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Rotator Cuff Tear Repair


  • Rotator cuff repair is surgery to fix a tear in one or more of the rotator cuff tendons. The rotator cuff, found in your shoulder, is made up of a group of muscles and tendons. These muscles and tendons hold the shoulder joint (where the bones of your shoulder meet) in place. Tendons are tough tissues that join muscle to bone. The rotator cuff is used when you lift your arm and reach overhead. A small sack of fluid around the joint, called a bursa, also helps your shoulder move.
    Shoulder- Front View
  • Injuries to the rotator cuff include tendon tears, which may be small or large. There may also be inflammation (swelling) of the tendons or the bursa. Rotator cuff tears cause pain and problems with arm movement. Rotator cuff tear repair can relieve your pain and improve your shoulder movement and strength.



  • Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine may decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine can be bought with or without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions on it before using this medicine.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • Ask caregivers when you should return to have your stitches taken out.

Caring for your wound:

Keep your shoulder wound clean and dry. Ask your caregiver how to care for the wound, and if you may get it wet in the bath or shower.

Stop smoking:

Smoking can slow down the healing of your rotator cuff after surgery. Ask your caregiver for information on how to stop smoking.

Ice your shoulder:

Ask caregivers if you should place ice or a cold pack on your shoulder. This treatment may decrease pain, swelling, and muscle spasms.

Use a sling:

You may need to use an abduction immobilizer sling for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. This sling stops your arm from moving. The pillow attached to the sling holds your arm away from your body. This position decreases pressure on your wound, and helps blood flow to the surgery area, which may help the area heal.

Physical therapy:

  • Your physical therapy may begin soon after surgery. If your exercises cause pain, stiffness or swelling in your shoulder, stop doing them, and tell your caregiver. At first, you will do exercises that will let your rotator cuff heal. Do not use your arm to lift anything. Do not use your arm to move around, push yourself up from lying down, or to change positions. After a few weeks your caregiver may suggest therapy in the pool. The water allows you to move your arm with very little stress on your shoulder.
  • Over 2 to 3 months, caregivers will add exercises that include using your shoulder more. You will begin exercises such as raising and stretching your arm. Do only those exercises that your caregiver tells you to do, and only as often as your are told to do them. Over time, you will begin doing exercises that make your shoulder muscles stronger. After 4 to 6 months, you may be able to begin activities where you lift your arm overhead, such as tennis and other racquet sports. It may take up to a year to return to all of your regular daily activities after having a rotator cuff tear repair.


  • Your surgery area is swollen, red, or has pus coming from it.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have stiffness or pain in your shoulder that is worse and making you stop your physical therapy.
  • You are vomiting (throwing up).
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery or medicine.


  • You have sudden trouble breathing.
  • The stitches on your shoulder wound come apart.
  • You have new shoulder pain that does not go away, even after taking pain medicine.
  • You have sudden numbness or tingling down your arm.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Rotator Cuff Tear Repair (Aftercare Instructions)

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