Torn Rotator cuff


  • Nov 09, 2010 4:25 PM GMT
    Hey everyone.. I recently found out I have partial torn my rotator cuff..

    It's pretty devastating. Everyone I talk to says that I won't be able to lift AT ALL for over 2 years...

    As someone who has trained and trained pretty heavy for years, I am lost..

    Can anyone give an advice on what I can do other than just do cardio and watch my years of muscle slowly shrink away?

    Thanks.
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    Nov 11, 2010 6:01 AM GMT
    You should talk to your doctor and see what he says. I could tell you what I did/do since I tore my rotator cuff about a year and a half ago pitching but that wouldn't be of any help since the degree to which you tore it is different. Also, every injury is different.
  • ArmsandLegs

    Posts: 125

    Nov 11, 2010 6:13 AM GMT
    A "torn rotator cuff" is a very vague diagnosis. There are 4 different muscles that makeup the rotator cuff, and it is doubtful that you tore all 4. Depending on which muscle you tore depends on what you can and cannot do. I've never heard of a rotator cuff muscle tear taking 2 years to heal, but if thats what your doc says, thats what you have to go by. You may want to get a 2nd opinion. Talk to a physical therapist, they'll be able to tell you what you can and cannot do more accurately than anyone over the internet.
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    Nov 11, 2010 3:50 PM GMT
    Did the same thing at about age 20. Fell and dislocated my right shoulder running on wet hardtop in the rain (to put up convertible top--no smarts at age 20). The thing is, this is what actually got me into a gym for the first time and started me on the workout track that I follow to this day.

    After the fall, my shoulder would dislocate so often that I learned to set it myself using the other hand. Certain activities like frisbee and house painting would really set it off. At the time, I was using free weights at home. All I could get out of an orthopedic surgeon was "don't do any exercise over your head" and "I need to operate." I was just about ready to sign the papers for the operation when my regular physician hooked me up with a good physical therapist. The PT sent me to a gym to do lat pulldowns; I got interested in the other weight machines at the gym, and that's the story. The lat pulldowns strengthened the joint to the point where it hasn't dislocated in over 20 years. (If you look at the pic in my profile, you can see that the right shoulder still slumps a bit.)

    What's the take-home lesson here? You may need a different doc (2 years--WTF?) Find a good physical therapist (yeah, there are bad ones). The PTs who work out of a gym with a full complement of modern weight machines and who share the building space with an orthopedic specialty group are usually your best bet. See a doc from that orthopedic group. The PT will be working with and reporting to the orthopedic guy. Let the PT know that you want to get back to full body workouts/strength training as soon as possible. Follow his or her advice. You may not be able to return to lifting free weights--weight machines are going to offer the superior joint stability that you probably need now; but that doesn't mean that you can't get a good workout or that you have to stop strength training.

    Can't speak to the Canadian health system, but I hope some of this translates and gets you the results you want.



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    Nov 11, 2010 4:05 PM GMT
    How did you tear it?
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    Nov 15, 2010 3:07 AM GMT
    I feel your pain. It seems rotator cuff injuries are the gift that just keeps giving.

    Just when I thought mine was fully healed (after 3 months), I got drunk one night and passed out on that side. It was dislocated when I woke up, and it's been giving me hell since.

    Moral of the story: make sure you don't sleep on it.
  • MuscleComeBac...

    Posts: 2376

    Nov 15, 2010 3:24 AM GMT
    Who the hell told you you can't lift for two years? WTF?

    Okay, relax and take a deep breath and please hear this. You will heal, recover and continue to be able to lift.

    First, you're close to some of the best ortho's in Canada. So I'm URGING you to

    A. Talk to a doctor, a qualified orthopaedic surgeon who SPECIALIZES in rotator cuff repair and rehabilitation. NOBODY else should even touch you.

    B. Talk to at least TWO of the above and get references from them, meaning speak to guys your age with similar tears (and MNboy is right, no two injuries are the same) and ask how the surgery, recovery, and PT/rehab were.

    C. Get it done now, don't wait. And obey everything they say.

    Muscle has memory. And you WILL have some time away from the gym, and you will have to adjust your routine, but no you won't waste to nothing and yes you will come back and be stronger, bigger, better. You won't heal like you're twenty, but in the condition you're in you won't heal as slowly as most guys in our age bracket.

