It has now been 15 weeks since I had surgery for a torn rotator cuff, torn labrum, torn bicep tendon, and bone spurs in the right shoulder. It has been a frustrating several weeks as I have developed what is known as “frozen shoulder.” This condition is where there is too much scar tissue and inflammation in the shoulder socket, causing it to literally lock up. I had not been able to move it beyond a certain amount for close to two months. I got a steroid injection about three weeks ago, and finally over the last week and a half I’m seeing some notable progress.
At rehab last week the therapist got my arm lifted (front) to about 160 degrees, a new record over 150 degrees. It had been at 150 for weeks. Last week she was able to get the arm to about 160 degrees in a more side motion, away from the body. That was a record as well. Today, with the therapist’s help, I got the first measurement to 170 degrees and the 2nd to 180. Major improvements.
I’ve also noticed that my pain level over the last week or so has subsided quite a bit. I’m going large portions of the day with no pain. I’m also sleeping in my own bed, and even sleeping on my left side with no pain or waking up due to pain in the night. Major win. I can lay on my bad shoulder side for awhile, but moving after that is painful and stiff.
I can finally see some decent progress, 20 degrees or so, in the last couple of weeks. Major breakthrough. I’m getting more exercises and stretches which I’m religiously doing at home daily.
Not Over Yet
I still have a long way to go. I can’t reach behind my back with my right arm, at all. Not even an inch or two. I can’t get anywhere near a throwing position, nor can I even reach across my body, say to dry my left shoulder off with a towel. It takes effort to shave right handed, or wash my hair right handed, but I can do it now.
Fortunately I’ve been able to keep my sanity, somewhat. I’ve taken up backcountry skiing and I’ve gone up into the wonderful mountains here in northern Utah for “skin” sessions. A few days ago I skinned up to over 10,000 feet. Great exercise, and a physical activity I can do, even with a limited right arm.
Today I grabbed a golf club out of curiosity. I could take it back gingerly to about 1/3 of a full swing before I felt pain. Worse than that was the followthrough. Once my right hand crossed about the center of my body it was big time no-go zone. So I bet the farthest I could hit a golf ball at this point, with any club, would be maybe 20-30 yards. And I’d have one swing in me before I’d have to bail.
Remember the movie 9.5 Weeks, with Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke? What a film. That one rocked my world as a young, red blooded heterosexual male in 1986. If only my 9.5 week report on my shoulder surgery was as tremendous as that, or even one tenth of one percent.
I just finished up my 14th session of physical therapy today, for my repaired torn rotator cuff, torn labrum, and torn bicep tendon. 9.5 weeks after the surgery I find myself in a frustrating and concerned position. For the last week or so I’ve been experiencing more than usual pain in my shoulder, and in areas I’ve not had any pain before. I’ve feared I did some damage to the repairs by lifting something heavy out of the trunk of the car. The pain has been keeping me from sleeping.
My rehab therapist checked it out today and does not think that I’ve damaged anything or re-injured myself. We theorized that my more active use of the arm/shoulder (computer, driving, daily activities), are causing the added pain and soreness. That’s good. The bad news is I have pretty severe scar tissue built up in the area of the bicep tenodesis (where the doc cuts off part of the bicep tendon and screws it into the bone). It is enflamed and painful 24/7 and always extremely tight. So tight it’s tighter than Stewart Copeland’s (The Police) snare head. This issue is causing my recovery to go very slowly. This condition is also known as “frozen shoulder.”
In therapy sessions the therapist stretches out and manipulates the arm and shoulder to try and increase the mobility, increase blood flow, and break up the scar tissue. It takes some very harsh and painful movements to get the scar tissue to break up. When it does, I sometimes feel a pop.
During today’s session the therapist started a new treatment. He used some lubrication and a bamboo “tool” to rub the areas where the scar tissue is built up and the tendons are tight. When rubbing the tissues with this device you could literally feel the bumps in the tissue. It practically felt like he was moving the tool over a saw blade. With normal tissue the movement would be smooth.
I do have improved mobility in the right arm which I’m thrilled about. A little mobility seems terrific when you had none for 6+ weeks. I can “almost” brush my teeth with my right hand, almost pull my pants up, and almost wipe my own ass right handed without pain. That’s quite an improvement. I still have very limited range of motion in almost every direction. A couple of days ago I picked up a golf club. First time I’ve had a golf club in my hands in months. In a gentle swing test I got the shaft back about 12 inches from grounded and that was all she wrote. Brutal.
