Exercises After Rotator Cuff Surgery

What exercises might my physical therapist have me doing after rotator cuff surgery?

Many people think of exercises as a mechanism for getting in shape; they may not think about them as a post-surgical rehab technique. Yet what is rehabilitation from surgery if not getting your body back into shape? 

The majority of the 250,000 Americans who have rotator cuff surgery annually can benefit from doing therapeutic exercises. Benefits like reduced pain and increased readiness for surgery can come from doing pre-surgical rehab that includes exercises. Perks like a shorter recovery time and lower post-surgical pain can come from doing post-surgical rehab that includes physical therapy exercises. 

So, what types of exercises might you be asked to do after rotator cuff surgery? Physical therapists will typically have you do three specific types of exercises during your recovery.

Three types of exercises your physical therapist will have you doing after rotator cuff surgery: 

  1. Passive exercises — It doesn’t sound like you would be doing much when doing passive exercises after rotator cuff surgery. That’s correct. The goal here is to gently improve and maintain shoulder flexibility and range of motion. At the same time, it will still be early in your recovery process. Having your therapist move your shoulder through specific exercises can help meet the above goals. It can also keep any strain off your healing shoulder muscles. 
  1. Active exercises — Active exercises also sound like what they actually are. These exercises are typically prescribed later in the recovery process. They require that you move your shoulder on your own, but they may still be supervised by a physical therapist at first. Active exercises can help you start rebuilding your strength. But they don’t involve adding any resistance from weights or resistance bands. 
  1. Strengthening exercises — Strengthening exercises and active exercises have a lot in common. The difference? Strengthening exercises typically include some form of resistance. At first, this may only be light resistance bands or light hand weights. However, the goal of your physical therapist will be to gradually increase the resistance over time. In most cases, people continue to do strengthening exercises until they’re back to their normal level of function or as close as possible. 

SOL PT can help you find an effective mix of recovery exercises after rotator cuff surgery

Keen to find the program of recovery exercises that meets your needs after rotator cuff surgery? Our SOL Physical Therapy team is primed to help you build the best possible recovery plan. We can start you off with some pre-surgical rehab before your surgery. Then, we can work with you to address post-surgical issues. And we can do it all with a plan that takes your needs and goals into account. 

Contact our team today for more information about how we can help you after rotator cuff surgery or to schedule an initial appointment with us. 

About the author

Sports + Orthopedic Leaders Physical Therapy & Performance Training serves the communities of Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Orinda, San Francisco and beyond. SOLPT’s award winning team of Physical Therapists, Performance Coaches and movement experts has helped thousands reach their rehabilitation and performance goals to move beyond pain. We're committed to helping anyone of any fitness level move effectively and more powerfully for a lifetime. We offer rehabilitation and performance services to all populations, with specialties in Sports Rehabilitation, Active Release Techniques, and Manual Therapy Techniques plus Personal and Small Group Training, Sport Clinics and Wellness Services.