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Rotator Cuff Repair Rehabilitation

Welcome to our Rotator Cuff Repair Rehabilitation video series. The goal of these videos is to help maximize your recovery following rotator cuff surgery. These videos should not be used as a substitute for regular physical therapy visits and guidance from your physician.

Click here to download a pdf version of the Rotator Cuff Repair Rehabilitation Guide

PHASE I – Protection / Passive Motion – Rotator Cuff Exercises

GOALS:  Allow healing of the tendon and minimize shoulder stiffness


  • Engage in no active motion of the shoulder (ex: lifting arm away from side on its own)
  • Engage in no motion behind the back for 8 weeks following surgery
  • Wear sling at all times (including sleep) except for dressing, showering and when conducting exercises
  • Remove sling completely only at the direction of your physician.

PHASE 2 – Active Motion and Gentle Stretching – Rotator Cuff Stretches

GOAL:  Regain full motion of the shoulder in all directions


  • Engage in no motion behind the back for 8 weeks following surgery
  • Normal shoulder motion is okay – no hiking the shoulders up to the neck
  • For exercises, start with table slides, progress to pulleys or stick exercises, and finally engage in active motion (moving the arm on its own)
  • Work to regain full motion by the end of Phase 2; engage in STRETCHING exercises at 10 weeks following surgery if you feel deficient; stretching exercises should be conducted 3-4 times per day
  • Isometrics are okay to start at 10 weeks following surgery

PHASE 3 – Early Strengthening – Rotator Cuff Strengthening

GOAL: Start light reconditioning exercises for the rotator cuff muscles


  • Conduct STRETCHING exercises [1-5 in video] to improve motion or how much you can move your arm
    • Do these exercises 2-3 times daily until full motion is achieved
    • Start aggressive stretching at this point if motion not normal
    • Do warm up stretching prior to each strengthening session
  • Conduct STRENGTHENING exercises [6-13 in video] to improve muscle function and endurance
    • Do every other or every third day to prevent irritation
    • These are high repetition and low resistance exercises
    • Start with one set of 12-15 reps; as strength improves go to two sets per session
  • Exercise bands (ex. Therabands) are used during this phase for light resistance (1-5lbs). Bands are color-coded.  Start with the lightest resistance and progress to the next level over 1-2 weeks
  • No strengthening above shoulder level or with arm behind back

PHASE 4 – Advanced Strengthening – Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery

GOAL: Regain normal strength and pain-free function of the shoulder


  • Continue warm-up stretch if motion is not full
  • Progress to light dumbbells (2-5lbs) as strength improves; some exercises are easier to do with Therabands; it is okay to continue with bands if they are more comfortable than dumbbells
  • Strengthening should continue 3 times per week for up to 12 months to maximize positive outcomes
  • Conduct prone scapular muscle exercises [15-18 in video] with no weight at first; however, as strength improves add light weight (if comfortable)


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