    Here are a couple of links to read over.
    http://www.athletescare.com/content/index.php?pid=2&id=146
    and
    http://my.clevelandclinic.org/multimedia/transcripts/evans_transcript_orthopaedic_shoulder.aspx

    The second one is from the Cleveland Clinic, but the dude did his work in Toronto, pay attention to what he says specifically about Rotator Cuff tears and repairs. Scroll down and you'll see it (and be greatly relieved).

    But for God's sake, get an Ortho who knows shoulders. It's worth it!

    Hang in there.
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    Nov 15, 2010 2:07 PM GMT
    ArmsandLegs saidA "torn rotator cuff" is a very vague diagnosis. There are 4 different muscles that makeup the rotator cuff, and it is doubtful that you tore all 4. Depending on which muscle you tore depends on what you can and cannot do. I've never heard of a rotator cuff muscle tear taking 2 years to heal, but if thats what your doc says, thats what you have to go by. You may want to get a 2nd opinion. Talk to a physical therapist, they'll be able to tell you what you can and cannot do more accurately than anyone over the internet.
    Bolded the good stuff.
    Two years is extreme.

  • Nov 15, 2010 3:45 PM GMT
    Thanks boys.. I've actually done all the things that everyone mentioned.. Got a great specialist but it's taken me 3 months to get an appointment, then another 2 months to get an MRI!

    I was told by a number of people that the time from when they tore their rotator cuff until they were back lifting the way they were before the injury was two years.. At least a year to heal, then at least 6 months lifting very light, then another 6 months to get back to where they were...


    And I tore it because I was doing a bulking phase and trained like I was 20 instead of pushing 50... silly, I know..

    My biggest question was about what I can do in the meantime. Has anyone found a way to workout without hurting it more? Or am I destined to not touch a weight again until it's completely healed...

    Thanks again everyone..
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    Nov 15, 2010 5:28 PM GMT
    onemusclefreak saidMy biggest question was about what I can do in the meantime. Has anyone found a way to workout without hurting it more? Or am I destined to not touch a weight again until it's completely healed...


    You can always switch over to a cutting cycle and do very low weight high rep sets to maintain strength through the cut. Then just do legs and core like normal. (Though, I had to switch from squats to a machine because holding the barbell on my shoulders was too painful)

    That should give you a month or two to heal without and major losses to your overall progress.

    Finally, make sure your movements are smooth and stop if it becomes really painful. Avoid ibuprofen and the like as it masks any pain during your workout.
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    Nov 15, 2010 8:23 PM GMT
    onemusclefreak saidMy biggest question was about what I can do in the meantime. Has anyone found a way to workout without hurting it more? Or am I destined to not touch a weight again until it's completely healed...
    Google rotator cuff exercises. Make sure you do them PERFECTLY, and with very little weight (I use bungee cords because I'm cheap but creative).

    Not only did I fuck up part of my rotator (the front two), but I also fixed it in under three months doing the exercises...never saw a doc,..just googled and talked with my trainer about it (he's very experienced in physical therapy as well).

  • Nov 16, 2010 7:26 PM GMT
    Thanks guys..
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    Nov 19, 2010 1:35 AM GMT
    There are varying degrees of rotator cuff tear. A small tear will heal on its own with time as long as you don't aggravate it (heavy lifting). A medium tear may or may not heal on its own. A large tear or complete rupture requires surgery.

    Patients with small tears are generally given a cortisone injection and sent to physical therapy. The PT will teach you exercises and self care activities to facilitate the healing process. The healing process can take several months (depending on how compliant you are with the MD and PT's instructions.

    Patients with larger tears generally require surgery. After surgery, you are placed in a brace which you are required to wear at all times for 4-6 weeks. Most surgeons will send you to PT where the PT will remove the brace and move your arm around to prevent scar tissue adhesions from developing. After 4-6 weeks, the surgeon will place you in a sling for 2 weeks, and the PT will work with you to regain full range of motion. After 2 months, most surgeons will allow the PT to begin strengthening exercises with you. Once three months have elapsed and your surgeon has released you, you can begin strength training at a gym (with light weights and high reps).

    Contrary to what another poster mentioned, PT's who work out of a gym with lots of equipment are not necessarily better. Patients like to see fancy equipment but you will never use it during the course of your PT (most is contraindicated during the first 2 months of rehab). In addition, PT's that are located in physician's offices are generally new grads with little experience. Physicians like PTs in their office to boost their revenue generating power (its about $$ and not about providing quality care).

    Find a PT who specializes in manual therapy/sports medicine and works in private practice (not physician or corporately owned facility).

