14 December 2020,
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Marked by symptoms such as pain, decreased range of motion and weakness in the shoulder joint, rotator cuff tears can be highly uncomfortable and disruptive to a patient’s daily activities. Anti-inflammatory medications & physical therapy can help alleviate symptoms in many cases. But, in the event that conservative methods fail to provide full relief, rotator cuff surgery may be recommended as the next step in treatment. This article will provide an overview of the shoulder surgery recovery timeline patients can generally expect after undergoing surgical rotator cuff repair.

Shoulder Surgery Recovery Timeline: What to Expect After Rotator Cuff Surgery and More

If you have had limited success with first-line rotator cuff tear treatments and are now considering surgery, it’s important to become familiar with what the procedure & post-operative recovery typically entail. While every patient’s recovery timeline will be slightly different, here are some guidelines on what you can reasonably anticipate:

  • – Prior to the day of surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will provide instructions on how to prepare. Generally, surgical rotator cuff repair is performed under general anesthesia in an outpatient setting. The surgery may take 1-1.5 hours, depending on how severe the tear is and how much repair work is required. When complete, a sling will be placed on your operated arm, and you will be moved to a postoperative recovery room. Typically, an overnight stay is not required. 
  • – In the days following rotator cuff surgery, you can expect to experience some pain & swelling in your shoulder. Elevating the arm, taking prescribed pain relievers and intermittently icing your shoulder will help keep you comfortable. 
  • – For the first 4-6 weeks after surgery, you will be instructed to limit the use of your operated arm to prevent inflammation & scar tissue buildup. Around this time, your surgeon will likely clear you to remove your sling. Starting physical therapy at this point is also crucial to help rebuild your shoulder strength, increase your range of motion and minimize the chance of reinjury.
  • Approximately 4-6 months after rotator cuff repair, you can expect to complete the rehabilitation process. Your exact shoulder surgery recovery timeline will depend on a combination of factors, including the severity of your rotator cuff injury and the speed at which your body naturally heals. 

Create a Personalized Rotator Cuff Treatment Plan with Dr. Soffer 

Rotator cuff tears can result from acute injury, or due to degeneration of the tendon over time. In either case, it is important to seek professional care early on to prevent worsening symptoms and speed your recovery. 

Proud to provide patients in the Reading, PA area with cutting-edge orthopedic care, Dr. Stephen Soffer specializes in minimally invasive arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. He was the first surgeon to do arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs in Berks County, and he teaches courses to other surgeons on how to do this surgery. He also provides the full range of nonsurgical treatments for rotator cuff injuries & other orthopedic issues. If you are eager to get relief from your shoulder discomfort, call our office at 610-375-4949 today to schedule an in-person or telemedicine appointment with Dr. Soffer.


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