How long will I have pain after rotator cuff surgery?

If you plan to go under the knife to repair a rotator cuff injury, you’re likely wondering how long your pain will last immediately following the surgery. Generally speaking, most patients experience shoulder pain or discomfort for at least four to nine months after their rotator cuff surgery. The pain is most significant in the first few days after the surgery. Pain levels usually improve over the following months but may persist depending on several factors. 

What factors can affect the length of time you’ll be in pain after rotator cuff surgery?

In addition to “How long will I have pain after rotator cuff surgery,” you might also wonder what can speed up or slow down how long you’ll experience discomfort. Everyone’s recovery time is different because of different life factors, including the following:

  • How severe your rotator cuff tear is — How long your pain or discomfort will last after rotator cuff surgery depends on the severity of your injury. Some people experience small, partial tears, while others experience full tears. Others may experience degenerative tears or acute tears. Partial tears are typically less serious and may involve minimally invasive surgeries that take shorter recovery periods.
  • How old you are — Younger patients have a shorter recovery time than most older patients. Research suggests that patients over the age of 65 take longer to recover than patients under 65 years old. While old age may not slow everyone’s recovery, this is the case for most older people.
  • How good of health you’re in — Do you have preexisting health conditions? Certain conditions, like diabetes, hypocholesterolemia and osteoporosis, are correlated with slower rotator cuff surgery recovery. 
  • How you choose to prepare for your surgery — The method you choose to prepare for your surgery can impact how long you are in pain after your rotator cuff surgery. Preoperative physical therapy sessions are a great way to build strength before an operation. Preoperative PT sessions can reduce the amount of muscle mass that is lost during the recovery process. It can also shorten the length of your hospital stay and reduce your pain levels. Research suggests that physical therapy before a surgical procedure can improve surgery outcomes. 
  • The type of surgery you’re having — There are generally two types of rotator cuff surgeries available to patients. These include open surgery and arthroscopic surgery. Open surgery is the more invasive of the two options and involves a large incision to the shoulder. Arthroscopic surgery is a less invasive surgery that involves several small incisions in an area of the shoulder. Patients who undergo arthroscopic surgery are likely to be in recovery for shorter periods of time following their rotator cuff procedure and, ultimately, likely to experience less pain. 

Is it possible to speed up recovery time after rotator cuff surgery?

While several factors can slow down recovery, many factors can speed up your recovery process. These include:

  • Get postoperative physical therapy — One of the best ways to limit how long you’re in pain after rotator cuff surgery is by starting physical therapy. Postoperative PT can help you build muscle strength, reduce inflammation and improve your range of motion. If it’s been a while after your surgery, PT can even be helpful for breaking up scar tissue that develops years after surgery has occurred. 
  • Make sure to rest — It’s important to make sure that you get plenty of rest after your surgery. Your body will need some time to recover, and not allowing yourself that time will only prolong the recovery process. 
  • Get gentle exercise — Getting gentle exercise, like walking or swimming, is another essential component of speeding up recovery time. While you should be sure to get plenty of rest, there is such a thing as too much rest. Getting back up on your feet when you’re able and gently exercising will help speed up the recovery process.
  • Keep your wounds clean — One way to ensure that your recovery goes well is by keeping your incision site clean. It’s essential that you keep your wounds clean to reduce your risk of infection. An infection in your shoulder could complicate your recovery process and lead to prolonged pain or discomfort.

Excel Sports & Physical Therapy can speed up your recovery after rotator cuff surgery

Excel Sports & Physical Therapy can help you prepare for and recover from your rotator cuff surgery. Our team’s locations service patients in St. Charles, Warren and St. Louis counties. We always aim to give each of our patients high-quality and professional treatments that accommodate their unique needs. Whether you’re prepping for rotator cuff surgery or you’ve already gone through with it, let us be the ones to help you.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.