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  1. #1
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    Need Rotator Cuff Recover Tips

    I was diagnosed today with a small rotator cuff tear in an otherwise healthy shoulder (from a nasty spill at Whistler). It seems like surgery will be the answer but I'm being told the recovery time to bike riding is 4 months+. Given Indiana is now on the cusp of tolerable weather this is very disappointing news.

    I'm looking for comments by others that have undergone rotator cuff surgery and how they fared in riding, using a training, MT vs. road bike and anything else that might be helpful.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    (sorry in advance for my inablity to spell the medical terms)

    I had a partial tear of the Supraspinatus, and damage to labrum and glenoid cartilage. Failed to improve with PT for about a year, climbing was my primary sport at the time.

    Had arthroscopic surgery from a very good surgeon. (do your homework on this) They shaved some bone off the (something) arch to give everything more room, cleaned up the shredded tendon edges, and did something to the socket cartilage to make it try to grow back.

    1 week of nothing but very gentle range of motion, then rode the exercise bike in a sling for a week or so, then graduated to no sling. I think I was on the road bike in about 6 weeks, back to full everything including climbing in 12 weeks. I did my PT very diligently.

    That period was actually when I switched from MTB to road, b/c my doc said I wasn't allowed to crash on it for a while.

    About 5 years later, I have less pain than I did in the year leading up to the surgery, but not none. It still aches on long rides and long workdays. I have full range of motion, and near full strength. On the whole, it was about 80% successful, I guess. If I had it to do over again, I would have done PT after the first time I injured it. I didn't go to the doctor at all. What I did was just keep climbing on it, and reinjured it about 3 times before it became so bad that I went to the doctor.

    Of course, your situation is probably totally different, but that's how mine went.
    ...

  3. #3
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    2.5 years ago I was diagnosed with a moderate, partial tear in my rotator tendon as well. The surgeon recommended surgery but also said that I was young enough that it could heal on it's own with PT and rest. I opted for the more conservative route (non-surgical) and had to lay off all weight lifting (upper body), golf, and racket sports for nearly two years. I was still able to hike, ride (even mountain biking), however, even simple tasks like: lifting my arm above my head, shifting gears in my car and, moving a mouse could be excruciating. I focused on aerobic activities and decided that, after years of weight lifting, my body deserved a break-it needed it, in fact. Just last summer I resumed moderate weight training with more of a focus on light weights, machine-based routines and, specific rehabilitative exercises that I learned in pysical therapy. I haven't returned to tennis or golf yet, however, for the rest of my activities I'd say that I'm 99% recovered. I have full range of motion, good strength, and rarely feel any significant pain. My goal is to recover strength and flexibility while preserving function for most (not necassarily all) of my activities, I realize that I would probably encounter some pain when serving as opposed to just hitting around for fun. I'm also more conscience to use heating pads/ice packs, anti-inflamatory medication, and rest/recovery periods as part of a preventive medicine routine. Depending on your age and severity of injury, you may decide to go the same route. Also, my surgeon advised that I would probably only recover 75% range of motion as the new tendon would likely be shorter as a result of surgury. I, also, didn't want to be sidelined for any length of time. I guess it's a decision you'll have to make based on your tolerance for recovery time v. the long term health and functionality of the joint. So far, my decision seems to have been the right one, I hope yours is too. Keep us updated.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Terex's Avatar
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    If you can, get a couple more opinions, and, as noted, find the best sports doc you can. Most really good shoulder docs don't want to cut you. They like to see how you respond to PT. One of my kids has had major surgery on both shoulders (a swimmer) and doc put off surgery for several years. He's the orthopedist for US Rowing team, and numerous pro and college teams here in NJ.

    Good luck!

    Oh, btw, did you have a contrast MRI on your shoulder? It's where you go under x-ray and doc inserts HUGE needle between the joint in your shoulder with contrast solution. Then you go into MRI for detailed pics. My kid had it done on both shoulders, and I've had it done on one of my shoulders. Really, REALLY uncomfortable.
    "It could be anything. Scrap booking, high-stakes poker, or the Santa Fe lifestyle. Just pick a dead-end and chill out 'till you die."

  5. #5
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    Thank you all for taking the time to share your experiences with me. They all help to add perspective to my thinking.

    I'm getting a second opinion tomorrow and will make a final decision early this week.

    Yes- I did get an MRI with die and the needle was just as large as you recall. I have about dozen punctures in my shoulder. Perhaps she had a hard time finding the right spot.

    I do have a very low tolerance for recovery time and I"m anxious to get on my road bike but we will see. I'm much more prepared now to ask the right question.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    (sorry in advance for my inablity to spell the medical terms)

    I had a partial tear of the Supraspinatus, and damage to labrum and glenoid cartilage. Failed to improve with PT for about a year, climbing was my primary sport at the time.
    This is about where I am, have not yet met w/ ortho, trying to pin down an appt w/ him hopefully next week. Waiting is killing me. I guess after 10 days it is still too soon to be doing anything at all but icing but I keep telling myself that and it doesn't make me feel better. Missing the final 2-3 wks of nice biking weather is definitely insult-to-injury.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg View Post
    This is about where I am, have not yet met w/ ortho, trying to pin down an appt w/ him hopefully next week. Waiting is killing me. I guess after 10 days it is still too soon to be doing anything at all but icing but I keep telling myself that and it doesn't make me feel better. Missing the final 2-3 wks of nice biking weather is definitely insult-to-injury.
    If I share about my shoulder reconstruction, y'all will NEVER go have the surgery, if recovery time is your big issue...

    Hoever I will add this--despite the extended down time I had, I recovered 100% function, ROM and strength, so if you ask me if it was worth it, I will tell you YES.
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  8. #8
    INTEGRATE bikerbert's Avatar
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    Did your doc look at your thoracic spine mobility? That's a huge component for shoulder health.

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