs.

Waiting for the tendon to heal can take a significant amount of time. During the first 6-12 weeks of your recovery, you will only be able to perform a modified range of motion with your healing arm. Lifting or pushing heavy objects is not recommended, as the strain on your joint may cause your internal sutures to tear and/or the repair to fail before the tendon has healed.

After approximately 8 weeks, you will begin to perform strengthening exercises and physical therapy. Completing a shoulder rehabilitation program supervised by a trained physiotherapist is crucial for your full recovery. Read more about why physiotherapy is so important, in this article recently published by Dr Mclean.

Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Timeline

TimeRecovery Process
0-1 DaysHospitalisation
2-8 weeksArm in Sling
6-12 WeeksLimited motion and restricted activity
3+ monthsReturn to regular activity when advised to by your surgeon


Returning to work after Rotator Cuff Surgery

You need to discuss a return to work plan with your employer prior to your surgery. Your arm will be in a sling for approximately 2 weeks after surgery (this is highly variable and may be up to 8 weeks in some cases).

Light, modified duties can be performed after your two-week follow-up with Dr McLean. However, heavy lifting or activities that place stress on the shoulder should be avoided for at least 3 months. For advice about driving after rotator cuff surgery, see this page.

Where to get further advice

Dr James McLean can clarify your surgery and recovery options after conducting an assessment of your condition. To book an appointment at one of our convenient locations, click here or call us on 08 8267 8292.

Related Articles:
Flying after rotator cuff surgery.
Driving after rotator cuff surgery.
Shoulder Soft Tissue Injuries.