Rotator Cuff Tears

The shoulder is a ball and socket type joint. It connects the ball of the top of the arm bone (humerus) with the socket of the shoulder blade (scapula). The shoulder is moved and also stabilized by the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles and tendons that attach from the scapula to the humerus. The rotator cuff tendons (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis) and muscles help stabilize the shoulder and enable you to lift your arm, reach overhead, and take part in activities such as throwing, swimming and tennis.

The rotator cuff can tear as an acute injury such as a fall or if lifting a very heavy weight. You will have weakness and perhaps pain when trying to raise the arm. If a tear happens to an acute injury, it may be repaired as soon as convenient. The rotator cuff can also tear as a result of degenerative changes or various conditions that can weaken the tendon. This type of rotator cuff tear can usually be repaired but sometimes the tear may not need to be repaired and sometimes cannot be repaired or cannot heal. However, if the tear is causing significant pain and decreased function, surgery may relieve pain and improve shoulder function. If a torn rotator cuff is not repaired, the shoulder tear may get larger and become impossible to repair in the future

General information

You should wear a sling when sleeping or in a crowded situation

You do not need a sling during the day if the arm is at the side

You may shower immediately, but do not submerge the dressing.

Do not take off the steri-strips

It takes 3 months for the soft tissues to heal

Phase 1:

0-6 weeks

Phase 1 basically allows the skin to heal, to restore motion and avoid stiffness, and protect the repair

Phase 1:

  • control pain and swelling. take ice and pain medication as prescribed as needed. drink water and take over the counter stool softeners like colace.
  • allow skin to heal (2 weeks). DO NOT remove steri strips. They can fall off naturally. If they start to curl up, you may cut it with a scissor.
  • The wound should be water tight for a shower as there is skin glue and steri-strips protecting the incision. To wash under the affected arm, bend over at the waist and let the arm passively come away from the body. It is safe to wash under the arm in this position. Do not scrub or get excessive water over the surgical site.
  • You should wear a sling while sleeping or for comfort or while out. You do not need a sling when awake and walking and sitting in a controlled environment.
  • begin pendulum motion of the arm

Phase 1:

You should be stretching every day, 5 times per day

Should include pendulum exercises, passive external rotation, passive arm elevation, scapular retraction, shoulder shrugs, and movement of the elbow and hand

continue physical therapy

Phase 2:

6-12 weeks

Protect healing cuff

continue to improve motion

Stretch every day, 3-5 x per day

NO STRENGTHENING until healed (12 weeks)

continue physical therapy

Phase 3: 12+weeks after

regain full range of motion

begin gentle strengthening and control

may begin working out if in control and can do more than 10 reps.

continue physical therapy