Moaning and groaning … oh yeah, about that shoulder!
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.
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