Exercises After Rotator Cuff Surgery

By Chris Joseph

Due to the heavy amount of force and violent twisting action that comes with swinging a golf club, a fairly common injury among golfers is a tear of the rotator cuff, which is a group of four tendons that provide stability to the shoulder joint. In some cases, the injury can be treated with rest and rehabilitation. In more severe situations, surgery is required to repair the tear. To fully recover from surgery and make a successful return to the links, a golfer must take part in a strict exercise regimen.

Initial Phase

Your rehabilitation will actually begin right after surgery. Immediately upon awakening after the operation, you can begin light exercises that involve your hand, wrist and elbow that do not necessitate the lifting of the shoulder. You will be performing basic motions such as flexing the elbow and twisting the wrist, without undergoing any movement where the shoulder is left unsupported. This phase will last about six weeks.

Second Phase

Beginning in the seventh week, you will begin exercises where you move your shoulder on your own with the aid of a physical therapist. This phase will last another six weeks, or up to eight weeks in the case of a severe tear. These include isotonic exercises that involve movement of the joint, such as lifting a soup can, and isokinetic exercises where resistance is provided by a weight machine and increases as the amount of force applied increases. Unsupported triceps and biceps extensions may also be implemented.

Final Phase

In the last phase, a strength training program will be the prescribed course of action. This will involve lifting light weights initially, and gradually adding weight as strength continues to progress. These will include exercises for the lower trapezius muscles such as upright rows, as well as ones to strengthen the entire arm, including curls and triceps extensions. Testing is done after about 20 weeks to gauge strength, and the golfer can typically return to play if the shoulder is pain-free and at least 90 percent of the strength has returned.


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