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torn rotator cuff

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Old 11-08-2010, 09:26 AM   #1
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Default torn rotator cuff

I have had pain in my shoulder since last spring. While not aware exactly when it happened, the pain started after a couple of weeks using a DVD that incorporated hand weights. Rest didn't help, so saw my GP a couple of times over the months. He diagnosed tendinitis, took NSAIDs, had cortisone shot.... didn't help. So I went to an orthopedist last week, and it turned out that I have a torn rotator cuff and he says I need surgery. I have an MRI next week and will know more afterward, but the doctor was sure that I have the tear.

This is not entirely off topic, this has definitely affected exercise, which in turn affects weight loss. In one way I was relieved. Whenever I have pain, I feel like I should just work through it and never ever complain. I felt like such a wimp going to the doctor. I actually apologized to my gp for bothering him. I hate the "rate your pain from 0 to 10" thing. I can imagine bad pain, so I put childbirth and a kidney stone at about 7 or 8, so I said that this pain was about a 1 or 2. I don't really know why I tend to minimize my pain.

Anyway, the diagnosis validated my pain. From what I have read, the surgery and recovery is pretty bad. I have not found many personal accounts and was wondering if anyone here has been through it.

I probably won't have the surgery for several months, but I have started planning. A few years ago when I had surgery on my foot I stopped a good weight loss streak and gained about 40 pounds. I have such a fear of that happening again, so I must make plans that will not allow that to happen. So far I have come up with:
*I will tell my friends at church, "Thank you, but no meals being brought in."
*My husband and grown sons will just simply have to cook me my normal food.
*To help with the "poor me, I am in pain, or bored, so I deserve junk food" I am going to buy a plastic container that has a top that opens with two hands for DH and sons to keep their junk in. That container will go on the top shelf. Even in my weakest moments, I won't be able to get it down and open it with one good arm!

Any other ideas? Anyone here gone through the rotator cuff surgery?

It is so great to have all of you for venting and getting advice!
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:36 AM   #2
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I haven't but most people in my family have. We have an inherited problem with the rotator cuff. My dad, all three of his siblings, my brother, me, and now my 11 year old nephew all have bad ones!! Mine actually cleared up WITH exercise, though swimming made it worse. My brother cleared his up by pitching a baseball to his son, of all things. My dad and all three of his siblings have had surgery. My dad has had it twice.

My own issue, when it flares up, is that I can raise my hands over my head, but I can not bring them back down. They get stuck and it's so painful to bring them down again.

My dad harps on never sleeping with your arms under your pillow or in any way over your head. He begs me to learn to sleep with my arms to my sides or across my chest. I can't do it.

No suggestions, just sympathy. I think you have a good plan there.
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Last edited by Eliana : 11-08-2010 at 09:36 AM.
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Old 11-08-2010, 10:02 AM   #3
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I have no experience.. but dang girl, you must have a high pain tollerance! I went through labor once.. that was about a 9.. it ended in an emergency c-section, which led to 3 more sections and my last I rate as about a 30, and yes I told the doctor that! They took my morphine drip away but never put in the order for the oral pain meds AND I had hemmoraged so after pushing on my already sore stomach from the inside and out they gave me a shot that made me contract HARD for 2 days.

Plus with that pain look how far you have come with such an injury!! You are awesome!!!
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Old 11-08-2010, 10:20 AM   #4
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Hi Cheryl! I had a complete rotator cuff tear (and tore my supraspinatus and infraspinatus) back in 2005 and had surgery in January, 2006. It was a long recovery but I'm thrilled to be pain free now, with a full range of motion.

I'm babysitting at the moment so don't have time to post about the whole experience, but in the meantime you can search "rotator" and my name and probably find a lot of my old posts about surgery and recovery. I'm also going to PM my email address to you so you can ask me anything.

Best of luck to you and I'll post more when I have a free moment!
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Old 11-08-2010, 07:02 PM   #5
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Cheryl - so sorry to hear about you needing surgery on your shoulder. My BIL had it years ago. It was a longish recovery, but, he was greatful to have no pain and use of his shoulder.

I totally understand about the food stuff. I too have been thinking of facing food after surgery. I think you have a good strategy. It will be good to ask folks not to bring things - some may still do it. You can cook ahead and have healthy things ready in the freezer.

In the literature about my surgery, it said that is extremely important to eat healthy foods after surgery. I am sure it's the same for yours too. You can mention it to folks. If they feel they must bring food...maybe you could ask for fruit. Maybe tell DH that if goodies come into the house, they need to go to work with him or to the neighbor. (that's what I told my husband)

I am hoping for the best in all this for you.
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Old 11-08-2010, 08:43 PM   #6
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Is this your dominant arm?

