Contemplating rotator cuff and labrum surgery. As a contractor, how long will I be off work?

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I have been told by my surgeon that I have a partially torn rotator cuff with a bone spur underneath, as well as a labrum tear. As a self-employed contractor, I am weighing whether or not to have surgery, and if I do, when will I realistically be able to return to work.

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  • Posted

    I am a PT and took 6 months off. I was a little tentative about lifting at first but within a month was ok. I've been back to work for 4 months now. Being off 6 months is tough if you are self employed.  It is a  difficult and slow recovery process. If you have not already had some PT, maybe you could consider that before surgery. Wish you the best. 

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  • Posted

    Three-4 months if you do light construction work. Longer for heavy lifting.  This is a very long and painful recovery. You must do physical therapy or you'll never get back to normal.

    I had a full tear repair with bone spurs and some bursitis cleaned up on July 31st. My shoulder still hurts. I'm still going to PT for strengthening.

    Good luck.

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  • Posted

    Hello Acesspade: They told me it would take a year to fully regain the strength and movement I had before injuring my shoulder. However, that does not mean you cannot do anything strenuous until that time passes. Here is a typical pattern: 

    The nerve block will wear off in about 22-24 hours. Start taking pain medication before that so you deal with the pain.

    Sleep in a nice recliner

    Start pendulum exercises asap. I did them about every hour but you must be sure that they are completely passive. Your arm dangling and you not using any muscles to move your arm. They will show you how to do this.

    Start PT immediately after surgery. 

    First five-six weeks in bolster sling. Keep it on and squeeze the ball about every hour.

    PT will do passive ROM only. TENS. Ice packs. The holes and incision (if you have one) will heal in about 8-10 days.

    Because you are immobilized, your arm gets stiff and granulation or scar tissue can form. Once that first 6 weeks is past, PT will start AROM which means you get to start using your own power and your own muscles to exercise your arm. They will give you at home exercises to do with another person assisting. That lasts another 4-6 weeks.

    Then comes the active ROM. By now you are in you 13th week. They will have you stretch, strengthen, and start lifting weights. That is for about another 5-6 weeks. By that time you will be sick of going to PT. You do a lot of things on your own. The hardest motion is to put your arm behind you as if you are tucking the back of your shirt into your pants. Another hard motion is to just lift your arm straight out to the side of you body with a weight in your hand. Now see if you can sleep in your bed. This is very difficult because the arm falls to gravity and tends to hurt like heck in this position. 

    You can do moderate work, but no lifting he-man weights at the gym. You just do not want to tear out the anchors they use in the top of the humerus to position the muscle. 

    I would say you could do light work at 4 and a half months, but no carrying huge, unwieldy, or weighty lumber or cinder blocks. Your opposite shoulder is going to take a beating because through this time you are using the unaffected arm. It is doing all the work that both arms use to share. So be careful! 

    I find that Lidocaine patches (my favorite are the Aspercreme brand) are great at alleviating the annoying residual pain.For me at 6 months, I still awaken at night with pain in my arm and shoulder. That is my story. Yours may be a lot better than mine. At this point I cannot say, "Hey Doc, I am glad I ddi the surgery" but I hope by the one-year milestone I can. By then I will have worn out the other shoulder and need surgery on it. Mine are accident related when a guy T-boned me as I was driving down the highway and he was supposedly at a stop sign. Totaled both cars. He was trying to cross five lanes of traffic and said, "I did not see you". He was not looking my direction and when he hit he was still looking down the opposite direction from where I was coming.

    Make sure you have the BEST surgeon in your area and ask him about cases he has had that did not do well. My surgeon only had two, and one was re-fixed. Good luck!! Joni

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  • Posted

    I had the exact same surgery exactly a year ago--- I didn't have much pain after the surgery but the ice machine helps a lot-  Make sure you do your stretching exercises at home religiously ..  the more you do it , the easier it will be to stretch it out.. I was back working on light weights in the gym approx. 6 months.. Now, I am working heavy weights again, but still being careful.. No bench press, no shoulder press but everything else is good. I still get a little burning at the incision sites but I think that is still a little scar tissue in the muscle where the incisions cut through the muscle.     Just be careful.. Listen to your surgeon and PT......  They know best......... Don't try to do too much too soon.    And Good luck... !!!

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  • Posted

    I am now at 13 weeks after surgery and still experience pain. If your work involves use of your arms, then you will definitely have a lot of down time. My PT says there can be a lot of variance regarding recovery. Some people recover quickly and some take much longer. If you decide to have surgery, you need to be prepared to be off for several weeks for sure.


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