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My Rotator Cuff

Sharing my recovery

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Patient at the physiotherapy session

I am not a doctor. It has been two years since my successful rotator cuff surgery was performed. I’ve read every response, and have found them each to be unique in their own way – the same way that two shoulder problems are never exactly alike.  Our ages, physical conditions, health, and shoulder problems are not the same. During this time I never really considered my recovery period to be fully completed – even though my fantastic physical therapist said it would be about 9 months, including the simple exercises. I’ve continued to do light weight cable rotations and dumb bell rotations, both external, and internal, as a part of my weekly work out routines.  My shoulder is 98% normal. If it were not for some minor arthritis I still experience every now and then, it’d be 100%.

Most importantly, is what I’ve read, that confirms most of my initial thinking when I started this blog. No matter how different our scenarios may be, those who persist most with long-term post-surgery therapy, and exercises, seem to be having the most success. Myself, I found that most things I read prior to my surgery, on the internet, were horror stories – that never came true. With that said, while it’d be nice to tell everybody “you’ll be fine”, I cannot say that, nor should anyone else. We are all different. However, I think anyone’s best chances for a successful recovery depend upon these four simple things:

1. Find a good Surgeon and Physical Therapist

2. Trust your Surgeon and Physical Therapist

3. Listen to your Surgeon and Physical Therapist – do what they say

4. Continue therapy, using light weights, long after your surgery is done.

…….pain-free!

It has been eighteen months now since my rotator cuff surgery. I am not sure if I am lucky, or maybe I had a great surgeon and PT, or perhaps the fact that I still do the PT exercises for my shoulder twice a week, or all of the above –  But, my shoulder  feels great! I recently played golf, for the first time in two years, and I never felt a pinch of pain for the entire eighteen holes….or any discomfort the next morning.

JMT copy

The last thing my PT said to me when I stopped those visits was that my shoulder would probably get back to 95% of normal pain-free movement. Well, if it wasn’t for some very slight arthritis – that only seems to bother me slightly (when I awake on a damp morning) – I’d have to say my shoulder is more like 98% back to normal….and really, that 2% is hardly noticeable. Don’t forget that most shoulder arthritis can be removed by surgery, as well.

Since I can conveniently use  the gym at least two or three times a week, I have continued do the rotator cuff exercises long after my surgery was done. I still use light weight, or weights. And, even though I only had  surgery performed on my right shoulder, my left shoulder bothered me too, but with less pain. I was getting cortisone shots on both shoulders for four years. So, I always include both shoulders in my bi-weekly exercises. Now, my left shoulder does not bother me at all. So, it is true, that if you have a slight tear, one fix is to be disciplined and build up muscle around it by doing these exercises at least twice a a week. Well, at least in my case, it has worked.

…A list of things That I now can do pain-free:

Pull my self up into a train
Read a newspaper while holding it in the air
Put a belt on, and take it off
Turn a steering wheel
Wash and brush my hair
Raise my arm when I awake

…….these things may seem simple, but I definitely took them for granted while living foolishly with pain for close to five years.

I read every comment that I have received, and many have thanked me. However,  I need to mention that Anna Hennings gave me a lot of encouragement with her terrific YouTube posts. I used a Cryo Cuff because she said it worked. I used an angled pillow because shared that it worked for her. And, much more, so Thanks Anna! So, I have to repeat that I am not a medical professional, and that everybody’s scenario is different. But, for me, it was well worth having the surgery!

 

 

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 Gold 10th Or 10 3d Number Representing Anniversary Or Birthday

My, My, the things we forget about when living with a bad shoulder.

It is with great appreciation that I share some things, that I forgot about, when I was living with a bad shoulder for almost five years.  So, in celebration of my ten months post-surgery anniversary of my rotator cuff repair, here are ten things – that I forgot about – but have recently rediscovered while living with a pain-free shoulder:

  1. Turning a steering wheel should not hurt.

  2. Putting on, and removing, a belt, must be a simple, and is a pain-free event.

  3. Holding up the morning newspaper is a normal activity.

  4. Grabbing the rail when jumping aboard a daily train ride to work needn’t be an agonizing experience.

  5. Raising an arm – when we first wake up in the morning doesn’t have to rely upon the help of the opposite hand.

  6. Tucking in the back of a shirt into our pants is a normal motion.

  7. Sleeping with an arm under my pillow is a comfortable way to sleep.

  8. Using cortisone injections – year after year – isn’t a cure for a bad shoulder.

  9. Being in denial that surgery will not help a bad shoulder is a cop-out.

  10. Swinging a golf club is fun!

To say that my shoulder is ninety percent normal, is probably an understatement. But, for now, I’ll go with it, even though I want to say its more like ninety-five percent. The Surgeon and Physical Therapist projected a nine month, 90 percent recovery – related to the repaired one inch tear of the supraspinatus muscle in my right shoulder. All of the things ten things that are listed above are now performed pain-free. I forgot how great a normal shoulder felt.

