Karen's Rotator Cuff Rehabilitation

by Karen
(Merritt Island, Florida)

Me and my husband, Joe prior to my surgery

Me and my husband, Joe prior to my surgery

Well, first of all, I'm not an athlete. Yep, even non-athletes can and do get rotator cuff tears. Mine was a partial, near-full thickness tear of the supraspinatous tendon. The MRI also revealed a SLAP tear of the glenoid labrum and a large bone spur.


My injury occurred as a result of lifting a pillow at an odd angle, albeit, a dense pillow, approx. 5 pounds. However, I had also just completed chemotherapy for breast cancer and my body was in a much weakened state. I recently turned 50, so there was degeneration due to aging as well. So I guess one would say, there were a combination of reasons for my injury.

This resulted in a partially frozen shoulder. I had difficulty dressing myself and doing simple, every day tasks. It was painful and also irritating to be so limited in my activities.

Ultimately, I had 12 weeks of physical therapy 3 times a week and I also did my at-home exercises faithfully twice a day. Fortunately, my shoulder became unfrozen.

So, if there's any lesson in this, DO YOUR PHYSICAL THERAPY, whatever your physical therapist (PT) and doctor want you to do, but don't overdo it...because you can actually slow down your recovery and increase your pain.

I tend to be a perfectionist, so I thought that I could grit my teeth through the pain and was willing to do it 6 times a day if it would make it better faster. Not so. It takes what it takes.

Be patient. I actually learned that my body responded better by limiting my at-home exercises to once a day rather than twice.

Due to concerns about my overall health at the time, my surgery was delayed for 3 months. I got back to school, the gym, and got lazy about my at-home physical therapy...a BIG mistake.

While my shoulder did not refreeze, I did lose some range of motion I had regained and my pain increased. I thought working out and lifting weights were strengthening the shoulder so that the other exercises were no longer necessary.

The PT's know what they're talking about. They're still necessary. I'm a good or bad example depending on your perspective.

Three months later, I've had surgery and am now 4 weeks after surgery and still in a sling. Rehab started within a week of surgery and I go 3 times a week for therapy where only the PT moves the shoulder.

Soon, I get to add at-home therapy and am excited to begin actively working towards a full recovery. They tell me it will be a minimum of 4-6 months, possibly even a year, but whatever it takes, physical therapy will be a top priority in my daily routine even after I've finished my rehab.

Please be encouraged!

If a 50 year old woman, who had gastric bypass surgery in 2006, is recovering from breast cancer from 2007 (I'm cancer-free now by the way) can recover from a rotator cuff tear repair in 2008, so can you.

Keep a positive attitude, work through the pain and do your at-home exercises, no matter what it takes.

I intend to get my full range of motion back so I can golf, fully participate at the gym and ball room dance.

I'll keep you all posted on my progress and how well I achieve my goal of reclaiming my life to the fullest!

Return to Sports Injury Stories.