01
Jun
12

Moaning and groaning … oh yeah, about that shoulder!

Moaning and groaning … oh yeah, about that shoulder!

Shoulder Anatomy (Credit: Massageitsgoodforyou.wordpress)

Oy … so here’s the story.  Back in December my shoulder started hurting after boxing.  I didn’t think too much of it and let it slide for a while.

By February I noted serious “ows” when I swam–so I stopped doing that, but kept boxing, avoiding things like the right cross.  By March it was still hurting and making “popping” noises so I saw an orthopedist and after getting an MRI got the diagnosis:  A torn labram.  Specifically, I was diagnosed with a SLAP Tear (Superior Labrum from anterior to posterior), a tear where the biceps muscle tendon connects with the labram in the shoulder joint.

Labram Tear (Credit: Healthandfitness101.com)

Here’s a good explanation from About.com: An injury to a part of the shoulder joint called the labrum. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, similar to the hip; however, the socket of the shoulder joint is extremely shallow, and thus inherently unstable. To compensate for the shallow socket, the shoulder joint has a cuff of cartilage called a labrum that forms a cup for the end of the arm bone (humerus) to move within. A specific type of labral tear is called a SLAP tear; this stands for Superior Labrum from Anterior toPosterior. The SLAP tear occurs at the point where the tendon of the biceps muscle inserts on the labrum.

The MRI also showed tendonitis of the supraspinatus tendon (the tendon at the top of shoulder) and bits of inflammation in a couple of other places).

Next up was a course of physical therapy — and no more boxing for the duration.

I worked with a terrific therapist name Eddie who patiently took me through a myriad of stretches and strengthening exercises.

Twice a week I  lay on one of the tables while I had a heat pack applied to my shoulder that felt GREAT–for a few minutes. Next up was a massage and gentle manipulation to try to improve my range of motion–and get me out of pain.

After the heat and massage came the hard part: lots of exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and improve range of motion which I had already begun to lose. The biggest problem was my shoulder was feeling even more unstable–meaning lots of popping when I moved it plus it hurt even more after PT was done.  In other words, not a great sign.

So … back to the orthopedist I went only to learn that I was also developing a frozen shoulder, meaning my shoulder was stiff and losing range of motion big-time.

I’d already known that I hurt when I tried to move my arm up and to the side or across my body–but the shocker was realizing that I couldn’t scratch my back anymore on my right side. I had also started to wake up in the middle of the night in pain, and trying to put on a sweater was becoming a challenge (not to mention hooking a bra!).

In other words my favorite shoulder Yoga pose was a pipe dream and I could no more do the pose than launch into space.

Options??  Well pretty much only one if I want to gain back the use of my right shoulder — arthroscopic surgery to repair the labram tear, clean up the “junk” around it  and to “unfreeze” those parts of the shoulder capsule that are impeding range-of-motion.

Arthroscopic means that the surgery will be performed through 3-4 small incisions around the shoulder using a camera and specialized surgical instruments.  Depending upon the severity of the repair, tiny ceramic screws may also be inserted to help stabilize the shoulder joint.

Surgery typically runs from one to two hours and may also entail repairs to the biceps tendon depending upon the amount of damage.

Recovery is another challenge. Immediately post-op, patients wear an ice-pack on their affected arm for 72-96 hours and pretty much keep the arm immobilized in a sling for upwards of four weeks.  PT starts pretty early though and patients usually start a course of exercise from about the second day or so.

The prospect of surgery is miserable to say the least — but given that I can’t even run because the motion hurts my arm gives some indication of its necessity.  As my surgeon said, if I want to be active at all, I kinda’ have no choice and given that I DESPERATELY want to box again, onward I march into a summer in recovery mode.

My surgery is scheduled for June 20th at NYU/Hospital for Joint Diseases.  I’ll let you know how it goes from the other side.

For further information on Labral tears here are a few good resources.

Johns Hopkins Orthopedic Surgery

NYU – Shoulder Labral Tear

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons


14 Responses to “Moaning and groaning … oh yeah, about that shoulder!”


  1. June 1, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Ugh. I am really sorry to hear about this, but glad you have a plan. I’m also feeling deeply appreciative of the incredible options for medical care that we have access to. I hope the surgery and recovery go well for you, and you get back into Gleasons with all the power and passion that you enjoyed before. Keep us updated! (Does it hurt to type?)

    • June 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks for your warm wishes, Lisa. You’ve been through injuries so you know it truly is an “ugh” feeling. And the reason to go through with it is so that I can box again. There are no words to express how much I’m missing it now. And — nope, I can type, just can’t do much else — like put on a shirt or lift things! Still, I’m keeping up with the PT exercises so that I’ll have *some* strength coming out of surgery. That plus lots of core work doing sit-ups, crunches and leg lifts.

