Question - Rotator Cuff Recovery

by Ron
(San Antonio, Texas)

I had surgery July 5, 2007 for a full thickness repair of the superaspinatus and am starting to lift weights again. I am having extreme difficulty, even with light weights, doing dumbell bench presses and lateral raises.

Is this normal?

May 20, 2008
by: Bart - SII

Are you having pain with these exercises, or is weakness the primary problem you are having?

If it is pain, then it is probably not normal and you either need to adjust your form, or talk to your therapist for some suggestions as to why you are having pain and what you can do about it.

If it is weakness, then yes, it is fairly normal. It takes a very long time to get back to "normal" after a rotator cuff surgery. This is most noticeable with weight lifting. Your body is able to compensate some with daily activities, but isolated weight exercises can really show your weakness.

If it is weakness, then it should continue to get better over time...just focus on a gradual progression of your exercises and realize that it takes a long time to build your strength back up.

If it is pain, talk to your PT or doctor.

Hope this helps - comment back if you have other questions.

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Rotator Cuff Injury

by Christopher Davies
(South Wales)

I have just been told that I have rotator cuff damage and told to rest for 2 weeks. I have been icing my shoulder several times a day for 15-20 minutes and some heat treatment at night time. What else would you recommend to do in this vital stage of my injury in order for it not to develop into a serious one?

Christopher Davies

Nov 03, 2007
by: Bart - SII

Hi Christopher,

It sounds like you are doing exactly what you should be doing. Rest is essential over the next two weeks as your rotator cuff heals. Excessive stress at this time can lead to further damage. Avoid overhead activities, or things that cause significant pain. Ice is great to help with inflammation. I would also recommend gentle range of motion activities. Moving your shoulder through a range of motion as long as it is fairly pain free. This will help prevent any type of excessive scar formation and freezing of the shoulder.

Nov 03, 2007
by: Chris Davies

Thank you for the advice, so should I be lifting any weights at all, albeit the really light ones just to keep the shoulder moving and light strengthening or just do nothing at all apart from the ice?

Don't know anything about adductor muscles either do you? just the inside of my legs are very sore lately and have no idea why they hurt.

Nov 04, 2007
by: Bart - SII

Exercises are probably alright, as long as they are pain free. So that may mean no weight, just motion, or it may mean light weights. Pain is your best guide right now, along with your physician's recommendations. I would still avoid overhead motions.

As far as the adductor muscles, have you done something to irritate them? Could be from a weight lifting session, or any other number of things...

Nov 04, 2007
by: Anonymous

My adductor muscles are really sore and tight, even when I walk up the stairs I can feel it pinch on the inside of my leg. Think it may be down to hamstrings, I was stretching them this morning and when I do that the adductor muscles stretch aswell so I'm pretty sure it's all connected. Cycling didn't bother me today and neither did walking on the treadmill or cross trainer. Any advice at all? Ice doesn't seem to be making a big difference at all got heat packs on them at the moment and stretching side to side just does nothing but makes them worse?


Nov 06, 2007
by: Bart - SII

Stretching your hamstrings, hip flexors, piriformis, and other lower extremity muscles may help. If not, you may want to see your physician. Sorry I can't give you more information. That is the downside to this whole internet thing... a lot of questions just can't be answered online.

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Was this a rotator cuff injury- 16 weeks later and still can't lift "bent" arm?!

by Katie
(Cape Town)

I hurt my shoulder about 4 months ago, lifting a tub of water with one hand behind me (stupid, I know...)

I thought it was a rotator cuff injury: I couldn't lift the arm at all and was in pain. I rested it as much as possible ( I was moving!) and since then have been stretching it, and also doing "downward dog" to "plank" to strengthen it. I stretched it out on a swiss ball, so I have pretty good range of motion coming back.

I also did some rehab exercises a friend gave to me he had gotten from his doctor: with light weights a reclining "tennis backhand", "forehand" and "pouring a can" exercises. I got a lot better.

But now, 4 months later , and I still can't lift the arm in a bent position, without pulling the shoulder muscle up in a "jerk" to aid it. However, I can lift it if it is straight out!

I am worried I will develop some more shoulder problems. Or maybe this wasn't a rotator cuff injury?

Do I need further or different exercise?

Thank you for any help!


