Rehabilitation After Shoulder Surgery

Shoulder surgery may be performed for any number of reasons including repairing a torn rotator cuff, correcting shoulder instability, or repositioning a dislocated shoulder. After surgery, the shoulder is susceptible to reinjury, so it is very important to closely follow rehabilitation guidelines to ensure proper healing and regain full range of motion to the shoulder. Physical therapy is an essential part of rehabilitation after shoulder surgery, to help restore full function to the shoulder.

Physical therapy often begins shortly after surgery to help restore strength and movement and allow patients to gradually resume their regular activities. Initial physical therapy treatments may include ice, electrical stimulation and massage, to help control pain and swelling. As the healing begins, exercises may be used to increase movement and mobility. Physical therapy exercises focus on improving the strength and control of shoulder muscles and the muscles around the shoulder blade. Treatment may include:

  • Muscle strengthening exercises
  • Shoulder girdle stabilization exercises
  • Gradual weight-bearing activities
  • Range of motion exercises

The physical therapist may also make suggestions and create exercises for improving posture and shoulder alignment as well advise patients on how to perform activities and exercises without endangering the area of repair.

A rehabilitation program after shoulder surgery may be directly linked to the severity of the initial injury and the type of repair that was performed. Severe injuries that require more complex surgery may have a longer period of rehabilitation than those that require less invasive surgery. Most patients will follow a physical therapy routine and receive treatment for about 4 months following surgery. At that time, most patients can return to all regular physical activity.

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