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Shoulder Injury & Shoulder Surgery Recovery and Prevention

Shoulder September 8, 2020

As surgeries go, shoulder-related operations like rotator cuff tears often have some of the longest recovery times. However, many find that recovery & surgery are worth it to deal with their persistent and recurring pain that plagues 50 percent of shoulder pain patients.

In this post, we’re going to be looking at how to safely and effectively deal with your shoulder injury or shoulder surgery recovery. We’ll also be going over some key tips on how you can prevent injury and get your body in the best shape to begin your healing journey.

All healing journeys are different and depend on the individual patient, your goals, and your dedication to your treatment plan. Our treatment plans are crafted with these things in mind to keep you motivated and moving towards goals that you set for yourself, not ones forced upon you.

No matter whether this is a chronic issue or an unexpected injury, you’ve been in pain long enough. Surgery, post-op recovery, and prevention methods can completely transform your life. 

See how by reading the rest of this post!

Common Shoulder Surgery Recovery Setbacks 

Setbacks and mistakes are often the biggest obstacles a patient faces post-op.

Remember: surgery is not a cure! This is especially true with shoulder surgeries, some of which can take up to six months to be considered fully healed. 

Here are some common setbacks we see at MOSS with shoulder injuries & surgery recovery:

Leaving Physical Therapy Too Soon

For some vaccines to be effective, you need a few different shots at various different dates. This may require you to go into the doctor’s office a few times per year, experience a bit of needle anxiety, a pinch of pain, and then you’re on your way. 

But without getting all of the shots, you won’t be fully protected, and the anxiety & slight pain you felt from those first few shots would be for naught.

Think of physical therapy like this. Yes, it can be a hassle to schedule your appointments, take time out of your day to come in, and do your exercises at home. It can be tough to motivate yourself to do the work that can be uncomfortable or not that much fun.

But just like a series of vaccinations, following through on all of your appointments, all of your treatment plan, and all of your exercises is going to give you the best bet at a full and healthy recovery. 

Following through on your therapy gives you the best chance of reaching the goals that you set out for yourself!

In order to have a successful recovery after shoulder surgery, it’s important to follow through on your entire rehabilitation plan.

Lack of Understanding of the 5 Phases of Healing

Related to the last point are the 5 Phases of Healing we use here at MOSS. Healing is a journey with many phases. Many people misunderstand this idea, thinking that surgery or pain relief will be a cure for their problems.

While that would certainly be great, it’s not quite the reality. Patients often leave or reduce their dedication to shoulder surgery & injury recovery after their pain is gone. But there’s so much more healing to do! Just look at the 5 Phases:

  1. Minimize Pain and Inflammation
  2. Restore Mobility, Flexibility and Strength
  3. Return to Normal Function and Activity
  4. Maintenance and Injury Prevention
  5. Performance Enhancement

Typically, patients think that once they have completed phase one that they can discontinue therapy and they’re healed. But the fact is that post-phase one is where the true recovery begins.

It’s after phase one that you’ll get to work on improving mobility and strength to get you back to doing what you love and live the life you want. It’s these stages that will get you back to throwing a baseball, raking leaves in your yard, 

These later phases also help to solidify your progress in the form of long-term results.

Shoulder Surgery Recovery at MOSS

To give you a general idea, recovery for large tears or traumatic injuries can take 5-6 months. Small tears take between 3 to 4 months to be considered “recovered”.

Let’s look at shoulder surgery recovery steps and post-op care that we offer here at MOSS. 

Injury & Surgery Dependent Treatment Plans

Shoulder pain treatment and shoulder surgery recovery plans are most often dictated by the specific type of surgery and the surgeon themselves. 

Different surgeons will have different ideas and protocols for recovery, especially since there aren’t too many ‘standards’ for shoulder surgery recovery. 

At MOSS, we’re familiar with all of the local surgeons and their protocols. Once you let us know of your surgeon, we will be able to connect with them or use the information we’ve collected over the years to provide you care that aligns with their medical directions.

Our recovery plans for you will also take your specific injury into account. 

For example, smaller tears in the rotator cuff may allow for advancement through the stages of healing more quickly. 