Of course, I remind my readers that I am not a doctor. But, my belief is that no two shoulder problems can be exactly alike. Neither are the styles of different surgeons exactly the same. Their methodologies, best practices, and concepts may agree, but no two people are alike, and the same goes for specialists.

I believe the success of my surgery was the result of three factors:

  • My specific condition was treated expertly by both a great Orthopedic Surgeon and Physical Therapist – who were familiar, and experienced, with my problem.

  • I put my faith and trust into my specialist and Physical Therapist, using patience throughout the recovery period. But most importantly, I did what they told me to do.

  • I continued the physical therapy exercises not only up to the six month suggested timeline, but, I still do the drills at least three times a week, on both shoulders, even now, during my resistance workouts.

Prior to the operation, I considered my left shoulder to be “the good shoulder”, even though it ached as well, just not as bad.  So, I decided that I would include the left shoulder in my tri-weekly resistance workouts. Today, even my left shoulder – that use to hurt about half as much as the right one – feels 100 percent normal. When we build, or strengthen, the  muscle around a bad rotator cuff, it may help, and.or improve the condition. This is why Physical Therapy is first recommended before surgery is decided upon.

While the surgeon also removed some existing arthritis from the right shoulder when he fixed the tear, I believe that the remaining ten percent, of total shoulder normality, is due to reoccurring arthritis. But, this is hardly noticeable when I think of the grueling pain that I faced on a daily basis during a five-year period, until I decided to have the procedure done. Actually, I am very content at 90%, and like I say, this is probably a low ball figure. I really did forget what living with a pain-free shoulder was like. Life with a normal shoulder is good, no make that great, once again!

Turtle with ambition

“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

                                                     ― Benjamin Franklin

It has now been six months since I had my shoulder surgery to have the one-inch tear repaired in my  superspinitis, an anchor inserted, and arthritis removed. It has been a positive experience, but it has also taken patience, perseverance, and a dedication to physical therapy, on my part. I mention patience because we always want results to arrive faster than expected. And, my comment regarding physical therapy is crucial – because I remained disciplined in doing the exercises for the first five months. It is also important  to remember that – in my case – the average total healing time is nine months.

Is my shoulder perfect? No. Is it 85% better? Yes!

The good:

  • The chronic burning and discomfort is gone.
  • I can drive without any pain when I turn the steering wheel in my vehicle.
  • I can put a belt on without grimacing in pain.
  • I can hold up a newspaper in front of me without any discomfort.
  • I no longer get cortisone shots.
  • I can sleep on the side (my right) where the surgery was performed.
  • I started my resistance training – with caution – and have minimal pain, or no pain, when done.

The bad:

  • I want my shoulder to be as good as new, a false expectation.
  • I believe the arthritis in my shoulder will have to be tolerated as a life long condition.
  • Usually after sleeping on the repaired shoulder it can be difficult to raise my arm first thing in the morning.

I still have three months remaining, of the nine months total projected healing time. I, only occasionally, use an Rx of 600 mg of Ibuprofen if I have a day where I feel discomfort. While it s a good idea to stop taking the narcotic pain medicine as soon as you can, it is also a good idea to use it if needed – early after surgery – if the Ibuprofen does not work. Following surgery I was prescribed Valium(sleep) and Percocet (pain). In my case, I was fortunate enough to dispose of half of both them after about six weeks. And, the Ibuprofen works great when I need it.

I remember my first PT session, and I asked if I should take pain meds before I come, the Physical Therapist said, “No, we are not in the habit of hurting our patients”. This was relieving. And, it felt great when he stretched out my arm the first time , with little pain. During the time I was taking these PT sessions, I met others who had the same procedure. I never heard a moan or scream. So, I do credit this to an accomplished Physical Therapist.

If I had to make one important suggestion to those planning to have this surgery, it would be that research is the most important thing that we can do. Explore Orthopedic Surgeons, ask friends and family about any experience – or recommendations, and seek out Physical Therapists with excellent reputations. I do credit the success of my surgery to a fantastic orthopedic surgeon with a great staff, and an incredibly skilled and experienced Physical Therapist.

Remember:

  • Follow your Doctor and Physical Therapist’s instructions.
  • No two Rotator Cuff surgeries can be exactly alike.
  • Comparing your experience to another’s helps, but it may not be identical,
  • Everybody’s experience may be different.
  • It takes time – and patience – to completely heal
  • Keep up with the PT
  • Exercise

…….I’ll check back in nine months. Good Luck to all who are recovering, or planning to have the surgery performed.

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The great news is that the chronic shoulder pain that challenged me for five years is now just a bad memory. It’s already been nearly six weeks since my surgery.  I am out of the sling. And, I’ll  probably return to work in a week. It will take dedicated Physical Therapy, and six to nine months before I am totally healed. My Physical Therapist tells me that I am ahead of schedule, but also warns me about being over-confident with my right arm movements. The sutures are still healing.

