is my shoulder gimpy forever?
July 24, 2006 11:26 AM   Subscribe

rough and tumble lifestyle finally (inevitably) leads to serious shoulder injury. am i to be gimpy forever? [details inside]

I did something to my shoulder. it doesn't hurt, but the bottom part of my collar bone pops out of joint whenever I raise my arm above my head. basically, the 'freestyle' swimming stroke causes the joint to pop out at the farthest extension, and pop back in as i bring my arm down. It does feel uncomfortable.

I've seen an orthopedist, and he says it's a subluxes anterior sternoclavicular dislocation. The orthopedist told me surgery was too risky (the aorta is directly below the joint) and basically told me to stop using my shoulder. That really sucks, because my sport of choice is rock climbing.

Does the hive mind have any experience with non-surgical treatments and recovery from this type of injury? any general advice? a solemn sedinteray climber needs your help.
posted by markovitch to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My gf has suffered a basketball injury back in the day and she didn't treat it properly. Consequently, her shoulder's now quite prone to popping out easily (last time this happened involved a pillow fight). According to her doctor, it'll always be this way and the only way to keep it under control is through regular exercises of the shoulder's relative muscle group. She still does sports but she's careful not to overexert herself and she tends to favour the other arm when she can.
posted by freakystyley at 12:06 PM on July 24, 2006

I screwed up both my shoulders swimming butterfly in high school. both my rotator cuffs were pretty well damaged. A physical therapist should be useful, but the one I went to didnt really understand the problem and kept giving me exercises that exacerbated the injury.

I ended up basically not working out at all for about three years, and the swelling finally went down and the pain went away (mostly). I'm out of shape now but trying to get back into things slowly. No way I want to go back to needing help to put on a jacket or being unable to make left turns with a steering wheel.

My orthopedist explained that when it comes to shoulders, you have to be VERY careful. You don't work through the pain. You stop right away. If he thinks you should stop, I would, at least for a while. You don't want to risk damaging it more.

In the meantime, weight bearing exercises and stretches that work your shoulder muscles should help support your wobbly joint. I had to start with 1lb weights. I'd see a PT for at least once to get an idea of how to do it without making things worse.

It sucks to have to think about giving up your favorite hobby. I'm just now getting into swimming again, five years later. But I'm glad I waited. I still have what seems like permanent damage. I cant lift my arms above my shoulders at all, and if I had kept doing what I had been, who knows how much worse it would be. In time, you may be able to restart, or find a similar hobby that will do less damage to your shoulders. Good luck!
posted by gilsonal at 12:22 PM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wiped out cycling a couple of years ago and put my arm out to break my fall, which helped but ended up putting an unhealthy amount of torque on my shoulder. A couple of months of physical therapy resolved my shoulder pain and I am fully healed now.

I'd never done PT before but now would swear by it. You might not be able to get completely back to where you were but I would hope that PT could help restore more use than you've got now.

And I can definitely second gilsonal's sentiment about not trying to work through the pain. I did that once about ten years ago when I was working out very hard and it took more than a year and a half before my shoulder healed up again (I did one set, one, of dumbbell shoulder presses and it buggered my shoulder up something fierce).
posted by fenriq at 12:33 PM on July 24, 2006

There is a two article series by Eric Cressey called "Shoulder Savers" that you may find helpful. (part one and part two) Its more directed towards prehab/rehab for strength training, but you'll probably find some helpful things for how to address shoulder joint stability on your own.

I would also suggest seeking a good ART specialist in your area who has experience with athletes. And, of course, if any sort of movement causes you pain, don't do it!
posted by rsanheim at 1:34 PM on July 24, 2006 [4 favorites]

i injured my sholder sliding head first in a softball game, and have been nursing it ever since. i have been taking it much easier since, and it has gotten considerably better over time. i had to stop the serious weightlifiting i used to do, but have recently been having success with some light lifting now--4 years later.
posted by lester at 1:35 PM on July 24, 2006

There have been previous shoulder dislocation questions, but what you're describing is not actually a shoulder problem as such. I didn't even know that bone COULD dislocate before I read your link.

I would say treat it in the same way though. Try to let it heal first, then build up to light exercises, trying not to have the dislocation reoccur. No freestyle swimming for you, not for a long time or ever.

There are two things at work, opposing each other:

--Your body will slowly heal damaged ligaments and tendons. This healing gets ripped all to shit whenever you dislocate the thing again. Complete inactivity is best.
--You want to build up muscle strength in the area. If you're completely inactive, this doesn't happen.

So light exercises, avoid problems before they start, take it easier than you think is necessary. No heavy weights, no arms above your head. No rock climbing.

I call a little bit of bullshit on the orthopedist's mention of the aorta. There may be good reasons why you aren't a good surgical candidate, but "this area is several inches away from the aorta and that's too close" isn't a good one. Maybe you want to consult another surgeon.
posted by jellicle at 1:47 PM on July 24, 2006

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