Post operative Rotator Cuff Repair Rehab

Rehabilitation Guidelines

Phase 1 ( 0 - 6 weeks)

You are not permitted to actively move your operated shoulder or lift any weight for the first 6 weeks. No overhead activity is performed for 12 weeks except for the exercises prescribed.

Pain may be worse at night, so you may use ice, heat and pain relief medication.

✪ Elbow Flexion and Extension Take off the sling.

This can be done in sitting or when lying on your back. With the palm of the operated arm up, gently bend and straighten the elbow as far as possible.

Repeat 10 reps, 3x/day about the arm, forearm, hand and fingers for the first 6 weeks.

Scapula Strengthening This exercise can be done whilst the sling is on or off. Depress your shoulders and simultaneously pinch your shoulder blades back together, hold for ten seconds and release. Hold 10 secs, Repeat 10 reps, 3x/day

✪ Pendular Reach Pendular Reach Bend at your waist and rest with your good arm on a steady surface, eg a table, so that your operated arm is dangling in front of your body in a relaxed position. Swing the operated arm in a clockwise direction for 1 minute making the circles larger during this time as comfort allows. Repeat by swinging the arm in an anticlockwise direction for a further 1 minute, again making the circles larger each time only as comfort allows. Clockwise 1min, Anticlockwise 1 min.

Phase 2 (6 weeks to 3 months)

Supported / assisted range of motion exercises.

✪ Shoulder Flexion Lying on your back. Try one of these options with the elbows bent at first, progressing to having your elbows straight:

Option 1. Hold stick with both hands. Lift the operated shoulder up towards your head using only the good arm to lift the operated shoulder. Try to lift the arm up over your head as far back only as comfort allows.

Option 2. Clasp the operated arm’s wrist and use the good arm to lift the operated shoulder, whilst keeping it relaxed through range, up towards your head. Try to lift the arm up over your head as far back only as comfort allows. Hold 5secs, 10 reps, 3x/day

✪ Active Supported External Rotation Sit at a table with the elbows bent

at 90º, by your side and supported on top of the table. Keeping your trunk still, slide the forearm of the operated side so that it swings outwards, away from your body. Hold 5secs, 10 reps, 2x/day

Phase 3 (3 months to 6 months)

✪ Begin active strengthening


These can be explained by your physiotherapist and progressed as your strength and range continue to improve.

About the author:

Dr Jan Naughton received her PhD at Sydney University where she was lecturing in Sports Medicine and undergraduate physiotherapy. She specialises in shoulder injuries and has a sports physiotherapy practice in Wahroonga on Sydney's upper north shore working with two other specialist colleagues.

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