Rehabilitation after Rotator Cuff Repair

Ourania Nikolaidou*, Stefania Migkou, Christos Karampalis
Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, B' Orthopaedic Department, 424 General Army Hospital, Thessaloniki, Greece

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Creative Commons License
© 2017 Nikolaidou et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, B' Orthopaedic Department, 424 General Army Hospital, Egnatias 56429, Eukarpia, Thessaloniki, Greece; Tel: +306932286055; E-mails:,



Rotator cuff tears are a very common condition that is often incapacitating. Whether non-surgical or surgical, successful management of rotator cuff disease is dependent on appropriate rehabilitation. If conservative management is insufficient, surgical repair is often indicated. Postsurgical outcomes for patients having had rotator cuff repair can be quite good. A successful outcome is much dependent on surgical technique as it is on rehabilitation. Numerous rehabilitation protocols for the management of rotator cuff disease are based primarily on clinical experience and expert opinion. This article describes the different rehabilitation protocols that aim to protect the repair in the immediate postoperative period, minimize postoperative stiffness and muscle atrophy.


A review of currently available literature on rehabilitation after arthroscopic rotator cuff tear repair was performed to illustrate the available evidence behind various postoperative treatment modalities.


There were no statistically significant differences between a conservative and an accelerated rehabilitation protocol . Early passive range of motion (ROM) following arthroscopic cuff repair is thought to decrease postoperative stiffness and improve functionality. However, early aggressive rehabilitation may compromise repair integrity.


The currently available literature did not identify any significant differences in functional outcomes and relative risks of re-tears between delayed and early motion in patients undergoing arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs. A gentle rehabilitation protocol with limits in range of motion and exercise times after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair would be better for tendon healing without taking any substantial risks. A close communication between the surgeon, the patient and the physical therapy team is important and should continue throughout the whole recovery process.

Keywords: Rehabilitation, Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, Shoulder, Scientific rationale, Rehabilitation protocols, Tendon healing.