June 2014 – After training for months, I took part in the ROC race (think of the tv show, Wipeout). I trained like I had for Spartan races, focusing on my upper body above all. The day came and I was ready. I flew through the obstacles and then I got to the monkey bars. Historically, I was never any good at those. I was the little kid who’s parents had to hold her as she went across. But that wasn’t gonna stop me. I trained hard, doing many pull-ups. I could do this! I made it half way without a problem. Then I felt something pop and burn. I grabbed my shoulder and let myself fall. I shook it off and continued the race, finishing all smiles. In the weeks and months that followed, that smile quickly faded. At first I thought maybe I pulled a muscle or something…but it wasn’t getting any better. I continued to workout and work around my injury until one day I realized there was no muscle growth on my bad arm. I couldn’t take it any more.
October 7, 2016 – I finally went under the knife to repair a nagging shoulder injury. After trying my best for two years to rehab and “fix” it on my own, I realized that my injury only getting worse. I went to the doctor and was immediately sent for a MRI, which revealed that I had a torn labrum and, because I waited so long, a frayed rotator cuff. The doctor was clear that while I didn’t HAVE to get surgery, the longer I wait the worse it will get…and the less likely I would be to get back to full strength. So I begrudgingly scheduled the surgery.
I’ve never had a broken bone much less surgery like this before. I had my tonsils out when I was 11 or 12 but nothing like this. Despite being clumsy my entire life, I somehow managed to escape the ER. Yet here I was – ready to undergo surgery. I wasn’t so much nervous for the actual surgery as I was for the recovery. I wasn’t wrong.
The surgery itself went fairly well, despite a nonsensical hiccup at the hospital the morning of. I was given a nerve block, meaning my entire arm was numb and feeling fantastic post-op. Until around 3am anyway. They say you should stay ahead of the pain and medicate. I didn’t want to overuse the drugs that I was given…so I didn’t listen. Big mistake. I learned good from that though and made sure to keep ahead of things for the next couple of days. I was religated to sleeping on a recliner for that first week…and almost a month in total. I couldn’t lay down without being in terrible pain so I gave up and slept like that. It killed my back but at least I was able to get some rest.
One week later, I went back for my first follow-up. I was given a clunky, yet very sturdy, sling/support device. I was also told that I couldn’t drive for at least another week, meaning I couldn’t go to work. I hate to sit still so this killed me. It’s important to note that I’m right handed…and the surgery was on my right shoulder. So this meant EVERYTHING was a chore. Basic things like showering and eating became a ridiculous task. 2 weeks after surgery I was able to return to work and begin getting back to “normal.” Which…wasn’t much. I couldn’t do many tasks at my job and I had to drive with my left hand (no sling could be worn…which hurt more than one may think). It wasn’t easy at all but I was determined. I also began physical therapy twice a week, which was a godsend. They got me moving again and helped me regain my strength.
Little by little, with the help of PT, I was able to get back to normal. A couple of months later, my insurance decided to stop paying for PT and that was that. I kept at it on my own, best I could. I had the idea of enlisting help from my co-worker, who specializes in massage therapy along with personal training. I knew that I needed help with correcting the bad form that I created and while I may be a trainer myself, it’s much more difficult to correct things on yourself. See, over the two years that I was injured I had to adapt and make changes to compensate for the pain. Some I knew I was doing…but many I didn’t. So I got the help that I needed and was well on my way to pain-free workouts…or so I thought.
March 1, 2017 – just under 5 months post-op and I was cleared for all physical activity. The doctor was really impressed with my progress, saying that I was healing faster than most. I wasn’t given any restrictions! Sounds great, right? It was…except I know no limits and paid the price for that. I began working out the same as I always had…which produced the same pain it had in the past. As I write this, my eyes are rolling HARD. It was stupid to stop the PT warmups and just jump full speed ahead. People tried to tell me that – I didn’t listen. The following month, I began my 6 week summer shred. I went balls to the wall in my workouts and by the end I looked great…but my arm was killing me.
I went back to the doctor, fearful that I did serious damage again. Lucky for me, doc didn’t think I did anything to my shoulder but he did think that I was suffering from some bicep tendinitis. I was told to scale back my workouts and to rest more. This completely deflated me.
Since then, I haven’t worked out much. I do weekly workout videos and often feel pain in the days that follow. It’s extremely discouraging but I have decided enough is enough. I was able to get back to full strength in just under 5 months…so I damn sure can get there again. I’m not the most patient person but I’m learning how to be better. I began my PT regimen over the weekend and my plan is to do that 3-4x per week (not counting other workouts). I will also enlist the help of my coworker again- not so much for the corrective stuff but for the magical ART work that he does.
I want to ease my shoulder back into things this time. Knowing how I get, I’ve decided to work towards a couple of goals to keep me motivated. My first goal is to do pull-ups again…and do them unassisted. After all, they were one of my favorite exercises. I’m pretty sure that’s how I blew my shoulder out but maybe if I don’t overtrain and do it right, I can do them better than before. Another goal of mine is to do another Spartan race. That’s not on the forfront as I’m a little skiddish about hurting myself unnecessarily…but it IS something I’d love to do again. Lastly, and maybe most important, my goal is to have pain-free workouts. That is going to require A LOT of patience but I’m going to do my very best.
This injury has taught me many valuable lessons. I need to be patient and truly trust the process. I don’t do myself any favors rushing things. No one tells you how hard this is mentally. Everyone focuses so much on the physical aspect that the mental is all but forgotten. After going through this myself, I’ll tell you the mental is so much more important. If you can’t will yourself through the pain and will yourself to do the work, you’ll never recover. It’s truly a testimony of your inner strength so much more than physical.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an injury or injury recovery, know that it DOES get better. Take the time you need to rest and really take the time to get to know your body. It’s a long process but you will come out on the other side…stronger than before.
Until next time, stay strong & stay in the fight!