After-Surgery Torn Rotator Cuff Exercises

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    • Following rotator cuff surgery, exercise builds strength and adds stability to the shoulder.exercise image by sasha from

      The rotator cuff consists of a group of four muscles and tendons. A complete tear of one of the muscles cannot heal and requires rotator cuff surgery to repair the damage. Based upon the extent of damage prior to surgery, a doctor-recommended exercise program that provides the maximum benefits for each individual patient begins in the recovery room. The first six weeks after surgery, passive motion exercises enable movement of the operated shoulder without muscle participation. These exercises ease pain, speed recovery and prevent stiffness and the formation of scar tissue while increasing range of motion. Active exercises, performed over the second six weeks, strengthen and stabilize the shoulder to prevent re-injury.

      Do not perform any of the exercises described in this article without consulting your doctor.

    Continuous Passive Motion

    • Following rotator cuff surgery, while the patient is still in the recovery room, post-surgical exercise begins with the use of a motorized continuous passive motion machine, according to the University of Washington School of Medicine, "Recovering from Surgery," December 2009. The CPM allows immediate movement without the patient's participation or using the patient's muscles. A cable that extends from a brace strapped to the patient's forearm to the motorized portion of the device gently lifts the arm.

    Pendulum Swing

    • On its website, Healthwise, NYU Medical Center offers a demonstration of this passive motion exercise performed by bending slightly forward while holding onto a table or the back of a chair and allowing your operated arm to dangle. Do not use the muscles of your operated shoulder or arm while performing this exercise. Use body movements to slowly swing your arm back and forth and then in small circles. As directed by your doctor, the range of swinging and the width of circles increase as your pain decreases.

    Overhead Stretch

    • The University of Washington School of Medicine recommends this passive motion stretching exercise for patients following rotator cuff surgery. While lying down, with the muscles of the operated shoulder completely relaxed, use your other hand to lift the arm of the operated shoulder gently and slowly up and over your head. Slowly lower the arm of the operated shoulder while still holding it with the opposite hand.

    Arm Raise to the Side

    • Strengthening exercises begin six to eight weeks after surgery. To perform this exercise, Healthwise, NYU Medical Center recommends keeping your operated arm slightly to the front of your body at approximately 30 degrees. Slowly raise your arm to 60 degrees with your thumb pointing up. Hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds. Place the opposite hand below your elbow to provide support for the operated shoulder as you slowly lower the arm to your side. When performing this exercise, avoid bringing your arm to full shoulder level, which is 90 degrees. As you progress, at the recommendation of your doctor or physical therapist, hold 1- to 2-lb weights while doing this exercise to increase shoulder strength.

    Wall Push-Ups

    • Also recommended by Healthwise, NYU Medical Center, this scapular strengthening exercise helps to stabilize the shoulder and aid rotator cuff function. Standing about 12 to 18 inches away, place your hands on the wall at shoulder level. Slowly bring your face to the wall, then slowly push back.

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