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After Your Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery: 6-12 weeks

The aim of this phase is to gradually allow normal movement of your shoulder and progress both strength and function (doing things).

Can I get rid of the sling now?

Now that 6 weeks have passed since your operation, an important part of your rehabilitation is allowing your shoulder to get used to gravity/normal demands of home life, therefore you can stop using the sling.

Should I stop using it straight away?

That is a personal choice. Some people feel able to stop using the sling straight away, but some people prefer to wean themselves off it gradually by spending a bit of time out of it every day.

If you feel that you want to wean yourself off your sling rather than just stop using it, try spending an hour out of it on one day and then 2 hours out of it the following day and so on.


What should I expect when I stop using my sling?

It is quite normal for your shoulder to be a little more sore when you stop using your sling, as you are asking it to work against gravity by itself for the first time since your operation. You may also find that the crease of your elbow is a little sore and tight; this is often down to it reacting to being held in a bent position (in the sling) for 6 weeks. Both of these issues tend to ease as you start to use your arm more normally.

What am I allowed to do now? 

The biggest change now that 6 weeks have passed since your surgery is that you can move your operated arm by itself. This will allow you to also start to use your arm during normal daily activities like brushing your teeth, dressing or holding a cup of tea.

But my arm is still sore and some of those things you mentioned are really uncomfortable and difficult!

Unfortunately, just because you have passed the 6 week mark since your surgery, it doesn’t simply mean that your pain will stop, your movement will return and you will be able to use your shoulder ‘normally’ straight away.

Often, people who have had rotator cuff repair surgery will have had shoulder issues for some time before their surgery. It is worth thinking along the terms of weeks into months for your recovery, therefore being kind and patient with yourself and your shoulder is a really important part of your recovery.

Will I damage my shoulder by now doing more? 

No, your shoulder is strong, robust and designed to work. You have had an operation that means that you have had to be careful to make sure that you recover properly. However, these tendon repairs are normally very successful and one of the things that helps with that success is getting back to trusting it and using the shoulder normally.

OK, now I know I am allowed to do more, what exercises can I do?

We’ve provided a selection of exercises at the bottom of the page for you to explore. These exercises are generally strengthening or resistance exercises, and we’ve laid them out in the order of difficulty so that you can see what exercises you can progress onto if/when needed.

What about my work? When can I go back?

Unfortunately, this tends to be variable as each job is different and each person will react to their surgery differently, and will progress through their rehabilitation at different speeds, but below is a rough guide regarding getting back to work.

  • Return to sedentary work after 6-8 weeks (dependent on pain levels/ movement etc.)
  • Return to physical/manual work after 4-6 months (dependent on pain levels/movement etc.)

When can I drive again?

Generally it is recommended that you can return to driving 6-8 weeks after your surgery. It is each individual’s responsibility to ensure they are fit to drive. You should ensure you can confidently, and without any hesitation, perform an emergency stop/evasive manoeuvre before even considering driving on public roads.

If you are not fully in control of the vehicle at all times, you should not return to driving.

What about swimming?

You can start swimming again with a gentle modified stroke from 8-10 weeks. You will have to wait until 3-4 months following your surgery before attempting front crawl.

Exercise tip:

For the strengthening exercises, aim to complete the exercises (as many or as few as you want to) about 3 to 4 times a week.

Each exercise should be completed between 8-12 times (or repetitions) for 3 to 4 sets. Make sure you have about 1 minute's rest in between each set.

In order to change your muscles, you need to challenge them. In other words, you should really feel the effort with each set of exercises and should really not be able to do more than 12 each time around.

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