Arthroscopy of the shoulder is an operation to heal damage to the shoulder joint. The most common indications for surgery are:

  • acromioplasty (release and removal of adhesions from the subacromial space),
  • labrum reinsertions with shoulder instability,
  • reconstruction of the rotator cuff tendons,
  • removal of free bodies from the shoulder,
  • excision of degenerative changes.

An orthopedist can perform several procedures during one surgery. With an increase in the number of repaired structures, the rehabilitation time to full recovery is extended.

Is rehabilitation after arthroscopy of the shoulder joint necessary?

Rehabilitation after surgery is an essential element of returning to full fitness. After arthroscopy, correct mobility and stability of the shoulder as well as the scapulohumeral rhythm can be regained only with well-conducted physiotherapy. Abandoning rehabilitation usually leads to capsular and muscular contractures, and thus limitation of mobility and pain.

When to start rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation can be started the next day after the surgery. During the first visit, a physiotherapist will thoroughly explain what activities should be avoided. Depending on the structures repaired, the initial stage of rehabilitation will focus on pain control and passive exercises guided by a therapist, indirect work and taping. At this time, adjacent joints of the upper limb are exercised, a physiotherapist orders the first home non-weight bearing exercises. The worst approach is to immobilize the shoulder in a sling for a few weeks!

How long does rehabilitation take?

The duration of rehabilitation depends on the type and method of arthroscopic treatment. The minimum recovery time for minor shoulder arthroscopy is about 6 weeks. With complex treatments, such as reconstruction of the rotator cuff, this time can be up to 6 months. Despite the same type of surgery, each shoulder will behave differently, and therefore the rehabilitation time is very individual. Hence, the recovery period may be different for each patient.

How to prepare for the procedure?

Before the procedure, it is good to acquire basic rehabilitation equipment, such as a ball and an elastic band. You will need this equipment to continue rehabilitation at home, which is a necessary element for a speedy recovery. You should also buy cooling gel compresses, which are especially useful in the initial phase of rehabilitation. The last element is an orthosis or a shoulder sling. The orthopedic equipment is helpful when sleeping and will keep the shoulder safe when traveling.

The main goals of rehabilitation:

  1. Reducing pain and swelling after the procedure,
  2. Achieving full mobility of the shoulder joint and restoring the scapulohumeral rhythm,
  3. Regaining stability of the shoulder joint,
  4. Improving strength of the upper limb in order to perform everyday activities,
  5. Dexterity training with the elements allowing to return to favorite sports.

In the Szpital Zakonu Bonifratrów, physiotherapy is performed by a team of specialists:

Rafał Trąbka, PhD

Łukasz Gregulski, MSc


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