Shoulder Rehab Update- Doing Well at 12 Weeks

I saw my surgeon last Friday which was 12 weeks post-op. I actually had two “ops” because he had to go in and take out a redundant anchor that had come loose at week 2, but we count from the first because he said the 2nd one did not set my rehab back.

He was quite pleased with my range of motion, and kept saying “let me see you do this. Ok good”. He also thought the strength was coming along nicely.

Between week 12 and 16 it’s time to work more on the strength. After the next four weeks I think I’ll be done with PT and able to continue on with home exercises. The only area that seems to be lagging to me is external rotation. The exercise shown below is my weak point. I’ve been doing it with only one pound up till now and today made it to two! Never thought I’d be excited about graduating to little pink weights, but I’ll take progress. Hopefully onward and upward progression will get faster now that I’m off the plateau.

This little exercise is not only the most challenging but painful. The other thing that’s getting challenging is improving the range of motion of the arm backwards as shown in the first picture. My at home exercise for this is stretching it up a wall as far as I can, then leaning forward into it. During my PT sessions we crank on stretching this with “active assist”. Usually it’s Jessica, a very nice young woman who just got married and is going through senior year in PT school, who works on me. It is nice chatting with someone just starting out in life during the sessions. And it is pleasant as she gently manipulates my arm to get it in just the right position. But then she keeps going… Some technique on my part helps at this point. If I sit there thinking “Ow, this hurts, when is it going to be over” I’ll probably tense up and we can’t get as good of a stretch. But if instead I do what yoga teachers recommend, and concentrate on where the stretch is and “breath into it”, it is easier to bear and I can let go better. This is also similar to pain relief taught in mindfulness based stress reduction classes, where you concentrate on the origin of pain and after a while it subjectively lessens. Only in this case it’s not that big a deal, I’m not trying to get through long lasting severe chronic pain, just an owwee for a few seconds.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be fighting to get maybe the last ten degrees of range of motion, a modest amount compared to the more spectacular gains in the early weeks. Every few sessions the ROM is rechecked with a goniometer, a handy little plastic gizmo that lets you measure joint angles. Several angles are tested including flexion (pictured below), abduction, adduction, and internal and external rotation. All continue to improve but are plateauing out as we near full ROM.

Using a goniometer

None of my activities of daily living are impaired in any way now. Neither are any of my fun exercise activities like biking or hiking. I can even do heavyhands walking with up to 4 pound dumbbells on the surgery side. I can also do a full yoga routine, and am even taking a 50+ flow yoga class that I enjoy. Something like a side plank that would put a lot of load on the right arm would be a no-no but I can do most other postures. My limitations are, don’t lift more than 5 pounds on the surgery side, and no sudden or jerky motions, so I keep arm swings slower and smoother when heavyhands walking. I also don’t do the backswing vigorously with my right arm, I just let the weight descend with gravity smoothly. The only physical activity still affected on the right side is strength training because of the limitations, which should get removed in 4 more weeks.

I am quite happy with the progress. I was sure to thank the Doc for his handiwork. 🙂

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