Still in the sling – Week 3

On January 12th, I had rotator cuff surgery. I’m 45 and it was the first surgery I ever had. It’s been just over seven weeks since the surgery. I have come along way with my recovery but I still have a long way to go. I just have to keep following my doctor’s and PT’s orders and staying positive!

One of the things that helped me stay positive during my recovery was the gym. The toughest part of this recovery was the first 5 weeks. I was under doctor’s orders not to do hardly anything. My left shoulder (the surgery one) was in a sling 24/7. He didn’t want me to do anything like body weight squats, single arm presses, etc. He didn’t want me to stress or use the muscles in my left shoulder at all. If you lifting something with your right arm, your left side will flex to stay balanced. The worry with exercises like squats is the balance. If you loose your balance you will try to move your arm which is bad or you will fall on it which is even worse.

Even with all those limitations, I still tried to keep up my gym habit. I went to the gym at the same times I normally went. One, I think it is good to keep up routines. And two, it was really good to be around friends and feel the good vibes. After two weeks, he did allow me to start pedaling lightly on a stationary bike – so that helped keep me busy while I was there and it felt really good just to move. I also started passive movements physical therapy (the PT moved my arm for me without me engaging any muscles).

At the 5 week point, the doctor cleared me to start phasing out the arm sling and to begin doing exercises with legs, core, and right arm as long as I kept it light. I also began to move my left arm. The surgery and lack of mobility for 5 weeks made that really difficult. It can take up to a full year to regain full range of motion after surgery. The first few days, I had very little range of motion and it was quite sore to move it at all. But the ability to work out the rest of my body felt fantastic.

I started with doing single arm rows and presses on a TRX, single arm kettle bell swings, inclined one arm push ups, step ups (using a PVC pipe to aide in stability), and ab mat sit ups. It all felt great! Well, that’s not exactly true. I got tired quickly and my right arm was quickly fatigued since it was the only one getting any work.

I do have to keep reminding myself to not use my left arm and to go light with my right arm. It’s been hard now that the CrossFit Games have started. The first week called for alternating arm dumbbell snatches and burpee box jumps. I changed that to just doing the snatches with my right arm and doing box step ups (and over). This week it was walking lunges with dumbbells, toes-to-bar/muscle ups, and dumbbell cleans. I changed that to just using one dumbbell and a combo of single arm TRX rows and ab mat sit ups. In both cases, I made it tough for me but safe for my shoulder.

In any case, I have tried to keep a positive attitude. I plan on staying positive, keep focusing on my left shoulder range of motion, and working on being active with the rest of my body. This weekend I hope to setup my road bike on an indoor trainer so I can work on some more cardio. The positive energy I get from staying active will continue to help my recovery day by day.

Lunges with one dumbbell – Week 7