Rotator cuff surgery and the aftermath?
June 30, 2006 7:54 AM   Subscribe

What were your experiences with rotator cuff surgery?

Eventually I am going to require rotator cuff surgery for my right shoulder, though for the moment I am managing the condition with physical therapy. I'd like hear in particular what the timeline of recovery is like, how much downtime there is from work, what physical rehab is like, and how long it takes to get back to serious gym-ratting.
posted by La Cieca to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry for the vague question, folks. Any of you who made it this far, thanks for your patience.
posted by La Cieca at 8:00 AM on June 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

I had a Bancart Procedure (sp?) back in 2001. (reattaching the tendon in the shoulder) It was a single overnight in the hospital, pain controlled with drugs (percoset) for a few weeks, then a few months (3-4) of Physical Therepy.
The doctor said that I could return to contact sports in 6 months, which may have been a little optimistic, but if you keep up with the PT, its certainly reasonable.

I'm really glad I did it, and I'm very glad that I asked around for recomendations for a good doctor. In the off chance that you're in the Boston, MA area, I can recommend the guy who worked on my shoulder.
posted by Davidicus at 8:32 AM on June 30, 2006

It sucks. Its taken me three years to kind of get back to where I was in terms of exercise. Do whatever they say in physical therapy. Loss of work? None. I had almost no pain, but I just had a labrum problem, that's all. Work hard to recover.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:50 AM on June 30, 2006

I used to think physical therapy was bullshit. I then hurt my shoulder playing tennis. It wasn't a rotator cuff tear, but I did strain the tendons severely.

The doctor prescribed physical therapy and it was the most painful, agonizing thing I ever did. Sometimes I would leave the PT office and throw up after they stretched my shoulder out after the work out.

But ... it worked. It took two months, but when I was finished with the rubber bands, the range of motion machines and stretching my shoulder was back to normal.

Ironmouth has it right ... Do whatever they say in physical therapy.
posted by zymurgy at 9:19 AM on June 30, 2006

At the age of 43, I tore the supraspinatus in my right shoulder due to repetitive motion stress injury, IOW, impingement syndrome. Over the course of a year or so, it came to hurt so badly that I couldn't even sleep. Now, 6 years after the surgery, I sleep fine, but still experience some pain, especially when doing stuff like brushing my teeth. I know, that sounds silly, but there's something about the angle and the tension placed on the joint that makes that particular activity aggravate it. When the surgeon was consulting me, pre-surgery, he indicated that I'd probably tear it again, and indeed, I'm pretty sure that has happened, and that the only thing keeping me from having the extreme pain that I had pre-surgery is the arthroscopic clean-out that he did on the shoulder joint at the same time that he trimmed the supraspinatus, put on the clip and re-inserted it into the cap of the humorous. After the surgery, it took a whole year until I regained 90% of the flexibility and strength I had before. It set my guitar playing back to the point where I still don't have the speed and dexterity that I did before the surgery. It is quite remarkable how a tiny little tissue way up there can so completely affect fine motor control in your wrist and hand. Even just typing this text, I feel a slight burning at the location of the tear.
My advice would be, stick with the physical therapy. Do research on non-surgical means of dealing with it. Then, only when all that fails to provide relief, opt for surgery. And when you do get the surgery, follow all instructions for rehabilitation. The rehab is key. I did about 80% of the exercises and PT that I was instructed to, but it hurt, and I was lazy...and I now wish that I had sucked it up, and been more thorough. Good luck.
posted by gnz2001 at 9:20 AM on June 30, 2006

I didn't require the surgery, but I managed to do something problematic with my rotator cuff when I was on crutches for a broken leg. Doctor's perscribed PT didn't seem to be changing anything so he gave me a shot of cortisone. That didn't seem to do any good either, at least not right away, but coupled with the PT I'm happy to say I'm back a 100% to my "serious gym-ratting" so maybe you'd find a similar injection helpful.

Altogether my down-time was about six months but it was partial, never had to take off work.
posted by Rash at 10:53 AM on June 30, 2006

Thirding or fourthing the go-to-PT-and-do-what-they-tell-you advice.

Also, please follow your surgeon's recommendations for how long to rest the affected limb, the schedule for returning to normal activity, etc. My father is a paraplegic who uses a manual wheelchair and also the most stubborn man in the universe, so when he tore his rotator cuff the first time, he got impatient during his post-op period with having only one functional limb and did way too much, way too fast. The result is that he is currently recuperating again from a far more extensive tear. Even if you feel like you're capable of doing much more than you are post-operatively, don't.
posted by jesourie at 11:51 AM on June 30, 2006

Yes, I have had the cortisone shot, and have been doing PT for about 4 months. The discomfort is totally under control and I even have a pretty good range of movement, just very little strength in that shoulder. So the surgery is a matter of when, not if. Just trying to schedule surgery to minimize inconvenience.
posted by La Cieca at 11:52 AM on June 30, 2006

I had a pt who was absolutely magical -- she layed out the scenarios clearly. The MDs were not as direct; they would have happily acommodated my desire for a quick fix. I chose pt. The downside is that I had to come face-to-face with my life-long, self-defeating habits.

Ageing changes everything (way too fast sometimes). Now there is no margin for laziness about posture, stretching and attentiveness to my body -- even to how I sleep. Not getting surgery is my one goal; it means constant vigilance.
posted by Surfurrus at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2006

I had a bicep tendon reattached laparoscopically. Outpatient in the hospital, but I stayed home from work for the rest of the week. Percoset made me sick, so I switched to Vicodin, which I got off of as soon as I could, since it made me loopy. I don't recall how long that was, but a few weeks. After about 6 months of PT afterwards (3 months of PT before), I was better than before - going to PT 3 times a week forced me to exercise regularly which I hadn't done on a regular basis for a long time before.

Love your physical therapist - if you don't have a good rapport and totally trust that person, find another one.
posted by Caviar at 1:28 PM on June 30, 2006

Two meniscectomies in twelve months. That's what avoiding PT got me. First time around, Doc said it was optional so I didn't go. Managed to re-tear the meniscus within four months.

This time, I go every time, I do all the exercises at home, I avoid the things that caused problems in the past. Really don't like getting to know the surgical staff on a first-name basis.
posted by trinity8-director at 1:39 PM on June 30, 2006

I had rotator cuff repair done on my right shoulder arthroscopically in 1999. I had done PT and cortisone shots and while the pain wasn't horrendous, I had very little strength in my right arm and shoulder. What I remember of the surgery was the agony I was in afterwards.

I was in the hospital for a 23 hour ob-stay and there was very little sleep that night, even with the pain medication. My arm was in a sling (I'm right handed) and it was a very awkward time of the month for me to need help in the bathroom. My surgery was on the Thursday before Easter and that entire weekend was spent in the recliner with my husband refilling my ice pack and popping Vicodin.

The pain and immobility continued for about 5 weeks or so and just when I thought I'd saw my arm off, I woke up one morning with NO pain, none and full mobility in my shoulder. It went from a 10 to 0 overnight.

I have 2 small scars on my shoulder and sometimes an arthritic achiness when it's damp outside, but other than that, it's like it never happened.
posted by hollygoheavy at 4:38 PM on July 1, 2006

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