Thanks to surgical and physical therapy advances over recent years, rotator cuff surgery recovery won't keep you off the job or out of the gym as long as it once did. Rotator cuff tears are not uncommon in adults and are usually caused by acute trauma or repetitive overhead work such as painters or construction workers might perform. Once your physician diagnoses a tear and recommends surgery, you'll need to plan for a period of post-operative physical therapy. How long that therapy last depends on several factors:
- the severity of your tear;
- the type of surgery performed (open surgery requires longer healing compared to a minimally-invasive arthroscopic procedure);
- your pre-surgical physical condition;
- the type of cold and compression therapy provided by your physical therapist (PT) following surgery.
The last item is very important and one that you should proactively pursue with your PT. Cold (cryo)therapy is routinely used for rotator cuff surgery recovery because of its ability to reduce swelling and diminish pain. Compression therapy helps to restore normal physiologic processes in the damaged tissue more rapidly and speeds lymphatic drainage, which accelerates the healing process.
Here are 5 key things you should discuss with your surgeon and/or PT so your rotator cuff surgery recovery proceeds as rapidly and successfully as possible:
1. Not all cold and compression therapy is equal. Sure, if you want to go really old school, you can put crushed ice in a plastic bag or buy a bag of frozen peas and apply it to your shoulder. There are also systems that use ice water in a pad that's affixed to the shoulder with an elastic compression wrap, as well as devices that continuously circulate cold water through pads affixed with elastic wrap.
2. Comparative studies have shown these solutions to be less effective than a more advanced system that delivers both cold and compression therapy in an ergonomic wrap that's especially designed for delivering targeted shoulder therapy.
3. Though static compression is an effective way to reduce swelling, intermittent compression therapy is better for also optimizing lymphatic drainage. Active compression is especially helpful when a patient is not able to generate rhythmic muscle contractions that help stimulate tissue recovery.
4. Using a system that combines cold and intermittent compression therapy has been shown to reduce the number of post-surgical PT visits required. This means lower costs are incurred for therapy and a quicker return to normal functioning.
5. Post-surgical pain and the use of pain medication is an important issue for physicians and patients. Physicians want to make sure their patients don't become dependent on pain medication; patients want faster relief and the ability to function without being under the influence of powerful pain meds. Using a combined cryotherapy and intermittent compression system has been shown to improve short-term pain relief and reduce the use of pain meds. One patient who had undergone 2 prior shoulder surgeries before using this system after his third surgery found it helped reduce his pain and bruising and led to a faster recovery.
Don't be satisfied with 20th-century cold and compression technology for your rotator cuff surgery recovery. Ask for the system that's used by professional athletes as well as regular folks who want to get back to work as fast as possible. How can we help?
People who are physically active -professional and amateur athletes, sports fans, or those who have a job requiring overhead activities like lifting, pulling, or pushing - may find themselves with a painful shoulder that doesn't get better with time. This could be a rotator cuff injury. People with rotator cuff tears have symptoms that include pain when you try to move your arm away from your body, when you lift it or lower it from a fully raised position. Muscle atrophy around the shoulder is another symptom. If this describes you, visit a doctor for tests which can diagnose a rotator cuff tear.
Once diagnosed, you'll likely be a candidate for surgery to repair the rotator cuff tear. Happily, modern surgical procedures are usually minimally invasive (depending on the size and complexity of your tear and other factors) outpatient procedures so your rotator cuff surgery recovery is accelerated.
What happens after surgery?
After surgery, your physician will refer you to a physical therapist for rehabilitation so your healing process is properly managed. Surgery, no matter how minimally invasive, causes soft tissue trauma which in turn starts what's called an inflammatory response that increases tissue temperature at the affected site, causes tissue edema (swelling) and the movement of leukocyctes into the tissue. These are useful for removing tissue debris but can also cause cell injury and necrosis.
There can also be significant post-surgical pain, swelling and muscle spasms. This is why your rotator cuff surgery recovery should include immediate cold and compression therapy so you recover faster with less pain.
Why cold therapy?
Cold (or cryo) therapy has a long and confirmed history as an excellent treatment for soft tissue injury and trauma. It's used for two important reasons - to control swelling and to reduce pain. Cold treatment has an analgesic (numbing or deadening) effect which lessens pain. Proper cooling has been shown to promote earlier and more aggressive exercises.
Cryotherapy systems today go way beyond a bag of crushed ice or frozen peas. Advanced solutions to speed healing use an integrated cold therapy device that offers adjustable temperature control, specialized shoulder wraps ideal for rotator cuff surgery recovery, and a portable design so you can do therapy nearly anywhere, anytime.
Why compression therapy?
Compression at the site of the injury is also commonly used to help with post-surgical tissue healing. It helps reduce swelling by limiting the pooling of fluid in the injured tissue outside the blood vessels; this pooled fluid can slow the body's ability to deliver important healing nutrients to the site and can also limit body mobility, which also slows the healing process.
Though some physical therapists rely on static compression (a simple wrap at the affected area), more advanced therapy techniques use what's called intermittent or active compression, which has an additional healing benefit - it speeds up lymphatic drainage which reduces swelling from the area and encourages faster recovery.
Why combination cold and compression therapy?
Smart surgeons and physical therapists know that the best way to help get their patients back to work and their normal life is to use an integrated, ergonomically-designed dual system that delivers both cold and intermittent compression in one portable system. Repeated studies show that combining cold and intermittent compression is associated with less post-operative intervention, less physical therapy expenses, improved pain relief, and a quicker return to work and daily activities.
Ask your surgeon or physical therapist about the system that professional athletes all over the world use to help them more quickly rebound from a shoulder injury. How was your physical therapy handled?
Shoulder pain can occur for lots of reasons, but if you’re physically active at work or at play, then your shoulder pain might be due to a rotator cuff injury. These injuries are not unusual, especially for active folks. Professional and weekend athletes who routinely use their shoulders during a game or workout – swimming, rowing, pitching, playing tennis, or lifting weights at the gym – are prone to a rotator cuff injury. So are people who use their shoulders in their job to lift or carry heavy items.
The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles and the tendons associated with them. When you get a tear in this area, you’ll have pain during motion and at night when you sleep on the affected area. You may also find that your arm is weaker, especially if you don’t get treatment right away. The recommended treatment for many is rotator cuff surgery, an outpatient procedure that usually takes a few hours, depending on how much damage has been done.
One of the most important things you can do to speed your recovery is to religiously follow your post-surgical treatment regimen. Doing so gets you back up and active sooner rather than later. Let’s review what some of the experts have to say about rotator cuff surgery recovery:
ü According to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s important that during your hospital stay and after your discharge you apply a cooling device and take pain meds if needed. But don’t think that just putting an ice bag on your shoulder will do the trick. Plastic bags with crushed ice or bags of frozen peas might seem like your only option, but these methods are uncomfortable, hard to stick with, and if you’re not careful, you can ‘burn’ your sensitive skin with the cold.
ü Steven Sampson, MD, a board-certified osteopathic physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor in Southern California, began recommending that his patients use a system which delivers adjustable cold therapy and intermittent compression in a comfortable and portable shoulder wrap. One of his patients who had undergone three surgeries found that after his third surgery, the use of this integrated therapy system helped him recover faster. The patient used the integrated cryo/compression system for four weeks and loved its portability and convenience.
ü A review of 43 articles that reported on the management and rehabilitation of rotator cuff disease found that, “successful management of rotator cuff disease is dependent on appropriate rehabilitation.” This evidence-based medical review concluded that using cryotherapy for days 1-6 for pain and inflammation and days 7-28 as needed for pain and inflammation is the recommended treatment for rotator cuff surgery recovery.
A Superior System for Superior Results
You recover more rapidly from surgery and move more quickly through the stages of rehabilitation when your rotator cuff surgery recovery starts with an integrated space-age system that captures cold and compression therapy in one simple-to-use, convenient, portable and reliable solution. Adjustable temperature control, a specialized shoulder wrap that stays comfortably in place, and adjustable treatment time all are designed to help you, the recovering patient, get your shoulder injury behind you as fast as possible.
Use the system that professional athletes in all types of sports depend upon and get your own game back faster. How did your rotator cuff injury happen and what post-op therapy did you use?
A rotator cuff injury happens fairly commonly to people, especially if they’re over 40 years old and working in a job that requires lots of overhead arm and shoulder movement, such as construction or painting professions. Athletes, too, particularly swimmers, baseball pitchers and tennis players are prone to a rotator cuff tear. Once your physician diagnoses you with a rotator cuff injury, you’ll either undergo a non-surgical treatment or you may need surgery if other treatments don’t relieve the pain, muscle atrophy and weakness most often associated with this type of injury.
After surgery, you’ll start a rehabilitation program, and here’s where you get some really great news. Many doctors and physical therapists now rely on a state-of-the-art, NASA-inspired cold and compression therapy system that takes the traditional RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) regimen to a whole new level. Better cold and compression delivery means your recovery over the first four weeks is accelerated and you get back to working, playing and living a pain-free life.
One patient’s experience
After undergoing two surgeries on his shoulder, a third one was necessary when Ben Kelly’s doctor discovered a rotator cuff tearas well as other shoulder injuries. The first two surgeries were followed by intense pain, swelling and bruising and weeks of great discomfort. Happily, after the third shoulder surgery, Kelly’s doctor had him use a system that delivers adjustable cold therapy and intermittent pneumatic compression in a shoulder wrap that can be easily applied and taken anywhere.
Kelly used the system for nearly four weeks and as often as possible and found it to be far superior to ice packs because it “got colder and stayed colder while covering a larger area. Plus, I didn’t have to mess with it – like holding or taping the ice packs in place. I could leave the wrap on and walk around when I needed to.”
The science behind the system
Rotator cuff surgery recovery is faster because of an ergonomic design that delivers cold therapy and compression right to the injury site. Cold therapy has long been known to be helpful in reducing pain and swelling; compressive therapy helps increase blood flow and delivery of oxygen to the tissue site, as well as improving lymphatic drainage and stimulating tissue healing. Adjustable temperature control, compression pressure and treatment time make it easy for the patient to use, so they remain compliant with their post-surgical rehabilitation program.
“I breezed through my recovery and therapy this time,” enthuses Kelly. “I didn’t have half as much swelling after my third surgery either, and the quicker the swelling went down, the quicker I could start therapy.” His four weeks after rotator cuff surgery recovery are a testament to finding the right post-op cold and compression therapy solution, and sticking with the program.
Get over your shoulder surgery faster and get back in the game of life. How long was your post-operative rotator cuff surgery recovery period?