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Spotly
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PostWed Sep 12, 2007 1:14 pm 
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So my months (several actually) old shoulder injury turns out to be a partially torn rotator cuff (I refused to let go of a hold during a fall - bad Tim).

Not sure yet if it'll mean surgery or if the doc's gonna recommend PT. Anyone been through this injury before? What should I expect for limitations and recovery time.

I've been sticking to relatively easy rock since the injury and while I may not have made it worse (or may have), it isn't healing on its own either. So, I expect at least some limitations to be imposed by the doc.

Any insight?
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yukon222
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PostWed Sep 12, 2007 2:20 pm 
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Sorry to hear that it hasn't healed for you.  Three years ago, I had a snowmobiling mishap while climbing back out of a steep bowl.  Machine couldn't quite make it to the top, I jumped off down below it.  It should have stayed in the deep snow but instead it decided to follow me down the hillside.  After it crashing into me twice, I put up my right arm to stop it the 3rd time.  That worked but it damaged my shoulder.  Never had it officially looked at but it was hard to raise my arm above my shoulder.  Assume the rotator cuff was damaged when my arm was extended up and out.  Couldn't rotate my arm in a throwing motion either.

About 6 weeks after the accident, it felt pretty good.  It was really only until maybe 3 months after the damage that I felt I could use it at maximum strength without worrying about the arm falling off.
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Spotly
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PostWed Sep 12, 2007 2:27 pm 
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Sounds like the classic case. Glad it healed for ya. I'm hoping it's just time and therapy and can avoid surgery. Guess I'll find out more on Tues.
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solohiker
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PostWed Sep 12, 2007 2:29 pm 
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Spotly I had a similar situation to yours a few years ago. I tore my rotator cuff in a ski fall and gave PT a fair chance (8 weeks). When there was no significant improvement at that point I went in for an MRI which revealed the hole in my cuff to be quite large and surgery was the only way I could hope to ever return to normal.

My surgery was in June, and as far as recovery period - well I could "hike" right away, just not backpack. I remember doing several I-90 haunts in June of that year some as soon as the week after surgery - Mailbox, Mt Defiance, Bandera. In July I did Camp Muir and in August summited St Helens, and there were plenty of nice long day hikes filling in  the time in between.

What I did not do that entire season was backpack. I didn't feel I could bear that much weight on my shoulder, and I definitely could not twist my shoulder to swing a full pack off or on. I traveled light, used a hip pack, and let my trusty canine buddy carry 2 liters of water for me! I learned just how far one can get in a day - which is freakishly long if you put your mind to it!

A year later I was fine and could carry anything. I even got back on the horse and went skiing again the following season, but my skiing has gone downhill (oops pun NOT intended!!). I'm kinda old and the injury has affected my approach to steep slopes. I just can't do them like I once could.
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Spotly
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PostWed Sep 12, 2007 2:38 pm 
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It'll be interesting to see what they meant when they called and told me it was a "partial" tear. If it's large enough that the doc thinks therapy stands just an ok chance, I may ask for surgery right away. Better now than next May when the rock starts warming up. I appreciate your description of what you went through.
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Randy
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PostWed Sep 12, 2007 3:16 pm 
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Bummer dude. At least it's towards the end of the season when it's becoming an issue for you.

Heal fast.
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Gil
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PostWed Sep 12, 2007 6:03 pm 
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Spotly:

I'm just coming off a partial rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder. I went through Dr. Cheblis in the Sports Medicine Clinic and Impact Therapy and couldn't be more pleased with the results.

I had had issues with this shoulder for years. In 1999, I really tweaked it while rock climbing at Tieton. I didn't go to the doctor then and it took several years to get back to the point where I could reach across the table and pick up the salt shaker! But eventually things got back to normal.

This time, I threw a soccer ball over a high fence last October and felt something go. I tried the old ignore-it strategy, but by January, I was having trouble sleeping because every time I rolled over, somebody was sticking a knife in. So my GP sent me to Cheblis. An MRI established that it was indeed a tear, but Cheblis thought there was enough tissue left and enough blood flow to attempt therapy before resorting to surgery. So off to Impact Therapy. They started out slowly but progressed to some really painful manipulation. But after two months of that and constant strengthening exercise, things really felt good and the decision was made to skip surgery. Now it's four months later and it really feels good. I can sleep. I can reach the salt. I can wash my left armpit. Which is a good thing.

All of which is a long way of saying I had a good outcome with therapy. If I had taken care of it immediately, I probably would have saved myself a lot of pain. So my advice is to do it now!

