Getting Active Again After a Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear causes significant shoulder pain. Arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear is an outpatient procedure but requires lengthy recovery time. The goal of rotator cuff repair surgery is to reattach the torn tendon to the bone securely. The ability to return to an active lifestyle is one of the most common concerns of patients after a rotator cuff tear.

Orthopedic shoulder and sports medicine surgeon Dr. Matthew Pifer and our team of sports medicine specialists understand the importance of returning to activity after surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Fortunately, most people leading an active lifestyle or participating in recreational sports successfully return to activity after recovering from a rotator cuff tear. 

Read on to learn what our experts want you to know about getting active after recovering from rotator cuff repair surgery.

Rotator cuff function 

A rotator cuff is a group of four tendons that enable the shoulder to move smoothly and provide stabilization to the shoulder. Tears are common in older adults and in people who participate in a wide array of sports that involve overhead movements such as tennis and baseball.

Rotator cuff tears can occur as the result of wear and tear associated with aging or from injury. A tear in the rotator cuff commonly causes shoulder pain and weakness. Some individuals endure pain and discomfort for quite some time before seeking help from a healthcare professional.

Rotator cuff repair is effective

Rotator cuff surgery often significantly restores shoulder function and eliminates pain. This surgery is lasting and reliable. The health and motivation of the patient play a role in a successful recovery from rotator cuff repair surgery.

Keep in mind that repair for severe tears has some limitations. Extreme tears that cause significant damage and scarring of the tendon tissue cannot be fully repaired. However, removing the scarred tissue can reduce pain and improve function. It is important to talk with your surgeon at length so that you know what to expect from your surgery.

Participate fully in rehabilitation activities

You play a major role in the success of your recovery. We create individualized rehabilitation programs based on the complexity of your rotator cuff tear and overall physical conditioning. Your surgery works with the physical therapist to design therapeutic strategies to restore your mobility, strength, and flexibility to the shoulder. Skipping therapy sessions can set you back on the road to recovery. Your motivation, dedication, and willingness to engage fully in rehabilitation will help you recover and return to an active lifestyle.

Start gradually before getting into full swing

While you may feel ready to dive back into physical activities, it’s wise to start gradually and gauge your comfort level. We give you detailed information on what activities are permitted and when it is safe for you to engage in them. 

We provide guidance on how and when to gradually increase your level of activity. Following the guidelines helps to ensure that you return to activity safely.

If you have shoulder discomfort when engaging in physical activity or at any time, contact our Santa Barbara office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Pifer. We offer in-person and telemedicine appointments, so you can receive guidance from the comfort of your home. 




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