Arthroscopy

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When Can I Get Back to Work After Rotator Cuff Repair?

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A rotator cuff tear before repair

Return to work after rotator cuff repair.

You have a painful rotator cuff tear.  You try oral medications and anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, chiropractic care, watchful waiting, massage therapy. You change your diet and lower your sugar intake.  You try regenerative therapies like PRP injections.

You try everything, and yet still you have pain.

The answer is clear. While discussing with your orthopedic shoulder specialist, rotator cuff repair is your best and only option to get you back to living and loving your life.

Yes, a well-trained shoulder specialist such as Dr. Johnny T. Nelson, MD is able to repair your rotator cuff.  But what does this mean for you?  How will your life be affected?

One of the most frequent questions that patient’s ask while discussing rotator cuff repair is:

When can I get back to work?

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A rotator cuff tear after repair.

This is not a simple question, and ultimately the answer is usually different for every patient.  That is why it is very important to have a personal, one-on-one visit with your orthopedic shoulder specialist.

But if you are alone, searching for guidance and  answers to this question, here are some pointers.

Rotator cuff repair procedure is always done as an outpatient, meaning you will go home the same day that the procedure is performed.  No lengthy hospitalization is necessary.  You will be back home, resting and healing in your home environment on the day of the procedure. More information about the healing process after shoulder arthroscopy can be found here.

But you cannot return to work after rotator cuff repair immediately.

You will need at least one week of strict rest, mostly spent lying down with ice on your shoulder allowing the swelling to subside.  While this process under the guidance of Dr. Nelson’s protocol not very painful, it is important that you have at least one week devoted to rest of the shoulder and the entire body.  During this time, of course it is okay to get up and walk, go from one room to the other, and go on simple short excursions outside the home.  It is also important that you move your hand, wrist, and elbow.

But the first week after the procedure is certainly not a time to return to work, no matter what you do.

After 1 week, most patients are able to sit up comfortably.  For some patients, they are comfortable enough to sit at a desk or a computer, answer phone calls, and talk for extended periods on the phone.  Therefore, some patients may be able to return to work at 1 week or 2 weeks if they do mostly sitdown, desk type work.

But even in these situations, you may require a shortened shift or periods of rest. So it is very important that your employer is comfortable with you using such accommodations.

Depending on the shoulder procedure that you had done, some patients must keep their arm strictly without movement, such as a rotator cuff repair.  For other surgeries on the shoulder where rotator cuff repair is not performed, patients return to using their hand for waist level and gentle activities as soon as they can tolerate it.  However, this does not mean that the patient returns to repetitive use or any forceful gripping, pushing, or pulling.

Are you having a rotator cuff repair? Plan out enough time for healing.  Many patients are able to return to desk work at 1 to 2 weeks while wearing their sling. But some other patients may not be comfortable enough to do so.

If you work heavy labor, you will not be able to return to full work for 4 to 6 months.

 

You can probably return to work wearing your sling and without use of the operated arm 4 weeks after surgery. However, the use of the operated arm to push, pull, or perform any heavy lifting or climbing is not allowed for 4 to 6 months.  This can be a long time to stay out of work. But it is absolutely essential that you do not perform heavy work with a newly repaired rotator cuff.

Do you have a rotator cuff tear?  You need to learn more about your options. You need to discuss the healing process with an experienced shoulder specialist.  Dr. Johnny T. Nelson, MD is a shoulder surgeon serving patients in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Garner, Knightdale, Cary, and all of North Carolina.  Call 919-872-5296 today to schedule a consultation.

When Can I Get Back to Work After Rotator Cuff Repair? Read More »

do i have to have surgery for a rotator cuff tear 62767fac148b3

Do I Have to Have Surgery for a Rotator Cuff Tear?

do i have to have surgery for a rotator cuff tear 62767fac148b3Do I have to have surgery for my rotator cuff tear?

You may have recently been given a diagnosis of rotator cuff tear. Often, this can be given by a surgeon based on physical exam, a physical therapist based on your symptoms, or even based on imaging studies such as x-rays or MRI.

This diagnosis may lead to many questions for you.

Some patients think that just because rotator cuff tear is present, there is an immediate need for surgery. This is not actually true, as rotator cuff tears come in many different “flavors.” That is why it is very important to allow a shoulder expert like Dr. Johnny Nelson to examine your shoulder and discuss your unique situation with you.

It is important and helpful to look at the rotator cuff like a rope made out of a bunch of fibers. Some ropes are extremely new and extremely healthy, completely intact without any tearing or fraying. Other ropes may have some tearing and fraying of the fibers but overall remained intact. Then again other ropes may be completely torn, cut, or snapped and unable to be used.

The rotator cuff tendon is the same way.

Some patients have completely intact rotator cuff, with no tearing or fraying or even inflammation. Some patients have mild tearing of a few of the muscle and tendon fibers, while some patients have complete tears where the muscle is not connected to the bone.

We do have some evidence that smaller rotator cuff tears are less likely to become large tears, possibly scarring in place and healing. We also have evidence that large rotator cuff tears are more likely to get larger over time, and are less likely to be repairable the longer they are left without repair.

As a general rule, younger more active patients with more severe tears are more likely to be offered surgery and are more likely to respond well to that surgery. Patients with small tears are less likely to be offered surgery because there is evidence that these patients will often heal without surgery. However, even for small tears surgery is sometimes offered when treatments such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and injections do not bring lasting relief of their pain and weakness.

If you have been told that you have a rotator cuff tear, or if you have been told that you need surgery on your shoulder, do not hesitate to make a visit to see Dr. Johnny Nelson to discuss your shoulder.

Sometimes knowing is half the battle!

 

Do I Have to Have Surgery for a Rotator Cuff Tear? Read More »

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