recovery from shoulder surgery (decompression)

i just had a procedure done to remove swelling and tissue in my shoulder. its my dominate arm. i work as a correction officer what kind of time table do you think i will be out of work and regain full strength to defend myself in case of a fight

Oct 07, 2008
by: Bart - SII

It sounds like you are describing a subacromial decompression. The timeline for recovery is usually about 2-4 weeks to regain your motion, 4-6 to get normal daily activity strength back, and anywhere from 2-3 months to regain the strength needed for your line of work.

Much of it will come down to how aggressive your rehab is and what kind of shape your shoulder was in prior to surgery - obviously it is important that you have full unrestricted motion and strength to safely return to work.


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how long to return to work after subacromial decompression surgery

by john sevilla
(paradise ca)

i work for a freight co. my job consists of driving a semi. pushing pallets with a pallet jack up to 2000lbs, and lifting heavy objects. i am having subcromial decompression and maybe a repair of a slight rotator tear. i am 50 years old but i am in very good shape.

i went to a physical therapist and have been working out at the gym doing the exercises i have been told to do for the the shoulder. i have a very good range of motion and shoulder is feeling pretty good. with physical therapy and consistent working out at the gym. what time frame can i expect to be able to be fully able to do my job.

Oct 05, 2008
by: Bart - SII

If you have a subacromial decompression only, you should likely be able to return to work fairly soon, once your motion and strength are restored - most people recover completely from an SAD in 6-8 weeks.

A rotator cuff repair is a different matter. Most physicians will keep you immobilized in a sling for 4-6 weeks, working only on passive range of motion in therapy during this time frame. This is to allow the rotator cuff to heal and avoid stress on the repair caused by active motion.

After that time frame, it is then a matter of restoring motion and strength before returning to activities - most rotator cuff repairs are able to return to strenuous activities in 3-5 months.

So, the different procedures will have very different timelines.


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Post-op Shoulder Decompression Pain/Therapy

I am a 49 year old male and had shoulder decompression surgery 4 weeks ago. It was done through an incision as the OS stated there was too much existing inflamation to do it arthroscopically.

I began rehab 4 days after surgery and have been going 3 times a week. I felt I was making progress until 1 of the sessions last week when some small weights were introduced as well as the stretch bands.

Since that time, I have various pains during the day in the upper arm, lower arm, joint, etc. In addition, my nights consist of only 4-5 hours of sleep due to waking up with pain, although this was going on before the 1 session.

How normal is all of this?
Is there a chance the one therapy session went too far?

This is the first skeletal-type surgery I have had so I don't have experience with rehab and recovery.

Thank you.

Aug 23, 2008
by: Bart - SII

Therapy is often a fine line of challenging the body without doing too much - it could be that you over did therapy a little - but usually that is part of the recovery process - after a few sessions your body adapts and gets stronger. I would talk to your therapist to make sure they are aware of how you responded to that treatment session - they will modify your activities as needed to keep you progressing.

An open subacromial decompression is going to take time to heal - the first 4 weeks are usually full of aches and pains, and trouble sleeping. This should continue to get better, but I would say that everything you describe is fairly normal for this procedure.


Aug 17, 2009
by: Anonymous

I am a nurse and I injured my shoulder in february at work having had pain since then I underwent an arthroscopic decompression in july and since then i have been slow to recover. I now believe that pain in the limb, swelling in the arm and being awake most nights is quite normal.I thought id be back at work by now and last week i actually had 3 pain free days and not too bad nights. I thought ive turned the corner now, But the last three days have been unbearable with pain and swelling despite every thing I try. I have a band but the pain is too great if i take my pain killers im sleepy and the arm gets stiffer I hope there will be an end

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Question - Subacromail Space Surgery

Is this an outpatient surgery? How long will the shoulder be immobile following surgery?

Aug 30, 2008
by: Bart - SII

This surgery is usually done as an outpatient, arthroscopic procedure. If, during the surgery, they find that the rotator cuff needs to be repaired (which they usually know before the surgery with an MRI) then it may be converted to a mini-open procedure depending on your surgeon - either way through, you should still go home the same day.

Immobilization for an SAD is usually minimal - a sling for comfort for a few days or a week, and starting therapy 2-3 days after surgery.

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Shoulder Impingment (subacromial decompression)

by Shaun

I injured my shoulder lifting weights a year ago. I have been in physio for most of it, had prolotherapy and a cortisone shot. All those that treated me said my MRI showed minor damage-partial supraspinatus tear... yet I am still in pain. Will impingement actually show on an MRI. I am thinking a subacromial decompression surgery is my last option.

I get the most pain with my arm coming across my body and out to the side, and some overhead. It has improved some with the treatments, but then always return.

Also, I have been weightlifting for 10+ years (32 years old) and am concerned that this surgery may limit my return to lifting. Any comments would be appreciated.

Oct 05, 2008
by: Bart - SII

Impingement can show up on an MRI in the form of inflammation, fluid, and the shape of the acromion. The fact that you have a possible partial tear of the supraspinatus is likely the cause of your pain and why you are still having problems despite the therapy and injections.

You best choice may be an SAD with a rotator cuff repair. Returning to weights after surgery and rehab should be possible because you are young and active, but it will take time and will be important to return gradually - and you may want to consider transitioning to a higher rep / lower weight program for a period of time, or giving up really heavy weights altogether.


Oct 16, 2008
by: Anonymous

i just had this surgery 5 weeks ago and what a pain in the @#!@ the recovery is but at 5 weeks i am lifting 10 pounds over my head and seeing strenght increases everyday just be aware of the atrophy you will endure your afflicted shouder and arm with be significantly smaller and will take up to 6 months to get back. all said ad done my pain is almost gone and no impingemen. the most imprtant thing is dont get discouraged, after 3 weeks you will be so weak you will only be able to lift like 3 pounds but after 3 weeks strength returns very quickly.

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Question - Subacromial Decompression (T-bar vs. Pulleys)

by Thelma

Please can you tell me if the T bar exercises shown are equivalent to a pulley exercise suitable after having open surgery for a subacromial decompression.

I look forward to your response/advice.

Kind regards


Aug 16, 2008
by: Bart - SII

Pulley exercises and T-bar exercises are similiar, however, pulley exercises, in my opinion are not as effective, and to not allow the shoulder to move in a natural position. I actually have worked with physicians who prohibited pulley exercises because they felt strongly against using them.

With an open subacromial decompression though, they probably are appropriate because they are one way that you can produce completely passive motion in the shoulder. This is important after an open procedure because you need to limit the use of the muscles that were cut through in order to perform the surgery.

I would follow your physicians instructions to the "T" and if you are interested in alternative exercises, make sure to clear it with them before you start.

Hope this helps - Bart

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