June 06, 2008
by: Bart - SII

If at all possible, you should probably get your shoulder looked at by a doctor. It could have been a rotator cuff tear, it could be the biceps tendon, or any other number of things. Continued weakness 4 months later is not something to be taken lightly, as it can lead to other problems in the future.

Continuing with the exercises may continue to improve your shoulder, but a good evaluation to determine exactly what you are dealing with is the ideal course of action.

Hope this helps - comment back with other questions.

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Question - Rotator Cuff Open Surgery

by Sandra
(Virginia Beach,Va, United States)

I had surgery March 14, and I am in physical therapy. I have not driven a car yet and tire easily. I also am not sleeping good. How long should I stay out of work?

Apr 07, 2008
by: Bart - SII

As far as when you should return to work...that really comes down to a decision between you and your physician. It will depend on what type of job you have and how much you are required to use your arm. Obviously, at less than a month out from surgery, you don't have much use of the shoulder. I would guess you are still in a sling and limited to only passive range of motion?

If you have a job that you can do without taxing the shoulder and compromising the post-surgical restrictions, then it becomes a matter of how your shoulder feels, if your pain is manageable, and how you hold up to 8 hours at work.

Many patients that I have seen with an open rotator cuff repair were out of work for 6-8 weeks - the duration they were in the sling. Others went back to desk type jobs in 2-3.

It really becomes a personal decision. I would discuss it with your physician and your boss and see what works for everyone. Also, you may consider trying half days to start with because you won't really know how you will tolerate it until you go back. Just a thought.

Hope this helps


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Rotator Cuff Surgery - Post Op Clothes?

by Sue
(New Jersey)

Please let me know what type of clothes you can prepare for post op. I will have some type of box attached to me so that the arm is some what away from the body.

Thanks Sue

Aug 18, 2008
by: Bart - SII

After going through a shoulder post-op with my girlfriend in May, I am very aware of the difficulty that arises when you don't plan for the right clothes to get home from the hospital...we weren't even thinking about it when we went in, otherwise we would have done a better job (and we are both athletic trainers who deal with surgery patients everyday, just not with their clothes)

The best thing is to have an extra large button up type of shirt - something that you can put around your body and leave your surgery arm out of the sleeve. Oversized is important because you will have the abduction pillow between your body and your arm, so it will be sticking out from your body. An oversized bath robe or extra large jacket would also work. I have even seen patients who have used a rain poncho, although that might be a little funny looking.

Basically you need something that will go around your whole body and not necessitate having to go over your head or put your surgery arm through a sleeve.

Hope this helps.


Aug 19, 2008
by: Karen

What worked for me was wearing one of my husband's button up shirts. I left my left arm out of the sleeve and the shirt buttoned up around me. Piece of cake.

Best of luck,


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pain after rotator cuff repair

by Val

I had rotator cuff repair surgery a week ago. I am still on percosett every 4 hours, and this doesn't completely eradicate the pain. I am not sure if this is normal or if I damaged it again by an involuntary movement during the night that really hurt bad. I have an appt with the doc Tuesday, don't know if I should call earlier or if this is normal.

Thanks for listening..

Nov 06, 2008
by: Bart - SII

Only a week out from surgery, you are going to have some pain - the meds will help but they aren't going to completely eliminate it.

If it is getting worse, or if you feel like something may be wrong, a call to the doctor wouldn't hurt. It is unlikely that you damaged the repair with one inadvertent movement of the arm, although it is possible.

Keep up with the meds, rest, and finding comfortable positions - the first 10 days are usually the hardest as far as pain.


Jan 19, 2009
by: Anonymous

I had rotator cuff ten months ago and went through 3 months of therapy. Several weeks ago I began having bad pain which would last for nearly a minute. I go back to the surgeon in two months but I'm scared I've done something. This happens nearly every day.

Jan 23, 2009
by: Val

Hi, I have to tell you that all is well. I had surgery to repair a 100 percent tear of my tendon on October 29, spent a miserable 6 weeks in the sling, started with physical therapy on Dec 16, and yesterday I was released by the surgeon and my last pt session is next week. I can use the 5 pound weight with most of my exercises, and life is once again good. Don't get discouraged, expect some pain, keep up with your therapy, and soon you will be back to a good life again. Thanks for a good forum here.

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