Don't tug on that. Recovery from shoulder surgery Qs.
October 16, 2009 1:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the second week of recovery from SLAP/Bankart surgery on my shoulder and might be fretting too much about it, but I'm a surgery n00b and have no idea what recovery is supposed to be like. Then, too, I decided surgery is not much fun and would like to figure out how to avoid having any more of it. I would like advice on both.

I'm 51 years old and have no history of joint trouble or injury, nor do I have arthritis. PT starts next week.

1) How would I know if something went wrong with the operation (like ripped-out anchors) during the usual bumps and bangs of daily life? I've been told -not- to trust pain -except- during the prescribed exercises. I haven't had much pain after the surgery but I tripped over the dog a few days ago and instinctively put my bad hand out, catching myself partially and that hurt some (for a minute or two). It wasn't in the direction of the initial problem.

2) My primary care physician diagnosed my problem correctly when I showed him the moves that led to the injury and the MRI confirmed it. I must learn how to read climbing routes to include "red zones" (if my right foot slips when I'm on like -so-, I'll load the shoulder badly again). Where do I learn to emulate my PCP, and understand body kinetics risks like this before I take them?

Pre vi ously.
posted by jet_silver to Health & Fitness (3 answers total)
Best answer: I'm unfamiliar with the terms SLAP/Bankart, but I am a climber who had a shoulder reconstruction about 10 years ago.

I had dislocated my left shoulder about 7 times, and in doing so had torn the labrum off about 3/4 of the glenoid. To compound matters, I had also chipped the edge of the glenoid and had loosened the capsule surrounding the joint to the point that further dislocations were inevitable.

The surgery I had cleaned up the edge of the glenoid, installed surgical anchors and tied the labrum back to the anchors and then tightened up the capsule.

The orthopaedic surgeon who did my shoulder was pretty disparaging of my concerns about accidental damage to the shoulder in the early recovery stage. When I went to see him for check-ups, he vigorously checked the range of motion in a way that I felt sure was going to tear my limb from the socket. He had no such concerns and said 'I rebuilt it, I know how strong it should be'.

I was started on PT the morning after the operation. I hurt more than anything I'd ever experienced, and all I was doing was describing circles with my left hand as my arm dangled down. With each day, however, the pain lessened. First was resistance exercises against a Theraband, then free weights, then some swimming. And finally, back to climbing.

Prior to the surgery, I had been climbing OK - onsighting up to about 5.11c. I did *no* climbing for 6 months and just followed the exercise charts given to me by by physiotherapist. After I got the green light to start climbing again I did some easy traversing for a week or two, then started roped climbing again. Within 3 weeks I was onsighting 5.11c again and within about 6 months was climbing better than I ever had before. My climbing style definitely changed though - I was far more cautious about making dynamic movements to my left hand. My experience was pretty much that you will be inherently more cautious about getting into what you call the 'red zones', perhaps even to the point that you will have to force yourself to overcome your reluctance. In any event, you're going to have a fair chunk of time to think about that before you're in that situation again.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2009

Best answer: The recovery from this takes about one year, yeah, one whole year. Obviously a big recovery occurs sooner, but it will be the year before you feel all better. There will be pain, lots of it. They are right you can not rely on that to know when you have had a failure, although it is important.

You will be in physical therapy for the next couple of months and you physical terrorist is the best positioned to diagnose any troubles with the surgery. Failure rates are not that high for people who follow the rules so I wouldn't worry so much. Current Bankart procedures are pretty brutal, involving a huge screw threaded through your tendon, and tendons heal slowly if at all.
posted by caddis at 6:13 PM on October 16, 2009

Response by poster: tim_in_oz, that's inspirational: after a year of a plateau at v4/11b I'd finally got way better, flashing v6 and 12s, and I thought that was over. I had six weeks to enjoy the improvement.

caddis, the surgeon prepared me for the year's recovery time. As for the PT stuff I am being pretty fussy about doing what they tell me. Yah, it hurts some and there'll be more.

Ohmagoodness do I feel better. Thanks!
posted by jet_silver at 10:27 PM on October 16, 2009

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