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Old 11-10-2014   #1
Max1's Avatar
Eagle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 50
Tips for Shoulder Surgery

Last June I dislocated my shoulder while doing a high water shoshone run at 17,000cfs. Unfortunately I am now paying for it as I am going in for surgery on wednesday. The surgery is to repair some pretty bad cartilage damage and possibly repair a torn labrum as well. I have been living with the shoulder for 5 months, and it has finally gotten to the point where it isn't getting any better, and the doctors all say that living with it will only damage it further. As I am only 15 years old, I am hoping to be able to come through and recover well from the surgery, but the recovery is 6 months until contact and shoulder intensive sports such as kayaking. I'm sure that there are others out there who have had a shoulder surgery similar to mine, and if anyone has any tips on recovering and getting back for next paddling season it would be greatly appreciated!

See you on the water!

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Old 11-10-2014   #2
nessles's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 75
I had surgery for a torn labrum as well about three years ago - it feels super solid now, and almost better than my other shoulder. There's a bit of loss of range of motion, but that just keeps your shoulder in a less compromising position.

The surgery affects people differently - the pain wasn't that intense for me after two or three days - others can't even lie down because of the pain. Find a good way to prop yourself up when you sleep so that its comfortable and you don't roll onto the shoulder. Think about the small things - you can't floss with only one arm, so get some stick flossers - have someone help tie your shoes, etc.

Take rehab slowly and do it right. Start with the small weights they tell you and don't assume that a bigger weight will make you stronger - the cartilage & ligaments are still healing and you don't want to mess it up. Most doctors say 5 or 6 months until contact or physical sports like kayaking. I paddled around 4 months after lightly, and was on Class V at 6 months. Play it safe though.

Surgery is worth it in the long run, and you're a good age for it (I was 19 and healed easily). Good luck, and prepare to dream about kayaking

- John
John Nestler's Website

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Old 11-10-2014   #3
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
My wife had this surgery, twice. As her primary care giver post surgery I can advise you;

1) If at all possible, get the "pain pump"; this nifty gadget is a pain medication pump that fires pain medication right into the surgery site; my wife had it for both surgeries, but it was improperly set up for the second surgery, and it surely made a difference in her comfort the first few days. Do not be a hero on this point; you want the good chemicals from the start. By the time it is hurting bad enough to make you whine it's too late; you'll spend hours getting ahead of the pain curve again. Drugs are your friend in this case!

2) If at all possible, a recliner is the perfect sick bed for the first few days post surgery; you keep the weight off of the shoulder, can still get up if need be, and it's far more comfortable than any bed or other type chair.

3) For her first surgery she had a cold pump thingy; a small cooler filled with ice and water that pumped cold water through a pad that covered the shoulder. It helped tremendously to keep swelling down and speed recovery. We had it for the second surgery, but couldn't get it to pump properly, so it was of marginal value. Plus, it does wonders dealing with the initial pain.

4) No matter what the physical therapy people tell you, no matter how bad it hurts, no matter how demonic they are, do what they tell you, when they tell you to do it, in the manner they want you to do it. You can have a wizard of a surgeon do their best ever work on your shoulder, but if you don't do the physical therapy it will be of no value to you. You MUST DO THE PHYSICAL THERAPY, especially when it hurts. That is after all the point. Embrace the pain!

Good luck!
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Old 11-10-2014   #4
Max1's Avatar
Eagle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 50
Thanks for the replies so far!
I'm glad to hear that you were back at class v within 6 months and I will definitely be taking pt slow and the correct way. I will probably be having some sort of microfracture surgery, so it might be a bit different than yours, but I'm sure it will be within the same ball park for recovery time etc.

To make a sort of long story short we actually have a reclining bed (hospital bed) at my house so I should be all set for being propped up the correct way. I will definitely look into the ice pack that you are talking about as I have heard from many people that it works wonders.
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Old 11-11-2014   #5
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 808
I had six anchors and micro fracture for three labrum tears. It was rough but worth it. I was paddling Class 3-4 in 4 months and Class V in 6 months. Like others said, my fixed shoulder is now stronger (if with slightly less range of motion). My advice: (1) don't fall and re-injure it in the first couple months (2) go to PT to learn what exercises you should be doing and then do ALOT of them on your own. Just doing the exercises at PT is not enough, (3) once you heal, keep up with the shoulder exercises. It will help prevent another injury, and your muscles will impress the river betties.

The reclining bed also sound like a good plan. Reclining at about 45 degrees is the only position that feels remotely OK right after surgery.
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Old 11-11-2014   #6
Max1's Avatar
Eagle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 50
Jmack, I just talked with the doctor's assistant and my surgery will be almost exactly the same as yours. I have a torn labrum that they will have to anchor back in as well as some part of broken bone that is attached to the torn labrum. They will also be doing the microfracture in it, so its very similar to what you had. I'm reallly glad to hear that you recovered so quickly and I hope that my recovery will be similar to yours.
Thanks again for all the tips everyone, I'm sure that the surgery will go great.
See you on the river!
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Old 11-11-2014   #7
Ashevile, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 15
Shoulder surgery

Ditto here for shoulder dislocation and resultant surgery. I had a Bankhart procedure with remplissage. It's been almost 2 years now. Still rehabbing but started boating lightly in 6 months. By the way, I'm also a P.T. Regarding rehab, don't rush it, be consistent, meaning do your exercises daily, actually multiple brief periods each day. The most important part of your rehab is the beginning, the rest period while you do nothing, allowing everything to "bed down" and stabilize. This is herd for type A's. If you have anymore questions let me know.
P.S. Be careful with pain once rehab starts. Yes it will be uncomfortable but it doesn't have to be serious pain. Listen to your body and be consistent. Daniel
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Old 11-12-2014   #8
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 1
Rehab will suck and pt will be painful but you shoulder will be more solid than ever after surgery. I hurt my shoulder and it would dislocate every time I rolled. After surgery it feels like a champ! I used a body blade to strengthen mine and it worked really well I recommend it.

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Old 11-12-2014   #9
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 808
Good luck Max. Be patient and make those rubber bands your best friend. I would also add that just because some folks get back to hard whitewater quickly does not mean you have to push it the season after surgery. Work your way back up on runs that you feel comfortable. You might even become a better paddler in the process.
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Old 11-14-2014   #10
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 10
Not much extra to add, except a big +1 for the pain pump. I had a bony bankart repair of the glenoid and labrum in 2012 and the repaired shoulder still feels stronger than my 'good' shoulder, but at a small loss of range of motion. I was 33 and recovery was not as bad as I expected (even though PT still sucked and hurt) so I hope its even easier at your age.

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