When can you return to work after rotator cuff surgery?

When patients schedule surgery for a bone or joint injury, one of the main factors that influences their decision is when they can return to work. In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I discuss the factors that influence the timing of returning to work for a very common shoulder surgery.

Jamie asks:
Is it entirely out of the question to return to work 2 weeks after rotator cuff surgery?

There are two major factors that influence when a patient might return to work after shoulder surgery. First, the nature of the procedure plays a huge role. Is the surgeon performing a full repair of the injured rotator cuff tendon? If so, he will likely place the patient in a sling that he or she must wear for weeks. If so, the patient will not be able to drive and will be limited in the use of that arm at work. If it is just a debridement, those restrictions might not exist.

The other factor is the nature of the patient’s job duties. Often, if a patient works a desk job and only needs to write, type, talk on the phone and other similar activities, he or she can do it fairly quickly. On the other hand, if the job involves more physical demands and overhead use of the arm, the surgeon might restrict those duties for weeks.

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In this video, I discusses these factors in more detail, including what you should discuss with your surgeon before you go under the knife.

Have you had rotator cuff surgery? How quickly did you get back to work? Please share your experience below!

Also read:
Ask Dr. Geier – Driving after rotator cuff surgery
Ask Dr. Geier – How can you know if you hurt yourself after surgery?

Please remember, while I appreciate your questions, I cannot and will not offer specific medical advice by email, online, on my show, or in the comments at the end of these posts. My responses are meant to provide general medical information and education. Please consult your physician or health care provider for your specific medical concerns.

2 Responses to When can you return to work after rotator cuff surgery?

  1. Please add information to your video about dominant arm. My boyfriend injured his dominant arm in the more severe of the two ways you mentioned with slightly more complications. He has a job that is a combination of desk, mechanical, field, and engineering work. He will need to type, manipulate a mouse, manipulate mechanical devices and then the larger, heavier equipment too. However, my request for your informational video in returning to work also has to with which arm is damaged: the dominant or non-dominant arm. If it is the dominant arm – using devices such as keyboards, and taking notes is significantly different in being able to function at work. Starting out he will not be able to tie his shoe laces, open a jar, put a shirt on, etc. The quick return to work suggestion can be misleading, especially for Workman’s compensation and insurance and pressure people who should not return prematurely.

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Please note: I cannot and will not provide specific medical information within these comments, just as I won't anywhere else. Also, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or spam. If you have questions, please read My Comments Policy.

david-headshot I am an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

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