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imbecile
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PostWed Sep 12, 2007 9:30 pm 
torn rotator cuff
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Don't procrastinate, don't wait to see if it get's any better.  It won't!  I went through the same problem, pain got so bad I even traded cars with my husband (he was driving an automatic and I drove a stick and couldn't shift anymore), the pain finally got the better of me and I went in for surgery.  Waited too long, rotator cuff was  shredded  and even though my surgeon  tried to stitch together what little muscle and tendon was left, my right shoulder is damn near useless.  Have the cuff repaired while there's enough of it left to stitch it back together.
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Slugman
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PostWed Sep 12, 2007 11:53 pm 
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Spotly wrote:
What should I expect for limitations ?

You'll never pitch in the Majors again.  wink.gif

(Just trying to cheer you up. My best wished for a full recovery)

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Backpacker Joe
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PostThu Sep 13, 2007 7:20 am 
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There will be no healing fast!  Dont expect to much, if you dont you wont be to let down.
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solohiker
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PostThu Sep 13, 2007 9:04 am 
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BPJ is spot on, Spotly! People who go into surgery expecting to emerge without enduring any period of recovery set themselves up to be disappointed.

I should point out that while I was hiking only a few days after surgery, I was not without limitations. The first 4 weeks I was unable to raise my elbow away from my body farther than two finger widths, except while working with the physical therapist, or doing specific exercises at home. I would hike with my arm inside my shirt so I wasn't tempted to swing it around, and was especially cautious about keeping the sholder immobilized wherever terrain was a little tricky.

Personally (it may be just rationalization) I think going on long day hikes helped me recover faster and stronger - anything that increases blood flow and lifts your spirits can't help but enhance the healing process, no?
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nuclear_eggset
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PostThu Sep 13, 2007 9:25 am 
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I've been doing observation hours in a PT office (I'm thinking about switching careers... enough of this software/systems engineering - back to my first love of the medical professions), and my observational (but *NOT* trained) guess based on the other shoulder injuries I've seen would be that they are going to *highly* recommend that you stop the rock work and anything weight bearing or that strains those tendons at the moment, especially without icing afterwards, unless you want to extend your recovery time by months.  Of course, PT's can sometimes be conservative about those things (my own opinion there), but hopefully you'll hear back from your doctor on a course of treatment soon so you can at least hear where to go from here.  I'd be careful about carrying heavy loads (backpacks or not) and any loading of any kind on either shoulder for the moment until you do hear.

If/when they do have you do PT, though, you'll probably get to have ultrasound, which is great!  Yummy!
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Layback
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PostThu Sep 13, 2007 1:02 pm 
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Spotly - I talked to a person who I am close to last night who is a PT.  This person is unwilling to give any advice over the internet b/c of liability issues so this is by no means advice.  From what I gathered by talking to this person about patients with rotator cuff surgery, generally speaking most patients would be ready to climb again in 6-12 months.  Again - not advice and definitely not specific to you or your case - check with your doctor for specific restictions relative to your case.

My personal feeling as a non healthcare provider is that you ought to be ready for next year's climbing season but you can kiss any thoughts of ski season and ice climbing goodbye.

Best of luck to you.  I hope things go well.
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Starjumper7
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PostThu Sep 13, 2007 6:00 pm 
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It's interesting that this thread came up just now because in the last couple of days my shoulder has started hurting a little and motion is a bit limited.  I goggled it and it appears I have a bit of a rotator cuff problem myself.  I do a lot of overhead reaching in my chi kung practice and recently started doing some rough hard movements with my arms up to further strengthen my shoulders so that may have caused it.  I will now stop doing that type of strengthening exercise.  Now it's time to try some self healing  biggrin.gif
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reststep
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PostThu Sep 13, 2007 6:48 pm 
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I had a problem with my right shoulder and tried the ignore approach for several years.  In this case that did not work.  Eventually it started to wake me up at night if I slept on that side.  With that and the fact that skiing seemed to make it worse I went to an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Washington.  He did an ultrasound and said that one of the muscles in my rotator was torn.  I can't remember now which one it was.  He explained that there were 3 possible courses of action.  Physical therapy, cortisone shot or surgery.  He suggested trying physical therapy first and I agreed.  They gave me a set of exercises using rubber bands and some straps that go in the door so I can do the exercises at home.  I would not say that the shoulder is as good as new but I am now able to do most things I was before within reason.

The physical therapy worked for me.  Maybe I was just lucky.  I don't know.  I still do the exercises.  It used to really bother me playing table tennis and skiing and now I can do both pretty much pain free.  I don't know why but back packing never did seemed to bother it.

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