The exact amount of time needed to recover after rotator cuff surgery and safely return to work depends on several factors. To be clear though, it is not a quick turnaround. What kind of work someone does greatly affects how much time will be needed for recovery and for their return to work.
The Fragile Nature Of Rotator Cuff Surgery
Rotator cuff surgery entails the reattachment of the rotator cuff tendons to the bone of the humerus. Sutures keep it in place, but after six weeks it is only beginning to heal and be reattached to the bone.
During this time care must be taken to not move the shoulder. A sling or an immobilizer is needed to restrict the shoulder, making it necessary for someone to help with some ordinary activities. These include getting dressed, taking a shower, and driving. However, driving alone may be possible if the car has automatic transmission. Check with your orthopedist about any other restrictions during this time.
After the six weeks of healing, patients should be able to use the arm operated on to do the following:
- Get dressed without help
- Write or type
- Lift something small, like a coffee cup
The Long Road To Recovery
As you can see, it is a slow process to regain the strength to do more. Working at your place of employment is the most problematic, but it depends on your specific job and how serious the original tear was to the rotator cuff. Someone who has a desk job working at a computer may go back to work in about eight weeks after surgery if given the OK by their doctor.
For others it will take as long as six to eight months before they can return to their job. Those who have construction jobs, who are first responders, car mechanics, ,or in the military will require the full time to regain the strength in their shoulder. The size of the rotator tear will also be considered in this timeline.
Physical therapy will be introduced to regain proper motion and strength. For some it may take a full ten months for complete recovery, especially for those who consistently use their shoulder to lift or carry heavy objects.
Unfortunately, not everyone will regain the full strength they had prior to rotator cuff surgery.
Recovery from rotator cuff surgery is not for the faint of heart. Learn to use your other arm for all tasks for a while. Be prepared to spend months working on your recovery. Some may even need to alter their work schedule, or consider another line of work entirely.
Contact Dr. Samuel Koo at (425) 823-4000 about your rotator cuff recovery plan and when you can return to work.