Ok, so you have reached the point where you have committed to getting rotator cuff surgery. All the diagnostic tests indicate (+) you need surgery. You are in pain with the activities you love. You are not getting better. You have completed a full plan of care with physical therapy without good outcomes. And finally your surgeon recommends surgery. UGH!
It sounds like it is time. Sorry to hear you need rotator cuff surgery.
Here are some tips that you may or may not already know.
STAGE 1: WEEK 1: The first week is very difficult for most people.
Get help! Many people have a hard time asking for help. You will need it. Ask your friends and family. Take time off of work. You can not drive, so please do not try. You may feel nauseous post op so buy some easy to eat bland food, like chicken soup. Hydration is very important. Your body will be exhausted and you need to drink fluids to help your heart.
SLEEP: Get a recliner to sleep in or at the very least get a bunch of pillows to support you back and head, to keep you upright. Laying flat can put your shoulder in a position that is not comfortable yet. Did I mention pillow support? Try under your head, arm, shoulder…etc. Get up and move if you are uncomfortable. It is typical to get up in the middle of the night and have to move around. Sometimes a small change in position gives a shoulder much relief.
PAIN: Stop the pain before it begins. Do not wait for the pain to start and then try to stop it. It is easier to keep the pain away before it starts. Ice every couple of hours. Take medication as guided by your doctor.
DO NOT MOVE YOUR ARM. Your doctor will tell you when you can move your arm. Keep it protected with the sling.
Your doctor will tell you when you can go to physical therapy. Some patients need to go the first week and some can wait until after first post-op appointment to remove bandages. Your surgeon will guide you.
When you begin physical therapy, your therapist will get you shoulder moving and give you exercises to perform at home. Physical therapy should not be a painful experience. The horror stories are not necessary. Seek a therapist who is experienced.
If you are having neck pain, make sure to tell your physical therapist. You may need to have your sling adjusted. Heat and massage on your neck is usually very helpful.
Week 4-6 is about the time you will return to the surgeon and you will be free of your sling. WooHoo! Your range of motion will continue to improve, but full motion usually does not happen until 12 – 16 weeks.
Week 12 is usually about the time you may begin adding resistance to your rotator cuff again. Yeah! Strengthening! It is also about the time where your body typically lets go. Your range of motion, especially with internal rotation, just finally starts to release and return to normal again. Exciting week! You can smile again.
Outcomes with rotator cuff surgery are very good. But the post-op process takes a long time and the initial few weeks to months can be very uncomfortable. Some people are fortunate and have no problems. Most people are pretty uncomfortable initially. So be prepared to be uncomfortable, get family/friend support, eat / drink properly and schedule lots of rest.
Hitting tennis balls, golf balls, skiing, running, riding bikes GENTLY usually can begin again at about 5 months. 6 months is usually when you can return to full activity. But it really takes about one full year to 1.5 years to feel normal again. Be patient!
Hope this helps. Please let us know if we can help you and if you have questions. We are experts when dealing with shoulder rotator cuff surgery rehab. (802) 861 6700. www.greenmtrehab.com