I was thinking about a lot of the stuff that I read and heard prior to my procedure that never came true, at least for me. You know, the kind of stuff that we shouldn’t read, but we do anyway. And, it probably prevented me from having this done sooner, like I should have. The cortisone shots are not good long-term. Most of all, I am not complaining about how well my recovery has gone so far.

Biggest fears that never came true during my first six weeks of recovery:

  • I did not have intolerable, or excruciating, pain the night of, or the days after, my surgery.
  • I did not have to be immobilized.
  • I did not have total loss of right hand use.
  • I did not have a Physical Therapist who hurt me on my first visit, or any others. As a matter of fact, it is a pleasant experience.

So here are ten things that I have learned from discussions with my medical professionals that determine and/or have affected, or promoted healing during the six weeks:

  1. No two shoulder surgeries are alike. The shoulder has several muscles. Without getting into technical anatomy, if the tear is towards the front (supraspinatus), and not under, or near, the back of the shoulder, related to the other shoulder muscles, then, it is less likely that any anchors and sutures will loosen., or will cause as much pain. As well, if the bicep muscle is not a part of the problem, the chances for a better recovery, with less risk and less pain, are likely.
  2. Follow the doctors orders. What the doctor says, goes! If anyone suggests something different, ask to see their PHD in medicine.
  3. Take the pain meds as prescribed. Remember the song, “Billy Don’t be a Hero”? This deserves its own entry, even though it is a part of following the doctors orders. I wasn’t too thrilled about having to take the pain meds. But, had I not taken them the first few days, as prescribed, it would not have been pretty. They make the pain tolerable. Even when I needed them n the following weeks.
  4. Don’t take the pain meds if your not in pain. The first few days the meds are a must, but after that, make an honest self-assessment level of your pain. For me, if I had a bad day, it had to be a seven or higher, else I took Extra-Strength Tylenol. Taking the pain meds when not needed… could turn ugly fast!
  5. Look for, research and find a good Physical Therapist, perhaps one who specializes in shoulder rehabilitation.
  6. Focus on days where you will absolutely not move your arm. While we all tend to overdo it – when we shouldn’t  – I was no different, and I always paid on days where I was overactive, with pain, So, when I had a day where I moved too much, I always stayed totally down the next day, maybe two during the first several weeks.
  7. Plan ahead. Buy a cryo cuff to wear the first few days after surgery. It processes the cold water in and out of the cuff that wraps around your shoulder so a cold compress is always in work, 30 minutes cold, 30 minutes not cold. Get a bed wedge, or, make sure that the recliner you will sleep in the first few nights has everything that you will need within reach.
  8. Accept that you will not have all of your mobility back for 6 to 9 months. So deal with it!
  9. Watch TV, read, make phone calls. And, when you are well enough do some research on something you have wanted to learn about but never had the time. Even better, if you can drive, go see relatives that you haven’t seen in years, it’ll make you feel better.
  10. Love your family, friends, and neighbors! They will help you, take you places, and maybe even open some doors for you.

By Tom Matys

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Today was three weeks since my surgery. One thing remains a fact, when I do too much, my shoulder will let me know it. I didn’t really have any significant pain between week two and three,  until last night, and, it was kind of a surprise, and a little disappointing…but it is still normal. Especially, when I think that I am able to do more than I should. It bites me back every time. So, today, and tomorrow, I am staying completely down for some good healing.

I get paranoid that I’ve ripped a suture in the tendon or pulled the anchor out sometimes, even though I try to keep the arm in the sling and stay as idle as possible. But, I’ve been told, I would know for sure if that happened, so I stopped worrying about it.

Ice, ice, ice…is still my sidekick. Even after three weeks, it gives me some very good relief if my shoulder starts to act up. I tried some heat, but really, there is nothing like ice! Twenty minutes on, and twenty minutes off,for several hours, at least twice a day.

Staying idle, physically, can start to make me feel depressed, so I focus on the easy tasks that I do each day, and the positive side of being out of the office and living a relatively stress free existence, for now anyway. So, I try not to let my lack of physical activity bring down my good spirit. I can drive with one hand, but usually only short distances for a paper and coffee.

Next week I see the surgeon, and, I start Physical Therapy. I bet that first PT session will not be fun, so, I am not thinking about it.

More than anything, I have kept my schedule full by having breakfast or lunch with friends who either pick me up, or I have them over. Next week I plan on visiting some relatives I haven’t seen for a long time, and having lunch with my sister. As you can see, this does have it’s advantages!

It’ll be four months before I can lift any weights, and, the entire healing process will take six months. So, three weeks is good progress, but I keep my patience about me while I am healing. I wonder if that is why we are called patients?

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