Well, I just saw my surgeon as I approach the 11 week post-op mark. I have made good progress since the steroid injection. Although I am still a little stiffer than we both would like, my ROM is progressing and my pain is gone aside from when I or my therapist really stretch it into end range.

Activities of daily living

I am now doing most things (bathing, dressing, grooming, etc.) using my left arm. It was a big deal when I could use my left arm in the drive through and ATM again lol. We tend to take the little things for granted until we cannot do them. I can turn the steering wheel with my left arm, although I will admit it is still a little challenging and fatiguing. Carrying light groceries is no sweat, and I have even started mowing my lawn with a self propelled lawn mower. Keep in mind my yard is flat and relatively small, so I would probably advise most patients to wait a bit longer on that.

Rehab recap

The past two weeks I have continued focusing on AROM and PROM while slowly progressing my strengthening exercises. My typical rehab session looks something like this:

  • Heat x 10 min
  • Active assistive cane ROM exercises x 20 each
  • Pulley: 2 x 15
  • Wall slides x 20
  • UBE x 6 min
  • PROM by PT for 20-30 min
  • Serratus punches – 2 x 10
  • Theraband rows and pulls – 2 x 10-15
  • Theraband internal rotation – 2 xx 10
  • Theraband external rotation walk outs – 2 x 10
  • Side-lying external rotation (no weight) – 2 x 10
  • Stabilization on the wall with a ball (up/down, side-to-side, circles) 2 x 10
  • Prone extension (light weight) – 2 x 10
  • Prone horizontal abduction (no weight) – 2 x 10
  • Standing flexion and scaption (0-1#) 2 x 10 focusing on no shrug in my range of motion
  • Ice x 10 min

The entire session takes about 90 minutes. Of course, I am navigating all the exercises on my own and relying on a colleague to do the PROM. With respect to the strengthening, my focus is on form, time under tension, avoiding excessive upper trap and compensatory motion, and ensuring I am not experiencing pain as I move the arm.

I have had to learn to balance pushing too hard and doing too much in my home program with the corresponding level of discomfort. As a PT, I obviously realize my motion is coming back a little slower than what is ideal, so I was really pushing hard each day. I believe this was perpetuating some inflammation so I backed off after the cortisone shot. My shoulder no longer feels irritable – it just feels tight.

Next steps

I was cleared to return to work on 8/16. At that point, I will be about 12.5 weeks post-op. I am excited to get back to work, and I feel using and moving the shoulder more during the day will actually help me recover more of my strength and mobility. The doctor told me I am low risk for re-injury because I am health and do not have to lift or move significantly heavy things at work. A smaller cuff tear helps too.

I will continue rehabbing daily on my own and get stretched by my colleague at least 2x/week. This rehab process is not a sprint, so slow and steady will win the race. Learning to react to our our own body and interpret its signals (i.e pain) is critical in order to optimize the recovery. While we all want to sprint out of the gate, I have learned (at no fault of my own) that my body and its response to surgery is unique. I must adapt and react to my body and not compare myself to past patients, friends, associates, etc.

So, for those of you reading along, please understand that healing is an individual process and one that requires patience, persistence, hard work and flexibility. Like life, I continue to attack my rehab one day at a time with a positive outlook and steely determination to get back to 100%. I will share my next update once I get back on the job.