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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Rotator Cuff Surgery

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Blueline - Posted - 05/11/2021:  14:30:35

I had rotator cuff surgery, left shoulder, almost 5 weeks ago now. I am getting a little mobility back, and have PT twice a week & home exercise every day. My last Dr. visit I asked what would be the expected time before I could practice again, and he said probably nine months. I'm a beginner to start with, so I am wondering if anyone had any experience/thoughts on this. It was eye-opening, I knew going in it was a long road back, but I didn't realize how "dead" my left arm would be. Thanks.

doryman - Posted - 05/11/2021:  15:20:37

I am not a medical doctor and I don't know how old you are or the severity of your injury. However, I do participate in a sport that has a high frequency of rotator cuff injuries. Several of my friends have had rotator cuff surgery and I've watched the trajectory of their recoveries. Nine months seems like an unusually long to get to a place where you could start practicing the fiddle again.

Apltrez - Posted - 05/11/2021:  15:43:38

For better, or worse, I can relate to your query. Had my left shoulder done in August of '20. My right shoulder was torn 20 years ago when I was assured it would heal without surgery. Wrong. Other muscles have taken over I have gotten along well including 15 years of farming along the way. I was able to play mandolin starting in October and barely some fiddle...... by December mandolin was fine and I was optimistic about fiddle. I would say fiddle is back about 95% plus after PT for 7 weeks before Christmas and and 5 days a week in the gym with very careful and studied exercise and use of weight machines.. No pain any more but some stiffness as I push weights upward. I would consider my fiddle playing as strong intermediate...better on other instruments. The downside is the surgery didn't take. I admit to rough and tumble choices in my life with motorcycles and a bucking horse in Montana as doing the most damage to my shoulders. I'd like to think that age doesn't mean much but I turned 75 this year and my surgeon said age was definitely a factor.
Soooooo I now have two torn rotator cuffs on both shoulder but tend to be an optimist and the Covid Cooties haven't gotten me


Blueline - Posted - 05/11/2021:  16:01:19

I'm 65, decent shape (for my age), they put 3 pins/screws in during surgery if that means anything. I'm a few months away from being able to drive, & he also said that it would be 6 months before I could reach for a coffee cup. Ironically, I played hockey in a men's league up to my mid forties, but did this falling on black ice at night in my driveway, which is sloped a bit where I fell taking the garbage bin down.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 05/11/2021:  16:28:22

Gee...that does seem like a long time to wait to be able to play again. I don't know anything about it, but you might wanna ask the physical therapist who's working with you if s/he thinks any different about the time it should take. I hope it doesn't take that long, but if it does...I guess you could spend the months watching a lot of youtube fiddling videos and getting all ready to start it up again in nine months. When I recently broke my right arm down close to the wrist, I explained how I play instruments, like the motions involved, etc., and she usually guided me a long and mainly told me to do what I could comfortably do. Rotator cuffs are probably all different than broken bones, you do need the guidance of the professionals so it has the chance to thoroughly heal.

Apltrez - Posted - 05/11/2021:  18:14:26

Then too......!!!!!!! there is the mental side of recovery and being able to practice and play in recovery should make you a happier camper!

Snafu - Posted - 05/12/2021:  08:05:38


I had rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder about 10 years ago which puts me at age 52. I wasn’t fiddling at the time but I was an active guitar player and the recovery took quite longer than I expected. Being it’s your left arm I think 9 months sounds about right. It stinks! It took two years before all the pain went away and I could reach overhead without discomfort.

To shorten the recovery timeframe to playing here are some ideas. The real issue is supporting your arm weight outstretched to the fiddle so you feel no pain. First thing I’d do is rig up a shoulder rest/strap so your fiddle does not rely on your left hand to support it. The second thing is to get a piece of semirigid packaging foam and cut it in a vee shape so it fills the space between your upper left arm and your torso when you are at fiddle playing position. Size it so that your fingers are at the proper fretboard height. You may need to support the foam on a table so it doesn’t fall. Even if this works for you I’d suggest waiting a few months before attempting these ideas. Over exertion during the recovery period could result in a major setback.

captainhook - Posted - 05/12/2021:  13:15:35

I don't want to sound too negative, but a friend of mine was an OB-GYN until a rotator cuff injury. After several surgeries on both shoulders (and ten years or more) he is still disabled and retired. I had the beginnings of one on my left shoulder (he confirmed that that's what it was) so I consulted my regular doctor, who is considered to be one of the smartest around. He recommended deep massage. I mentioned the other doctor and his surgeries and he said "he would. He's a surgeon." I did my own massaging and the problem went away. To me, rotator cuff and back surgeries are both to be avoided if at all possible.

Snafu - Posted - 05/12/2021:  15:51:05

I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV. ); my story:  If it is an injury or strain and NOT a rotator cuff tear then maybe rest and some exercises will work.  My dr showed me the scan and said I had a torn rotator cuff and only surgery would fix it.  He was right.  Unfortunately the political driven  insurance changes in my coverage around that time required that I undergo 12 weeks of 2x week physical therapy (at $50/session - out of pocket) before they would authorize the surgery. So I was in agony from August to November while wasting time and $ on PT. Had the surgery and then another 12 weeks of PT and I was mostly pain free.  

chas5131 - Posted - 05/13/2021:  15:27:03

Have had four rotator cuff surgeries in my right, bowing, shoulder. One on the left. I have never been to rigorous about doing the therapy. After the second one on the right shoulder a therapist ripped it out and I got the third one for that shoulder.
The left shoulder needs work, it is getting some therapy.
The last surgery was on my right shoulder. It failed because there was too little left for the doc to put stitches in.
I still bow with that shoulder.
I don't play/practice long, but I expect that to get better as I start to paddle my kayak more. Paddling and rowing are good for both shoulders.
I know people that paddle, row, golf, windsurf, and more with bad shoulders. Build up gradually. Don't do the therapy exercises that hurt so much you know better than to to them. Keep the weights light. 5lbs is my max. Got a guitar and have a piano in case the shoulders quit.
Expect recovery to be 18 months. Take it easy. You will be able to play before that, Don't over do it.
Turned 74 yesterday.

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