When should you get shoulder surgery?

The reasons for selecting to have shoulder surgery will vary greatly on each individual depending on various factors like age, gender, activity level, type and severity of shoulder injury, the individual’s goals/activities of daily living and many more.

However, it is not uncommon for some individuals to be rushed/convinced that they need surgery without being told the efficacy of shoulder surgery versus non-surgical treatment options for their condition/injury.

Based on recent research that has been looking at the efficacy of surgery vs non-surgery for certain types of injury, it has been shown that non-surgery treatment options (physiotherapy, graded exercise programs etc) are having a similar long term results in patients quality of life, level of disability, pain, function and satisfaction!

Physiotherapy with a graded exercise protocol worked best for those who had a chronic condition, a non-acute partial thickness tear (without severe mechanism of injury/trauma), Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy and/or were older than 65 years of age!

What if I hurt my shoulder and I’m not sure what to do?

Surgery can be an invasive, expensive and painful treatment option so the decision to have surgery should not be taken lightly. If you have recently started getting shoulder pain it is strongly advised for you to see your local health practitioner (physiotherapist are regarded as the best and most accessible 1st option for diagnosis, and management/treatment options).

Your local health practitioner will assess your symptoms, mechanism/trauma of injury and all other factors that need to be assessed in helping you make the most informed decision on your best line of treatment options. GP’s are a fantastic resource, but they are GENERAL Practitioners and their most likely treatment options will be to get imaging (which initially may seem helpful but won’t help improve your function/pain etc), recommend a specialist (which can be more expensive and may end up recommending physiotherapy anyway!) or to perform a cortisone injection which has not been shown to always help with most conditions.

An experienced physiotherapist will be able to gauge how severe and how likely your injury is going to need surgery/injection or imaging within the first couple of sessions and reduce unnecessary imaging, injections and specialist referrals. A large majority of shoulder injuries will respond very well with a 8-12 weeks graded exercise program without the need of injections, imaging or surgery!

What if I need surgery?

If you have either seen a physiotherapist/specialist and you are needing surgery, you will still need to do extensive rehabilitation exercises post-surgery to get you back to normal function ASAP!

This is encouraged to do as early in the recovery process as possible to help improve your movement and pain levels and it is even beneficial in some cases to start this process BEFORE surgery to help build strength and range of motion in other muscle groups as well as to practice daily tasks that you will need to modify during the recovery process!

Surgery or non-surgery, you’re going to have to put in at least 8-12 weeks of graded strengthening exercises to get you back to your everyday activities and smashing your exercise/sporting goals!

What can I do to help my shoulder?

Improving the strength and range of movement that the shoulder is capable of doing will help improve how your shoulder feels when performing everyday tasks (e.g. doing your hair, reaching in a high cupboard etc) Specifically, strengthening a group of muscles called your Rotator Cuff as they are crucial for your shoulders strength and movement. Here are a couple of exercises you can try at home!


As always feel free to message us on the drift chat box, email or book in online at 1 of our 3 locations in Sydney;

iMove Physio Miranda

These are the Suburbs

  • Miranda
  • Sylvania
  • Gymea
  • Gymea Bay
  • Kirrawee
  • Yowie Bay
  • Taren Point
  • Caringbah
  • Caringbah South
  • Wooloware
  • Cronulla

iMove Physio Panania

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  • Panania
  • Revesby
  • Revesby Heights
  • East Hills
  • Picnic Point
  • Padstow
  • Padstow Heights
  • Milperra
  • Condell Park
  • Voyager Point
  • Chullora

iMove Physio Rozelle

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  • Rozelle
  • Balmain
  • Balmain East
  • Birchgrove
  • Drummoyne
  • Pyrmont
  • Glebe
  • Lilyfield
  • Annandale
  • Leichhardt
  • Marrickville