  2. June 4, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Sometimes surgery is a necessary evil. I’m glad you were able to try out the first option, making the second one seem a bit more justified. All the best to you. You will be stronger and smarter after your recovery, no matter how long it takes. Don’t forget that.

  3. July 8, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    at 60 years of age i damaged my left knee snow skieing . painfull,yes! hobbled home to louisiana and was quickly seen by a sports medicine surgeon. i thought i was ruined, but through physical therapy and persistant exercise my knee is as good as new. the tiny scars don’t even show. do exactly what you’r surgeon says and you will also be good as new and no pain.

    • July 8, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      Thank you! So far, so good. Surgery went well and the recovery is right on target. Having just started PT I can also see some immediate positive improvement! Thanks again!

  4. 7 Kathy
    February 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Can you give an update on your surgery/recovery? I was in an accident that tore the labrum and I have the same surgery next week (after doing PT, etc) and am a little nervous that the pain will still be there after another year…Just want to be back where I was!

    • February 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      Hi Kathy!

      Firstly — DO NOT WORRY!!!

      I am now 7 months post-op and PAIN FREE! I also have most of my range of motion back with the exception of moving my arm up my back which is pretty poor indeed, but regaining mobility slowly.

      Everything was not perfect, however. In my case, my first PT group did a very poor job. It set me back quite a bit — so if I can offer any advise, it is to make sure that your PT really knows how to deal with the kind of shoulder surgery you are having.
      I was able to find a terrific person about 10 weeks post-op who really, did an amazing job of helping me, it just took a while for me to figure out what was going on. If I can offer any suggestions, it is to see your surgeon after you’ve been in PT for a week or two so the he or she can evaluate how you are doing.

      As for the immediate post-op experience:

      1. I used an ice machine 24/7 that was FABULOUS! It really helped with pain, and I was off the heavy stuff by the 4th day. After that I took tylenol for about a week or so and then I was done. I’ll add that I continued to use the ice machine off and on for a couple of weeks.

      2. The sling takes a while to get used to, especially if you have to use it pretty much all the time. You WILL, however, find a way to get comfortable, and it is truly a God-send if you are walking in a crowd!

      3. Do NOT go back to work too soon if you can possibly avoid it. You should put the time to PT 3 x per week and otherwise rest.

      What amazed me the most, even though I had a rough start to PT, was that by three months in, all of that pre-op pain and discomfort were gone! I could run (well jog), without i feeling as if it would fall out of the socket, and as I regained strength (fully back now) — it felt better and better.

      BTW, I ended up with a SLAP TEAR Type IV, with a Tenodesis — meaning, the surgeon found that I’d also split by biceps tendon. It had to be relocated to the humerus bone, plus I had bursitis and other “junk” that he cleaned out of the joint.

      I will add that I would never know that the tendon was relocated because the muscles functions perfectly.

      BEST OF LUCK!!!!!!!

      – GB

      • 9 Kathy
        February 6, 2013 at 8:46 am

        Thank you for all of the info. I think my bro-in-law has an ice machine-I will be sure to ask if I can borrow it! I’m glad your pain is gone. It sounds like yours was a lot worse than mine (hoping there will only be 2 anchors and nothing else needed, although he did mention the bone spur thing). Knowledge is power and I appreciate hearing the details from someone who’s been through it!

      • February 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

        I just hope that all goes well with you! Make sure your shoulder is wrapped with the ice machine sleeve–makes it easier.

        I actually only ended up needing one anchor which was pretty amazing considering, but I really wouldn’t know it, and the surgeon used a material that will eventually become part of the bone so I won’t be setting off airport security! Let me know how it goes.

        Best!

        Sent from my iPhon

  5. 11 Dschurai
    November 4, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Hey there!
    How is your shoulder now? Is your boxing at the same level like it was before surgery?
    I ( 24 years, male kickboxer from germany) had a slap tear surgery 10 months ago. It fells OK now and I do light boxing already, just the hook feels unstable. I’d like to know how much I can expect in the future. I cpuldnt fimd any post surgery information of boxers, so I hope to get some infornations here 😉

    • November 4, 2015 at 10:57 am

      After 3-1/2 years I would never know that I had surgery, that’s how well I healed. Mind you, the first year was complicated by a frozen shoulder but by 18 months, I had full strength and nearly perfect range of motion. Mind you I was nearly 60 at the time– so you should be fine!! The best advise is diligence, continuous PT exercise, icing after activity, mild weights, and importantly, scrupulous attention to how you are throwing your punches. You can see that through mirror work and in working with your trainer, review the mechanics of how you throw, how you torque your body and so on the your trainer, and make certain bad habits are corrected quickly. Best of luck!


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