What to Expect After Shoulder Surgery

Mar 4, 2014

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

by Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

Shoulder injuries are commonly seen in sports PT and the experts at Foothills Sports Medicine are familiar with the recovery process, but what do you need to know about recovering from shoulder surgery?

Shoulder surgery varies depending on the type of shoulder injury. Types of injuries include fractured collarbone, head of the humerus, or destruction of shoulder joint tissue as a result of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Unless very severe, collarbone injuries rarely require surgery and are usually treated with slings or splints. Fractures to the humerus occur commonly as a result of falling with an outstretched arm and occur more commonly in older people with osteoporosis.
Perhaps the most common shoulder related injury is a partial or full-thickness tear of the rotator cuff. This occurs from overexertion like heavy lifting, or from a fall on the shoulder. The rotator is made up of four muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. Injuries can vary in severity depending on how big the tear is and how many muscles have been torn, which in turn, affects the recovery time spent with a sports and PT professional.
There are four phases to recovery:

  1. Passive motion
  2. Active motion
  3. Strengthening
  4. Full activity

In the passive motion phase, the rotator cuff muscles and tendons are not doing any work. Usually, your sports and PT specialist will move your shoulder for you. This phase may last up to 6 weeks, depending on the size of the rotator cuff tear.
In the active motion recovery phase, active motion without extra resistance is implemented to strengthen the muscles gradually. This may continue for up to 12 weeks from the time of surgery.
Next is the strengthening phase, which is most important to making a complete recovery. Because of the injury, surgery, and general atrophying of the muscles during the healing process, the muscles are weak. The rotator cuff muscles do not need heavy weights for strengthening, but your Foothills physical therapist can instruct you on the proper techniques using only light resistance bands or weights.
Finally, the last phase of recovery is the full activity phase. This often takes four to six months for a complete recovery.
Knowing when to progress to the next phase of recovery can be tricky and should only be reserved for sports and PT experts to decide with you. For more information on shoulder injury prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, visit your sports and PT professionals at Foothills Sports Medicine!
Image: Gray’s Anatomy

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