Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery- What Happens Afterwards

What To Expect;

How Long Recovery Takes

Pain Control

What Activities You Can Do

Rotator Cuff Surgery

To begin with, rotator cuff repair surgery is performed to repair a torn or damaged rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of a set of muscles and tendons which hold the ball of the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket. It acts as a stabilizing mechanism for the shoulder.  

Rotator cuff surgery is usually performed Arthroscopically. This means that small incisions are made in the shoulder, and a tool approximately the width of a pencil, called an arthroscope, is inserted into one of them. This tool contains a small camera which projects a video onto a screen in the room. The surgeon uses this as a guide, rather than making a large incision and looking directly at the injury or disease. The other tool is similar in width and known as a grasping forceps. It is a combination of a cutting and suction device.  

Recovery from Arthroscopic Surgery is usually much quicker and less painful than traditional surgery, barring any complications.  

The Aftermath

After your rotator cuff repair surgery, in most cases, you will be released from the hospital the same day. Your doctor will prescribe painkillers such as Percocet or Oxycodone which you can pick up at the pharmacy on the way home. You will need someone to drive you to and from the surgery. After the surgery you will be wearing a sling on your arm and your motion with that arm will be severely limited.  

Your arm may become discolored, such as black and blue, and there may be some minor swelling and discomfort. This is all par for the course.  

The healing process is fairly quick for this minimally invasive surgery, and you should start to see progress in just days. The pain will subside and the discoloration will also decrease fairly rapidly.  

How Will I Sleep?

Ideally you will sleep in a reclined position, propped up by pillows or in a reclining chair.  


Though your arm will be in a sling for some weeks, you are encouraged to walk in order to increase blood flow and encourage the healing process. You should always wear the sling when you are standing or walking. You can remove it to shower.  

You can use your affected arm for simple tasks, of course there will be no heavy lifting or anything that will disturb the healing site.

When the sling is removed, you can do movements that do not include pushing, pulling or carrying.  

You can go back to work in about 2-3 weeks if you have a desk job. You will have to consult with your doctor first if you do manual labor.  

You can not raise your arm over your head after surgery. If you had arthroscopic surgery, you can take a shower 2-3 days after surgery. The way you will wash your armpit is to let your arm hang by you side, lean forward leaving a gap under your arm to wash.

  • If you had open surgery, your doctor will instruct you when it’s ok to shower and drive again. Open surgery, in general, takes longer to heal than arthroscopic surgery.


You can eat your normal diet after surgery.


  • Your doctor will give you specific instructions as to what medication you should be taking. Most likely you will be prescribed a narcotic such as oxycodone or Percocet. You should ask your doctor about taking any blood thinners such as aspirin or aleve. after surgery. 

Make sure to keep your doctor posted about any changes you may experience from the pain medication, as well as any abnormal swelling or discoloration, as these may be signs of infection.  

In most cases, rotator cuff surgery goes off without a hitch. If you live in the Seattle or Bellevue Washington area, you may want to look up Dr, Jurek, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder surgery.  

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4 thoughts on “Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery- What Happens Afterwards

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