Rotator Cuff Surgery - My Experience
Rotator Cuff Surgical Repair
My absence from writing on Hubpages lately has been due primarily to having had rotator cuff surgery. Rotator cuff disease in one of the most prevalent muscular-skeletal disorders, and the shoulder is the most complicated joint in the body.
Approximately 200,000 surgeries are done in America annually for repair of the rotator cuff, and another 400,000 have surgery for tendinitis or partial tears, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. They also remove loose fragments of tendons, bursa, and other debris in the shoulder space where the rotator cuff moves. This surgery is not for sissies!
The good news was I was given an injection in the area by my neck that numbed my whole arm until midnight on the day of surgery. There was also pain medicine that was put directly on the surgery site slowly over the first few days.
What is the Rotator Cuff?
The Rotator Cuff is a group of muscles and tendons, which are tough, flexible, fibrous bands of tissue that form the rotator cuff. It surrounds the shoulder joint.
Tendons actually attach the muscles to bones. They hold the arm in place and help with movement.
Sometimes rotator injuries or partial tears will repair with the help of physical therapy and rest.
If surgery is done there may be a large incision, but more often it is done with arthroscopy, which uses small incisions. A tiny camera is inserted, which allows the surgeon to see where the repairs are necessary. This is the way my surgery was done, which took 2 1/2 hours.
Rotator cuff repair usually means re-attaching the tendon to the head of humerus, which is the upper arm bone. Sometimes there is only a partial tear, so a debridement procedure will be done, which involves some trimming and sutures. A full tendon tear involves suturing the tendon back to where it belongs on the humerus.
Most of the time this surgery is done on an outpatient basis, so you return home the same day following surgery.
Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery | OSU Sports Medicine
When is the Surgery Performed?
Rotator cuff repair may be necessary for the following reasons:
- Shoulder pain when at rest or at night that has not improved following 6-12 months of therapy
- You are very active and use your shoulders for work or sports
- You have weakness and cannot do your daily activities
- A large or complete rotator cuff tear
- A tear caused by a recent injury
- Chronic rotator cuff problems without any tendon tears
Preparation for Surgery – (Two Weeks Before)
- Prior to surgery it is a good idea to not smoke for two weeks or quit if possible.
- Stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medication
- Ask your physician which drugs to take the day of surgery
- Let you physician know if you consume more than two alcoholic beverages a day as this might affect anesthesia
- Let your surgeon know if you have a fever, cold, flu, herpes breakout or other illness before surgery
For the first six weeks you wear a sling, and sleeping in a recliner is easier than sleeping in a bed.
Physical therapy begins within a couple of days and is basically passive range of movement exercise. You are not allowed to move your arm around much, as another tear would mean a second surgery. Believe me you do not want a second surgery as this surgery is very painful. The Physical Therapist works with your shoulder to overcome the stiffness and prevent scar tissue, which can be a common problem.
After six weeks, you begin using your muscles slowly with guidance from the therapist, and you no longer have to wear the sling.
In my instance I am in my 8th week of active exercise in therapy, which will soon continue at home. I use an ice pack that is designed to fit my shoulder following the exercise. It helps to relieve the pain. Sleeping has been particularly difficult, but it is improving.
Surgical Sling - 6 weeks
The projected recovery time per my doctor is 5-6 months, and it has been about 12 weeks at this time. It is amazing at the number of people who have this surgery. I am completing my physical therapy this week, but will continue with a therapy plan at home.
To help prevent this problems, regular exercise that involves the arm and back muscles will help.
I have met that have had this surgery or have a relative with this experience. It is more common after the age of 65, for diabetics and those who have had prednisone injections in their shoulder.
My Specific Case
I thought shoulder surgery was primarily done on people with a traumatic injury, but my orthopedic doctor said most rotator cuff surgeries (65%) were from the slower process of wear and tear, as was mine.
I have had osteoarthritis for years, and that was a another factor in my case. I had chronic shoulder pain, especially at night and could not sleep on my left shoulder. I had one tendon completely torn apart, and two others with partial tears. I also had the arthritic end of my clavicle removed due to the arthritis. This will cut done on pain in the coming years.
Physical Therapy After Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery
I am glad I had this surgery done, as my damage was severe. Research has shown that the tendons are still inactive five years after repair, and the pain is gone. So my pain is gone, and I am able to do many more activities..
Another problem is weakness in my arm as one muscle was atrophied, according to the scan. I would encourage anyone with a shoulder problem to get it treated sooner rather than wait, as waiting can create more damage.
The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.