Rotator Cuff Surgery Story

Shoulder Arthroscopy


I am a retired 54 year old male in excellent health considering that my life for many years involved long sedentary hours as an investment banker. I'm not sure when or why my right shoulder problems began. There was no accident or tennis problem that I can recall. In fact, I am left-handed. Gradually over time, however, it became painful for me to put on a suit coat, sleep on my back with my right arm above my head, sleep on my right side, lift my right arm above my head to pull open the moonroof of the car, or lift a bicycle up to place it on the overhead hooks in the garage. I tolerated the discomfort until I realized that the problem was degenerating not improving. I estimated that I was limited to about 60% movement in my shoulder without incurring pain.

Through a referral, I met with my orthopedic surgeon for an examination and had my shoulder x-rayed and MRIed. My surgeon then recommended arthroscopic surgery based on the findings of a partial rotator cuff tear in my shoulder and my symptoms. The surgery was performed on December 7, 1998. I checked into the hospital at 7am and left about noon although I recall being under anesthesia for about two hours. (Someone must pick you up after the surgery since you are pretty groggy.) It was determined through the surgery that my shoulder impingement had been caused by a bone spur, bursitis, and torn cartilage.

I rested at home for 24 hours, met with my surgeon on December 10, and kept my arm in a sling for a week. The stitches were removed a week after surgery and amounted to one stitch each covering three very small incisions of about 1/4" each. (No notable scars have remained.) The shoulder was ginger for that first week but not painful unless I tried to move my right arm higher than 45 degrees from my side.

I began physical therapy on December 15 and continued formal therapy there twice a week until the end of January 1999. I was determined to make a success of the operation since I had been told by friends who had had similar operations on knees that a commitment to the rehab process is vital. However, despite conscientiously doing the recommended exercises daily during the first two weeks of rehab, the movement in my shoulder had not even returned to its pre-operation level. I became a little concerned because the operation had not produced immediate results; but, I was being too impatient. Increased movement soon started coming in greater increments. Approximately 6 weeks into rehab, I crossed over the point where painless movement in my shoulder exceeded what it had been before the operation. That was an important benchmark, and the shoulder got even better. After I stopped physical therapy treatments, I began a regular exercise routine at a fitness center to build strength and increase movement in the shoulder.

As of this writing, May 1, I have regained a whopping 95% of the original movement and 100% of the strength in my right shoulder. I have absolutely no problem sleeping on my right side, lifting a bicycle overhead, etc. There is still a small discomfort in putting on a suit coat, but the feeling is more of a stretching than the sharp pain I used to feel. I continue to work out the shoulder at least every other day and believe that there is continuing incremental improvement.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the results of the surgery. My surgeon was very forthright from the outset about the issues and expectations related to surgery of this nature as well as the importance of a patient's dedication to the post-operative rehabilitation process. In our case, I believe that the great skill of the surgeon and the dedication to rehab by the patient have both contributed to the success of the surgery. My strong and painfree right shoulder is the proof in the pudding.

For more information about rotator cuff tendonitis and tears click here:

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Tears

Diagram of Normal Rotator Cuff

Shoulder arthroscopy operating room picture

Bursitis and scar tissue inside shoulder