Rotator cuff repair: return to work

Dr David Colvin workers compensation

02/05/2018 Dr. David Colvin, trained in orthopaedic surgery in Perth. David's specialty is knee and shoulder surgery and sports injuries.

The results of rotator cuff repair surgery in young people are generally very good and most people return to their previous occupation.  That is not to say that everybody makes a full recovery, most people still have some slight reduction in their range of movement. 

The normal recovery after rotator cuff repair surgery requires a sling for four to six weeks.  By six weeks most people are fit to drive.  It is usually safe to lift half a kilogram on the operated side at six weeks, but only up to bench level and not repetitively. 

rotator cuff repair return to work

By three months post-op, most people can lift two kilograms with the operated side, but again up to bench level and not undertaking repetitive overhead lifting.

Some degree of overhead work can start at the four month mark but a full recovery from rotator cuff repair surgery can take twelve or even eighteen months. 

There are a small number of occupations that require such high demand heavy overhead work that even with successful surgery, they present a challenge in the longer term.  Specific occupations include diesel mechanic, ceiling fixer and plasterer, or painting and tiling jobs that require repetitive overhead work.  These occupations can be associated with premature rotator cuff tearing in both shoulders.  If your occupation meets that description, then early consideration should be given to vocational retraining.

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