It will make a difference with the type of food you can feed yourself. I just got my sister through this surgery. Altho brothy soup is nutritious and low in calories it is difficult to eat with the non-dominate hand. She was much better with sandwiches and whole fruit. Salad was a slow, slow meal and a big spoon worked better than a fork. Cut up veggie finger food was always an option. She loved my RF smoothies even when I added spinach.

The good news is that this will only last about a week. Then you can start using the hand as long as you don't try to leverage a knife or fork against tougher foods. It makes you lift your shoulder. And then you are on your way to full recovery. Remember to take a lot of small walks in the beginning to get the anesthesia out of your system, get the lungs exchanging oxygen, move healing blood and to lift your mood. Increase duration of your walks as you regain your stamina.

My sister is pretty resilent with pain but she was very uncomfortable for the first four days and used all the pain meds. Those bad boys do a number on your digestive track so try to add a lot of fiber rich foods. You might even want to supplement your diet with Benefiber or something like that.
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Old 11-09-2010, 08:18 AM   #7
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Back again.

A lot of what happens with surgery is going to depend on the results of your MRI: is it a complete or partial tear and will your surgeon be able to fix it laproscopically or with an open incision? And of course, which arm it is.

Mine was a massive complete tear, on my dominant arm, and had to be fixed with an open incision, so my experiences are probably a worst case scenario. But I made it through surgery and recovery without regaining any weight (I was in maintenance) so I count it as a success.

The surgery was out patient and they used a nerve block, which gave me complete pain relief for 12 hours. After that, I had three kinds of pain pills and really needed them. The first week was rocky, I won't kid you. I woke up in a gigantic velcro sling and was not allowed to remove it for six weeks, except to shower (after a week) and go to physical therapy. I was expressly forbidden to do anything to fire the muscles on that side for the first six weeks because the tendon in my shoulder (screwed back on the bone with titanium screws) had to reattach. I wasn't even allowed to use my fingers on that hand.

So I learned to do everything left handed. Including mascara and eyeliner, putting on stockings, eating, computer -- everything! It was easier than I thought to become ambidextrous and to this day, I still use the computer mouse with my left hand because I learned to like it that way after the surgery.

Like you, I was panicked about weight gain, so I focused on food and exercise. My doctor was a big proponent of me doing whatever exercise I could (that didn't fire the muscles of the repaired shoulder) because he said getting oxygen circulating would help the healing process. So after the first week, I did 30-60 minutes on the recumbent bike every day. I also lifted weights with my left side because I had read some studies showing that there might be a reciprocal effect on the unused side. At least it kept one side in shape! And I worked out legs, carefully. I couldn't do elliptical or walk because the bouncing was painful, but the bike was perfect cardio for recovery.

In PT, they only stretched my arm to prevent scar tissue from forming for the first six weeks since I wasn't allowed to use the muscles. It hurt like a son of a gun but at least I was able to regain a full range of motion. After six weeks, we started with resistance bands and tiny little Barbie weights (which kicked my butt!) I'd say it took a good four to six months for me to build enough strength to be back to fairly normal weights on the repaired side and be pain free. You'll be taking pain pills before your PT sessions long after you don't need them for anything else and you'll hate PT because it hurts, but it's the key to a successful recovery.

As for food, I kept on eating like I always did, with an emphasis on protein for healing. Nothing changed with regard to my eating plan: I still counted calories, used Fitday, planned my meals in advance etc. I didn't lower my calories despite getting less exercise because I figured I needed some for healing, but I didn't raise them either. I froze tons of food in advance, both for DH and me, in individual portions - salmon, chicken, soups, chili, burgers etc. There wasn't anyone to cook for me but it wasn't hard to cook left handed -- it just took twice as long (everything takes twice as long). When we had to get groceries, DH would drive us there and man the cart. We managed without any problem during my recovery and never ended up resorting to pizza!

It took about six months for me to feel back to normal, but the roughest time was the first six weeks when I wasn't allowed to use my repaired arm at all. When you're about three months into recovery, you start to wonder if it's ever going to get better and the answer is yes! Just hang on and the day will come when you're pain free and will have a complete range of motion back. In the end, it's all worth it!

What other questions can I answer?
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Old 11-26-2010, 12:03 PM   #8
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Cheryl, you're MIA, AWOL. Are you OK?
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Old 11-26-2010, 03:08 PM   #9
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Rosinante,

I am fine. Thanks for asking! Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the states and it kept me busy.
I am spending lots of time with my grandkids. It is great! It has been months since I got to spend time with my grandsons who live far away. I am checking in now while they are down for a nap.

My arm has been been bothering me and slowed me down. Two active little boys have convinced me that I need to take care of it. I had the MRI last week and next week see the doctor to learn what he wants to do.

I won't be here much over the next couple of days. Next week I will be back on my normal schedule.
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Old 11-26-2010, 04:20 PM   #10
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Just wanted to wish you all the best. I hope everything goes super smoothly and that your recovery is quick and with minimal discomfort.
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