Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery (Acromioplasty) Recovery

Arthroscopic subacromial decompression (ASAD) is a surgical procedure with the goal of relieving shoulder pain.

One of the most common causes of pain is shoulder impingement, which is a condition where the tendons in the rotator cuffs are compressed during shoulder movements. This can result in pain during movements due to injury to the shoulder tendons and bursa.

The bursa, a sac filled with lubricating fluid, is located between tissues and the skin. Its job is to decrease rubbing, friction and irritation during movements.

Other surfaces and tissues may also be addressed in this surgery.

Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery Recovery

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is advised to optimize your road to recovery. You will be seen by a physical therapist the day after your surgery to:

  • Change your dressings
  • Take initial measurements
  • Learn an initial home exercise program

At this visit, your physical therapist will review information about what to expect during your recovery, how to take care of your incisions and how to manage your pain. You’ll receive handouts outlining everything that the physical therapist reviews with you.

Physical therapy appointments will be scheduled 2 times per week for approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

Using a Sling

After surgery, you’ll be placed in a sling with a post-operative abduction pillow.

You should plan to wear this sling for 2 weeks during the day and when sleeping at night. After the first 2 weeks, a short weaning period may be prescribed.

Returning to Work & Daily Activities

Most people can get back to desk work, school or sedentary activity 3 to 5 days after surgery.

If your right shoulder has been operated on, it may be up to 2 weeks before the arm is strong enough to shift, steer and drive safely. For heavy work, it may take 4 to 6 weeks before the arm is strong enough to allow for working. You should never drive or operate heavy machinery if you are using prescription pain relievers.

Returning to Sports

Approximately 4 weeks after surgery, patients typically begin to perform higher level activities during physical therapy visits.

With the physical therapist’s guidance at 6 weeks, you will begin the gradual transition back to your sport. However, your surgeon will make the final decision about your full return to your sport.

Week-by-Week Rehabilitation

Weeks 0 to 2

You’ll be required to use your sling with the abduction pillow during the day and while sleeping at night. You may remove the sling for showering, dressing and exercises only.

Range of Motion (ROM)

  • Flexion (bending) to your tolerance
  • External rotations (ER) and internal rotations (IR) at 45 degrees abduction to 30 degrees
  • Active assistive range of motion (AAROM) can begin on day 7

Rehab Exercises

  • Pendulums
  • Ball squeezes
  • ROM for elbow, forearm and hand
  • Gentle scapular retraction
  • Submaximal isometrics
  • Static perturbations in scaption (scapular plane elevation)
  • AAROM: wand and pulleys

Weeks 2 to 4

Discontinue use of your sling at week 2 or wean as needed.

Range of Motion (ROM)

  • Flexion within normal limits (WNL)
  • ER and IR at 45 degrees abduction to WNL
  • ER and IR at 90 degrees abduction to 45 degrees
  • Active range of motion (AROM) can begin at day 14

Rehab Exercises

  • Continue above exercises and all passive and active ROM
  • Prone extension, rows and horizontal abduction as tolerated
  • TheraBand IR and ER in scaption
  • Upper body ergometer (UBE) may begin at day 21 (3 weeks)
  • AROM: forward flexion in scaption with ER
  • Lower trap strength work progressing from side lying to standing
  • Side lying ER
  • Initiate low level closed kinetic chain (CKC)
    • Example: wall ball
  • Static perturbations at 110 degrees flexion

Weeks 4 to 6

Range of Motion (ROM)

  • Full bilateral ROM is expected

Rehab Exercises

  • Continue exercises from above
  • Bicep curls and triceps kickbacks
  • Initiate moderate level CKC
    • Example: wall push-ups
  • TheraBand IR/ER at 45 degrees progressing to 90 degrees (pending shoulder mechanics)
  • Diagonals pending shoulder mechanics

Weeks 6 to 8

During these weeks, you should have no restrictions with activities of daily living (ADLs).

Rehab Exercises

  • Continue above exercises
  • Initiate gentle plyometrics only if good shoulder mechanics are present
  • Initiate dynamic perturbations at week 6
  • Initiate higher level CKCs
    • Example: push-ups on a table

Weeks 8+

Rehab Exercises

  • Continue progression for functional strengthening
  • Begin Access Acceleration or similar fitness training program at week 16
  • Begin yoga therapy and heavy upper body activities like swimming and racquet sports at week 20

Clearance from Your Surgeon

You may return to your sport once return to play testing is completed and passed at week 12+.

Specializing Doctor

Kevin D. Heaton, DO

Dr. Heaton specializes in the treatment of non-operative orthopaedic injuries and is the Director of Concussion Management at Access Sports Medicine. He is also one of only two physicians in New Hampshire who is trained and certified in pediatric post-concussion testing.

Meet Dr. Heaton
Have questions about shoulder surgery or the
recovery process for an acromioplasty?

Talk to your local Access Sports Medicine office!

Get In Touch