    Hope this helps.
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    Nov 19, 2010 11:45 AM GMT
    Would any of you new grads out there care to reply? I find the new grads to be the most dedicated, the most inquisitive, the most responsive, the most willing to try new and different approaches. This isn't brain surgery where the number of operations already under the surgeon's belt is somehow going to improve your outcome.

    I once wasted a full 10 sessions with a PT who was so well along in his career that he had gotten super full of himself. He had set himself up as a "manager" who hid out in his office and doodled on a pad while his secretary (no formal training whatsoever) administered TENS (electro) therapy to my lower back. The guy never came out to check progress, etc. I had already made it clear to him that I had my own TENS unit at home and that my physician had sent me there specifically to get appropriate lower back exercise. When I finally read him the riot act, he switched to having me toss a red rubber ball and goose squat around the office. That was it--that was all the equipment he had to work with. Oh and then, at the end of the 10 sessions, he called my physician without my knowledge and told the physician that I needed 10 more appointments! icon_evil.gif

    Well, I switched to a PT associated with a fully equipped gym. He put me on the LifeFitness back extension unit and that eventually solved my problem. I still include it in my workout. In addition to my own body weight, I now execute the reps holding an additional 40 pouinds of dumbbells. No, you're not going to get to use all the shiny equipment, but if they don't have the one machine that you need for your specific problem, then what's the point?
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    Nov 19, 2010 2:39 PM GMT
    I wouldn't take my chances with a new grad. RTC surgery has the most potential to be damaged if the PT is too aggressive (or frozen shoulder if not aggressive enough). The RTC is paper thin and doesn't have a good blood supply. Surgical procedures on the RTC are fragile.

    To the last poster: Sorry about your experience with PT. There are poor health care practicioners in every health care field- nursing, physicians, dentists, chiropractors, PTs. Your lack of success in PT was more than likely due to poor treatment approach and planning, not from lack of equipment. Most back patients do well with a home exercise program that can be done without specialized equipment (focusing on flexibility, posture, and core stability). Fancy equipment does not equate to quality care in a PT clinic.
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    Nov 19, 2010 2:55 PM GMT
    Torn rotator cuff is the worst! I tore mine 9 years ago and had to take a year off from the gym to let it heal, which it did not.

    A shot of cortisone in the shoulder made the pain go away immediately and I was able to resume working out. But the pain returned, and now I just live with it and still lift, heavy weights, but the pain isn't nearly as bad as before the shot.

    Rotator cuff will not heal on its own without surgery so you have two options, get a shot, make the joint weaker, and move on with it as is, or get it repaired.

    I am weaker in the shoulder but have built some really big shoulders regardless.

  • Nov 19, 2010 4:11 PM GMT
    Thanks guys... Again, there seems to be so many conflicting stories and rehab programs and timelines.. I'm seeing the specialist again on Tuesday to see how badly it is torn and what we can do about it...
    Fingers crossed...

    I HATE not being able to weight train!

  • Nov 26, 2010 5:25 PM GMT
    UPDATE -


    Turns out it is completely torn... I need surgery.. Anyone had this type of surgery.. What was the recuperation time?

    I am a professional actor/musician.. How long before my shoulder will back to where it was before the surgery?

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    Nov 26, 2010 5:38 PM GMT
    ArmsandLegs saidA "torn rotator cuff" is a very vague diagnosis. There are 4 different muscles that makeup the rotator cuff, and it is doubtful that you tore all 4. Depending on which muscle you tore depends on what you can and cannot do. I've never heard of a rotator cuff muscle tear taking 2 years to heal, but if thats what your doc says, thats what you have to go by. You may want to get a 2nd opinion. Talk to a physical therapist, they'll be able to tell you what you can and cannot do more accurately than anyone over the internet.


    what he said....

    also, you're a young guy. i'm a big believer in aggressive therapy when you've got lots of years left to live, as you do. get it repaired surgically if your orthopod says it will be a good repair, hit the PT hard and get back to business. 'weeks to months' is an estimated timeframe for recupe. depends on the person.
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    Nov 26, 2010 8:04 PM GMT
    onemusclefreak saidUPDATE -


    Turns out it is completely torn... I need surgery.. Anyone had this type of surgery.. What was the recuperation time?

    I am a professional actor/musician.. How long before my shoulder will back to where it was before the surgery?



    Your shoulder will be 60-80% better after 3-4 months from surgery (if you are compliant with the doctors/PT's instructions. It won't be 100% better until 1 year post surgery. .
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    Nov 26, 2010 8:16 PM GMT
    catfish5 said
    onemusclefreak saidUPDATE -


    Turns out it is completely torn... I need surgery.. Anyone had this type of surgery.. What was the recuperation time?

