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Rotator Cuff Tear Repair


Rotator cuff repair is surgery to fix a tear in one or more of your rotator cuff tendons. A tendon is a cord of tough tissue that connects your muscles to your bones. The rotator cuff is made up of a group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place.



  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Ask when you should return to have your stitches taken out. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care for your wound:

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

Ice your shoulder:

Ice may decrease pain, swelling, and muscle spasms. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.

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 wound heal.

Physical therapy:

  • Your physical therapy may begin soon after surgery. At first, a physical therapist will work with you to do safe exercises that will allow your rotator cuff to 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, the therapist 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, you will do exercises that include using your shoulder more. You will begin exercises such as raising and stretching your arm. Do only those exercises that you have been told to do, and only as often as you 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 that require you to 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 you have a rotator cuff tear repair.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • 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.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You suddenly have shortness of breath.
  • The stitches on your shoulder wound come apart.
  • You have new shoulder pain that does not go away, even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have sudden numbness or tingling down your arm.

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 (Discharge Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes