Rotator cuff repair: post-operative rehabilitation concepts

  • Terrance A. SgroiEmail author
  • Michelle Cilenti
Rotator Cuff Repair (M Tao and M Teusink, section editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Rotator Cuff Repair


Purpose of review

With improvements in surgical techniques and increased knowledge of rotator cuff healing, there was a need to identify a safe progression after rotator cuff repair. The rehabilitation specialist plays an integral role in the care of these patients, and by implementing an evidence and criteria-based model, patients may be able to return to their prior levels of function sooner with fewer complications.

Recent findings

Timing of progression for rotator cuff patients should align not only with healing but also potential strain on the involved tissue. Recent electromyography studies have identified exercises which elicit highest level of muscle activation for individual dynamic stabilizers. The physical therapist should also be aware of potential complications and be prepared to manage appropriately if they should arise.


During rehabilitation after rotator cuff repair, there should be constant communication with the surgical team. Awareness of complication management, healing potential of the repaired tendon, and anatomy of the shoulder complex are critical. During the early stages, reducing pain and inflammation should be prioritized followed by progressive restoration of range of motion. When advancing range of motion, progression from passive, active assisted, and active movements allow for gradual introduction of stress to the healing construct. Even though time frames are not used for progression, it is important not to place excessive stress on the shoulder for up to 12 weeks to allow for proper tendon-to-bone healing. As exercises are progressed, scapular muscle activation is initiated, followed by isometric and lastly isotonic rotator cuff exercises. When treating overhead athletes, advanced strengthening in the overhead position is performed, followed by plyometric training. Advanced strengthening is initiated when all preceding criteria have been met. It is important that patients are educated early in the rehabilitation process so that they can manage their expectations to realistic time frames.


Rotator cuff Shoulder Post-operative rehabilitation 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Both authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and informed consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hospital for Special Surgery, Sports Rehabilitation and PerformanceNew YorkUSA

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