    I am a professional actor/musician.. How long before my shoulder will back to where it was before the surgery?



    Your shoulder will be 60-80% better after 3-4 months from surgery (if you are compliant with the doctors/PT's instructions. It won't be 100% better until 1 year post surgery. .



    That's pretty optimistic. Sorry, don't wanna be a downer here, but the 2 year mark is what's usually taken before you will be able to do everything the way you did before, without noticing little pains, differences in reaction, or weakness.

    I had surgery about 14 months ago on my right shoulder, it's healed now but it still hurts pretty much daily, and it just feels different from the left shoulder. The surgeon said right after the procedure "no contact sports for 4 months"... right now I still don't feel like I'd be able to take any hits to it.

    You'll be able to go back to lifting (light weights) in a couple months, but the real heavy stuff, dude please be careful cause it's so easy to overdo it out of zealousness and end up with a longer recovery time.

    It really is a long term story, there are several phases of rehab - the last phase is the phase from 1 year post op to 2 years post op, in which you can gain your strength back, your size back, and your functionality as you've had it in the past, but do realize you have to be very diligent in listening to the signals it sends, and when it starts acting up, don't ignore it.

    All the best mate, I know how extremely fucked up this is, and I can tell you that there's a very long and bumpy road ahead, but hang in there, make sure to get a good therapist and later on trainer, and listen to your body above all.
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    Nov 26, 2010 8:31 PM GMT
    Tazo995 said
    catfish5 said
    onemusclefreak saidUPDATE -


    Turns out it is completely torn... I need surgery.. Anyone had this type of surgery.. What was the recuperation time?

    I am a professional actor/musician.. How long before my shoulder will back to where it was before the surgery?



    Your shoulder will be 60-80% better after 3-4 months from surgery (if you are compliant with the doctors/PT's instructions. It won't be 100% better until 1 year post surgery. .



    That's pretty optimistic. Sorry, don't wanna be a downer here, but the 2 year mark is what's usually taken before you will be able to do everything the way you did before, without noticing little pains, differences in reaction, or weakness.

    I had surgery about 14 months ago on my right shoulder, it's healed now but it still hurts pretty much daily, and it just feels different from the left shoulder. The surgeon said right after the procedure "no contact sports for 4 months"... right now I still don't feel like I'd be able to take any hits to it.

    You'll be able to go back to lifting (light weights) in a couple months, but the real heavy stuff, dude please be careful cause it's so easy to overdo it out of zealousness and end up with a longer recovery time.

    It really is a long term story, there are several phases of rehab - the last phase is the phase from 1 year post op to 2 years post op, in which you can gain your strength back, your size back, and your functionality as you've had it in the past, but do realize you have to be very diligent in listening to the signals it sends, and when it starts acting up, don't ignore it.

    All the best mate, I know how extremely fucked up this is, and I can tell you that there's a very long and bumpy road ahead, but hang in there, make sure to get a good therapist and later on trainer, and listen to your body above all.


    Well, yea, if you baby the heck out of your shoulder, it will take forever to get better. Ever heard of Brett Farve? He was back playing professional football after RTC surgery in less than a year. Of course he was using an excellerated rehab protocol- but still- you can't treat your shoulder like an infant after 1 year post surgery.
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    Nov 26, 2010 8:32 PM GMT
    Fair enough, I guess it works different for rotator cuff muscles.

    I had reconstructive surgery on the joint, might work different for that.

    Also I don't exactly have the medical team that mr. Favre had, I'm sure.
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    Nov 26, 2010 8:44 PM GMT
    Tazo995 saidFair enough, I guess it works different for rotator cuff muscles.

    I had reconstructive surgery on the joint, might work different for that.

    Also I don't exactly have the medical team that mr. Favre had, I'm sure.


    True that. Everyone heals differently. And Brett Favre has $$$ as a motivator to get back on the field quickly. Hope you get well soon.
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    Nov 26, 2010 9:13 PM GMT
    catfish5 said

    Your shoulder will be 60-80% better after 3-4 months from surgery (if you are compliant with the doctors/PT's instructions. It won't be 100% better until 1 year post surgery. .
    THIS is the absolute truth........ as is the advice to FOLLOW the doctors protocol AND rehab...
    It took me THREE years to get back to 95 percent because I 'thought' I knew my body (shoulder) better than they did.. (and I'm a mechanic by trade)