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After Your Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery: 0-2 weeks

The aim of this phase is to allow your shoulder to settle after your surgery and begin some very gentle exercises.

I’ve been given a sling, how long am I supposed to use it for? 

Hopefully you’ve been told that you are to wear your sling for the first 6 weeks after your surgery. This is to help your shoulder recover after the surgery and not put too much ‘work’ through your tendon repair whilst it heals for the first few weeks.

Do I have to wear the sling all the time?

For the first 6 weeks, you should wear your sling all the time, including at night to give your repaired tendon the best chance to recover. The only times you should take your sling off are to exercise, dress or wash.

What am I allowed to do with my shoulder?

As you’d imagine, you need to be kind to your shoulder after your operation. The operation itself would have involved one (or more) of your tendons being ‘stitched’ back onto the bone. This will need time to heal and become strong again. Jumping straight back into normal everyday activities after your operation is not advisable.

For the first 2 weeks, you are able to complete your shoulder exercises, but otherwise, you should allow it to rest in the sling. You are able to exercise your elbow, wrist and hand as much as you like, as long as the shoulder is supported.

Is there anything I shouldn’t be doing?

As mentioned above, it is important to give your tendon repair the best chance of recovering, therefore, there are a few things that you should be aware of and try to avoid:

  • Do not move the shoulder by itself for the first 6 weeks
  • Do not turn your arm outwards too far (see video)
  • Do not lift your arm too high
  • Keep the wound dry for the first 10 days

Do not lift your arm too high

Do not turn your arm outwards too far

What do you mean "don’t move the shoulder by itself"?

What this means is that you should use your other arm (non-operated) to help your operated arm for the first few weeks after surgery. This is because you have had a tendon repair and if you use the muscles of your operated shoulder too much in the early stages, this work makes the tendon work too hard and can cause issues.


I’ve been given some exercises by the hospital, should I carry on with these?

You will hopefully have been given some exercises in a booklet from your hospital. You should continue with these for the first 2 weeks after your surgery. We have added some exercise videos (not all that appear in your booklet from the hospital) at the bottom of this page which might help you get the best out of your technique.

My shoulder is still sore, is that normal?

Yes, it very much is. It is worth remembering that you might have had a sore shoulder going into surgery and now you’ve had a tendon repair, which is considerable surgery. It is entirely normal for your shoulder to be sore after any operation, including rotator cuff repairs. It is likely to ease as you are able to get your arm moving again over time.

Is there anything I should look out for?

After your surgery, it is normal for your shoulder to be sore, perhaps swollen and maybe even a little bruised. Using a sling may also cause a little discomfort in your neck and elbow, however, these would again be considered normal.

Below is a list of things that are less common and should be raised to your doctor, surgeon or practice nurse if you experience them after your surgery. If you have previously had a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), you should familiarise yourself with the list and monitor yourself for any issues.

If your wound edge becomes red, oozy and/or painful, please contact the ward that you were admitted to for your surgery. Please do not contact your GP. You will be asked to come into the hospital for a review by your consultant or their team.

  • Generally feeling unwell and/or a temperature following surgery
  • Red, painful, swollen upper arm/arm
  • Entire arm considerably swollen
  • Sudden change in breathing i.e. finding yourself breathless; coughing up blood or a new pain in your chest – this could indicate a medical emergency and you should call 999 or go to A&E)


Exercise videos

Exercise tip: Try to complete these exercises little and often throughout the day.

Make sure that you use your non-operated arm to help the operated one when completing the exercises. In other words, the operated arm should only be doing a little bit of the work.

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