Rotator Cuff Surgery w/ Labrum Tear

Wondering if anyone here has had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum and, if so, how long before your were paddling again? I just hit the 2 month mark from my surgery and I am performing most “basic human functions” but curious to see how soon I might get back out on the water.

Any stretches/exercises you would recommend for rebuilding paddling motion and strength?

Are you seeing a physical therapist? If so, your therapist should be able to help with your question. If not, you should be doing daily PT.

Here’s a link to recommended exercises. Shoulder Surgery Exercise Guide - OrthoInfo - AAOS

Best wishes for fast healing.

Please ask your physician and PT. The is not something you should be rehab-ing on your own and I sincerely hope they referred you to PT.

I broke the shoulder socket and dislocated the head of the humerus last May. I’m still in PT twice a week. The shoulder is very complicated. I returned to basic, low impact paddling last August but only after several weeks of PT and getting clearance from the surgeon. The last thing you want to do is disrupt the work and have to go back in!

Get well soon.

I slid off a roof and tore my rotator cuff. After I landed I felt fine, but the next day i could not lift my hand above the level of my chin without extreme pain. So I went to see a sports orthopedic surgeon who did the whole series of usual probing tests, X-rays, MRI, etc. He showed me the results and said I had serious damage and he recommended surgery as the way to go. Now I knew other race paddlers who had the same surgery so I knew the answer to the question of how long would I have to hold my arm immobile tied to my stomach? He confirmed what I already knew - 3 months!. This was in the fall of the year, and I was scheduled to go back to the Yukon River for another race in the spring. I had many hundreds of miles of training on water and by machine during the winter months yet to do. So he suggested a shot of cortisone and looking at the X-ray hey could place it exactly where I needed it most. So I agreed to that, plus visiting a physical therapist for exercises. That’s what I did and the cortisone seemed to alleviate any pain. The PT wanted me to come three times a week along with my insurance card and co-pay. After about three weeks of PT I knew the exercises and could perform them at home for free. I spent the cold weather months doing the same exercises at home plus many hours on my canoe paddle machine.

The cortisone wore off after 3-4 months and I wanted to be prepared for the Yukon, so I went back to the doc for another well placed shot of the good stuff. I traveled to the Yukon and paddled 1000 miles in high race mode with no issues other than a slight tingle in my shoulder, but only when I thought about it.

Five years have passed, and I have paddled much traiining and many successful local races since then. All seems well to date. I atribute my health and recovery to care with proper continued training and not giving up on the sport.

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I have had surgery to repair both of my rotator cuffs, but neither labrums were involved. Both surgeries occurred in April, interestingly two years apart. I was in phys therapy until Sept for both. I did not feel I had full range of motion and strength until the next spring, but did some easy kayaking in the fall each time. We don’t kayak when the water temps get too low, so typically our kayaking season runs from June to November. By the 2nd summer following the surgeries, all seemed fine and back to normal for kayaking.

I have continued many of the exercises (both stretching and strengthening) given by the phys therapists even to this day.

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Thanks everyone for the responses. To be clear, I am in PT and have been for several weeks now. I have a strict stretching and exercise regimen from my therapist and I’m told my strength and range of motion are ahead of schedule, which is quite encouraging.

I was simply asking for input from people who have gone through a similar surgery how long it took for them to get back on the water and if there were any specific stretches or exercises they feel helped them recover stronger and/or faster. Of course I would review this information with my therapist first, just asking from those who have gone through this before.

Thanks all!


Therapist offered no options for the damage to my shoulder. One year of therapy and recovery, two seasons, 40 trips total, and I feel close to what Icoukd do 10 years ago.

Paddling, cautiously and easy at first, then eventually working up to competition speed, along with the rubber band stretches and easy weights i learned from PT. The winter season was soon upon me, so then my paddling was done on a Concept2 outfitted with a custom canoe paddle attachment. 30-60 minutes per session several times a week.

I suffered a labral tear (SLAP tear, specifically) and minor tears in the subscapularis and supraspinatus rotator cuff tendons from a nasty fall while skiing. The surgeon did a biceps tenodesis and trimmed the 2 rotator cuff tendons 6 months later, when conservative therapy did nothing, and I had had a bad reaction to a cortisone injection. Despite following post-op care and rehab PT ROM and strengthening exercises to the letter, I developed biceps tendonitis where the tendon was reattached to the bone. I didn’t regain full use of that arm for 6 months. I began paddling again at about 8 months post-op, but unfortunately am now prone to biceps tendonitis. I wish you a much speedier recovery!

Go low angle

Great! Sorry if I was preachy. I had surgery Memorial Day weekend and was sorted out enough to do light paddling in late August. I did the basic stretches and exercises my PT directed me to do and at home I tried to focus on stuff that I knew would be functionally limiting for me: pushing myself up from and lowering into the cockpit; lifting and moving the boat; stretching my arms out over my head and in front of me.

I actually found that having limited ROM forced me to remember not to paddle with my arms but to keep in the “paddlers box” and rotate my torso and keep the shoulders and arms relatively locked into position.

Getting in and out took a long time because rotating my shoulder and arm back behind my hips to push out of the seat was difficult. My first trip involved a dockside launch and my family had to help drag me onto the dock because I couldn’t get my arm in the right position and exert enough force. I’m sure I looked like I was drunk!

I don’t mean to be cliche, but your body will tell you when you’re going too hard. If it’s okay with your PT, get a cork ball to roll out the muscles around your shoulder, scapula and arm pits. They tend to tighten up when the shoulder isn’t moving as it should.

mmulvey if you would like a functional non-medical approach to shoulder rehab that will reduce recovery time greatly. send me a PM.

Was run over by a pickup truck at work in June of 2020.Broken eye sockets,nose,1st rib,collar bone,separated rotator, shoulder in 4 different pieces .Three plates,37 pins and screws.It took 11 months of PT to be able to lift a three lb.dumbbell.No strength, and range of motion was shot to hell.Lots of chiropractor visits and PT for another 8 months, cortisone shots along with stretching rubber bands in between,bottles of acetomenaphen at home.,and sitting in a chair going through the motions with a paddle before I could get back to 'yaking.No pain no gain was the mantra.Will never have the full range of motion as before but have put in 50-60 miles on various rivers since.Still get occasional pain going down the biceps but that’s not going to stop this 64 yr.old bullheaded grandfather from getting back on the water.Your shoulder will tell you if you’re ready or not to get back out there.Am itchin’to get my 'yak and canoe :canoe: back out on the river and up Shit Creek​:+1:this spring. Good luck with your PT,be safe, happy paddling :+1::canoe:

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Any body with rotator cuffs try the shoulder braces or KT tape? If so any relief with paddling? My father is having issues with a torn rotator. May need shoulder replacement, in the future. Hoping to buy time, before having surgery.

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Learn to paddle low angle. Learn the paddler’s box and rely on torso rotation. My shoulder is ruined with two tendons detached, arthritis from sepsis.

About 3 moths for me… range of motion stretches keep me on the paddle