I hurt my shoulder on-the-job and had to have a rotator cuff repair. Now, six months later, I'm back on-the-job, but there's a lot of stiffness in that shoulder. It worries me. Is this to be expected?
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that surround the shoulder. These soft tissues form an capsule or cuff around the shoulder. They help keep the joint in the socket and rotate the arm.
Rotator cuff surgery may be done as an open incision, mini-open, or arthroscopic technique. The torn tendon is repaired along with any other damage that have may occurred at the same time.
Most patients go through a specific rehab program under the direction of a physical therapist. It is expected that full motion and function will return in time. Persistent shoulder stiffness after rotator cuff repair can happen, although it is fairly uncommon.
If you are concerned that this stiffness is still present despite following your rehab program, you should make a follow-up visit with your therapist and/or the surgeon. There may be some further exercises that would help. Or it's possible a second surgery may be needed. For example, the surgeon can release the shoulder capsule if it is too tight or has become bound down with adhesions and scar tissue.
Most of the time, conservative care with physical therapy is prescribed first before performing another operation. But your surgeon is the one who will make this determination.
R. Frank Henn III, MD, et al. Patients with Workers' Compensation Claims Have Worse Outcomes After Rotator Cuff Repair. In The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. October 2008. Vol. 90-A. No. 10. Pp. 2105-2013.
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