Massive tears or traumatic injuries, on the other hand, often involve more muscles, can result in shifts in the area, and generally must be treated with more caution as you recover to avoid re-injury or issues with recovery.

Physical Therapy Using the 5 Phases of Healing

As we’ve said time and time again, surgery is not a cure. Surgery can actually lead to pain and inflammation in the body as well as it is invasive and often requires you to wear a sling for weeks or months post-op. 

Physical therapy is going to be one of the key ways to recover and reach your health goals. Physical therapy plans along with shoulder pain treatments like deep tissue laser and dry needling can provide immense pain and inflammation relief.

But, that’s just the first phase of healing! And we definitely don’t stop there.

Our next goal will be to help you improve your range of motion, which can actually start pretty soon after surgery! We find patients are excited to start this part of the process and it gives them the motivation to continue on to the next stages.

Moving on to the “strengthening” stage can take between 6 to 12 weeks post-op depending on the tear size and injury type.

Our phases of healing also mean that you go through phases of progress. This means that as you heal, we will work to adjust your treatment plan to work for you and your goals.

Are exercises getting too easy for you? We will give you some new ones or up the ante a bit. 

Not feeling challenged enough coming 3x/week? We can have you come in more often, adjust your sessions, and get rid of things that are too easy. 

Feeling impatient? We will discuss each step of our treatment plan with you to help you understand how and why we’ve outlined the steps as we have. 

We’re happy to talk science with you, but at the end of the day, this is your recovery. We will work to craft a plan that works for you, even if that means changing things up.


If you’re looking for more detailed information on shoulder pain causes, MOSS has got you covered!

Sign up for our FREE shoulder workshop here & check out our article explaining common shoulder pain causes here.


Shoulder Injury Prevention 

As you recover, you also want to keep prevention of pain and injury in mind. Here are some ways to do that.

Physical Therapist Check-Ups

A lot of people only think of heading to a physical therapist when they know they’re injured.

But think about your doctor or dentist. Don’t you see them a few times per year for check-ups so they can ensure you’re in good health? So they can catch things and treat them early?

Do the same thing with your physical therapist!

Therapists can give you check-ups and evaluations to find and address mobility & pain issues as soon as possible. This lets you catch things early before they worsen over time. This also helps to prevent harmful compensatory behaviors that can lead to more pain and issues throughout the body.

Physical therapy can even prevent the need for surgery. 

Best case? You get to avoid surgery!

Worst case? You improve and strengthen the shoulder to give you a faster and easier recovery post-op.

It’s a win-win!


Learn more about Moss’ physical therapy philosophies here.


Strengthen Your Body 

Shoulder pain and surgery can often lead to issues with upper back pain, the thoracic spine, and neck pain thanks to compensatory behaviors & movements along with issues with the post-op sling. 

Strengthening the parts of the shoulder that you can strengthen while also strengthening the other surrounding muscles and joints can make the overall recovery process easier. 

This can also reduce your pain and prevent injury that could’ve resulted from compensatory behaviors or lack of care.

Change Your Mindset with Moss Rehabilitation

When it comes to shoulder surgery recovery and injury, most people are upset and lack motivation. We get it! But we also want to help our patients get in the right mindset for recovery and set themselves up for long-term success. 

Think about it like this. There are 168 hours in the week. We see you for less than 2 percent of that time. The other 98 percent is on you.

This means that you need to put the effort, too. When it comes to recovery, you reap what you sow.

You’re in the driver’s seat. It won’t get better on its own. Outline your priorities, and use that 98 percent of the week to follow through, get better, and progress on your healing journey.

Don’t worry: you don’t have to do this alone. We are here to help you achieve your goals. It’s our job to show you the path to get you where you want to be. It’s your job to walk that path.

Get started on your personal healing journey today! Contact us to schedule a free discovery visit to discuss your needs and goals.

And if you’re experiencing shoulder pain, consider these two options. First of all, you can give us a call for a FREE discovery visit & consultation with our experts. Secondly, you can sign up for our FREE September 12th shoulder pain workshop at our Springtown location. We’ll answer the most popular inquiries related to shoulder pain cases, shoulder pain treatments, and take any questions you might have.

Stop Dealing With the Pain & Get the Physical Therapy You Need. Call Today!
817-220-MOSS (6677)
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