At this point I’m not figuring on playing any golf in 2019, but I’m diligently doing my rehab treatments and exercises in the hopes I can break through as soon as possible.
Today was a big event. No, not the first round of the 2019 Masters Tournament. The big event was the eight week anniversary of my shoulder surgery for torn rotator cuff, torn bicep tendon, and torn labrum. My last report at the six week mark was not good. My physical therapy was not going as fast as I’d hoped because I have what is called “frozen shoulder.”
This report is a little better than the six week mark. My pain level, which is and has mostly been in the area of the bicep work, is slowly decreasing. It has been constantly painful, extremely enflamed, knotted, and sore 24/7. That’s going away, ever so slowly. But at least it is going.
I’ve found that my range of motion is, very slowly, improving. I could not reach up much higher than waist height two weeks ago. Now I can reach up to about shoulder height before I can’t go any farther. I’m now able to do some of the basics like putting my socks on without too much effort and with little to no pain. I can reach the steering wheel in the car now. Still can’t reach the radio. Can’t brush my teeth with the right hand or for that matter, pick my nose. Can’t dry my back off or pull my pants up with the right arm yet.
Today at the rehab facility I reached one of the mini-goals that I’ve been wanting to reach. This is drill they tried to get me to do several weeks ago but due to the bicep scar tissue and damage, I failed. Today I was finally able to do the arm pulley drill. This is a drill where I sit in a chair and pull my bad arm up via pulley with my good arm (photo below). Being able to do this today meant that I was at least progressing.
I expected the drill to be a relief. I’ve been aching to fold my arms or put my arms behind my head etc. It was not a relief though, it was very still and painful. But I would call it a “good kind of pain.”
At this point in my rehab I’m going to get to start doing more strength building and more mobility building, which I’m looking forward to. During my treatment today we felt several “pops” in the shoulder tissue. The therapist said that was scar tissue breaking. This is good. The scar tissue is what’s making the shoulder sore and impossible to move.
I’m still fairly gimpy with the right arm. I feel like a T-Rex. But it is improving. Given the extent of my surgery and the resulting scar tissue and damage, I fear the 2019 golf season will be completely lost. I hope I’m wrong. I’m religiously doing two rehab sessions per week and daily rehab exercises.
I sill have yet to sleep in my bed. Can’t be horizontal without it hurting. I hope to be over that soon because I’m not getting very much sleep at all in a sitting position.
Today marks the sixth week since my shoulder surgery for torn rotator cuff, torn labrum, torn bicep tendon. I’ve been religiously doing my physical therapy and home exercises. Which has been going slowly in terms of gaining mobility. The area where the doctor did the bicep tenodesis (cut the torn tendon away and screwed the end into the bone) has been extremely sore and very tight. Yesterday I consulted with the shoulder doctor in my six-week checkup on the shoulder.
Arthroscopic photo of some of my shoulder repairs
The good news is the doc has released me from having to wear the sling. This is huge. I’ve been sleeping sitting up, with the sling on. I had to shower in a sling. Do everything in the sling. You can imagine how much of a pain doing things one handed with your weak hand is.
As I mentioned, the area where they worked on my bicep tendon is not happy. The doc informed me I have “frozen shoulder,” also known as “adhesive capsulitis.” Adhesive capsulitis is a painful and disabling disorder in which the connective tissue surrounding the joint of the shoulder becomes inflamed and stiff, greatly restricting motion and causing chronic pain.
Chronic pain: check.
Restricted motion: check.
I’m really irritated about it: check.
This will increase my recovery time by an unknown amount. I may end up having to get a steroid injection to assist in the healing, but have to wait until the surgery is healed before that can happen. If I get the shot, it would be in another six weeks.
I have some basic use of my right arm now. I can type a bit. I can put my socks on, just barely. I can’t reach much higher than my waist however. So reaching the steering wheel of the car is a no go. Can’t reach the radio buttons in the car either.
I’m not thrilled at this point. For now I’m just hoping to be ready for next ski season. I’m unsure I’ll get any golf rounds in for the 2019 calendar year.
I hope to prove myself wrong and that I can get some golf in before 2020. I’m working hard on the rehab and doing whatever I can.