By the time this blog entry gets posted, I should be sitting in the pre-op area waiting to get surgery to repair one of my left rotator cuff tendons.
The decision to get the surgery did not come lightly.
I actually already have a decent tear in the same tendon in my right shoulder. That injury happened about 22 years ago. I was weightlifting in the basement of our apartment complex with a couple of roommates in Minneapolis. during the slow downward movement of a barbell behind-the-neck press, I felt a searing pain in my right shoulder and I dropped the weights as my shoulder completely lost strength. I was only a 20 year old college student with no money and no health insurance, so I did not go to the doctor. Instead I just lived with the pain, which lessened over the course of the next few months. I didn’t try to lift weights again for about 15 years, but I could function daily without any major pain. It only hurt when I worked my shoulder too hard lifting or moving things.
About seven years ago I started getting serious about weightlifting again. My shoulder instantly started giving me problems. An MRI revealed I had partially torn the tendon that connects the supraspinatus muscle to my humerus, one of four such small muscles and tendons that together are called the rotator cuff. Fortunately the tear was only 50% to 70% of the way through the tendon, so part of the tendon was still there and the supraspinatus was still partially connected and working somewhat. Exercises to strengthen the other three rotator cuff muscles, icing and ibuprofen when needed made that shoulder manageable. I have had some success in the bodybuilding/powerlifting department despite the bum right shoulder.
In November I was doing some shoulder exercises when on vacation in Jamaica, specifically lateral raises, with what I THOUGHT was 22 lb dumb bells. Turns out Jamaica is on the metric system, and they were actually 22 KG, or about 50 lbs. I felt my left shoulder go after two reps, and by the next day using my left arm was extremely painful.
After a few months of trying to rehab it, I decided to see a shoulder specialist. Another MRI later, and it was found that I had torn the same supraspinatus tendon on the left side… this time a complete tear. Both that surgeon and another specialist I sought a second opinion from told me a complete tear like that would give me a permanent loss of power, strength and range of motion in my left arm, and rehab would not have the same results as it did on the right. My supraspinatus muscle was completely disconnected from my humerus, and it would begin to atrophy if not repaired soon.
So, today I get it fixed via arthoscopic surgery. Basically they grab the loose end of the tendon, pull it over and suture it back to the humerus. They also remove any bone spurs and will take a look at my biceps tendon as well in case that’s damaged. I will be in a sling for 6 weeks, rehabing for 6 months and it may be as long as 9 to 12 months before I regain full strength in my left shoulder.
I figure one year from now I will be glad I got the surgery done. The next 6 months, however… won’t be much fun. Obviously I won’t be doing anything with my left arm in the gym for some time. Just for kicks, I am going to try and see how big I can get my RIGHT arm while my left is out of business and shrinks considerably. That would be an interesting picture!
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