The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

How do you prepare for the rigorous physical requirements of high elevation adventure? Strength and endurance are key, but are only part of a more complex equation. How do you prepare for changes in altitude, exposure, diet, etc.? How do you mentally prepare? Learn from others and share what you know about training in advance for outdoor adventures.
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happycamper0313
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The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by happycamper0313 » Tue Jun 18, 2019 10:46 am

Hello! This is both a fitness and gear discussion, so I hope I'm posting in the right place :)

I am 2 months post rotator cuff repair for a massive tear of 2 shoulder tendons. Today is my last day in my sling, and I'm dreaming of what I'll do next. I have a long road ahead in terms of rehab, but I've been staying on my feet with daily walks of 5-7 miles plus day hiking on weekends.

I was wondering if anyone who's had a similar procedure could tell me their experiences in the outdoors in the year after surgery/injury.

I'm usually a solo-backpacker, 34yr old female with several 3-4 night trips all over the JMT, HST, Whitney, Bishop, Mammoth and Yosemite area under my belt. I stay mainly on trail - not much cross country experience, and no bushwhacking or serious rock climbing yet, but plenty of experience at altitude. I feel a bit disadvantaged with my arm being so weak and I'm apprehensive about being out alone this year, but I do need to be out in the mountains after a tough and stressful year to heal and un-wind. I don't want to be stupid and push myself when I'm not ready, but I also want to be out in the places that heal my soul: the uncrowded paths and hidden gems I've been able to walk into along the Sierra.

I cannot carry loads on my shoulders for the next few months, so no multi-day trips for me and my Gregory Deva pack is staying in storage this year.

I ordered a Mountainsmith Lumbar Day pack but with my proportions - long legs, short torso, wide hips - the fit was very funky, even with the strapettes. It sat so high on my back and bounced when I walked - I think I will return it. I do like that y-harness and lumbar pack style though so I was wondering if anyone had recommendations for day packs (so I can hike 10-12 miles) that keep weight off the shoulders and mainly on the hips. It seems that wildland firefighter and bushcraft circles love this style of pack, but I couldn't find a retailer where I could try out the fit.

The time after injury is always so filled with anxiety and depression for the active person because it feels like you'll never be yourself again! I was hoping to hear some success stories in how people worked around their injuries during healing and came back better :) Thanks!








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c9h13no3
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Re: The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by c9h13no3 » Tue Jun 18, 2019 11:12 am

Most of my day hikes (or trail runs) are in my Ultimate Direction ultra vest these days. I don't feel any weight on my shoulders, but I don't carry much more than a water filter, lunch, and sunscreen.

I'd just get a friend to help carry your stuff :D
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Re: The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Jun 18, 2019 3:47 pm

Just curious- have you had trouble using trekking poles since your surgery?

You can do a lot with day hiking from trailheads. For example, from South Lake TH, staying at the nearby Four Jeffery Campground, I did a fun loop up via Chocolate Lakes and then back via the trails. I had plenty of time to fish too. Rock Creek is another area with great day-hiking. In fact right now with the snow day-hike distances are about all you can do before hitting a lot of snow. Perhaps just use a smaller hip-pack (for essentials and food) and tie a rain jacket around your waist. Those small water filters such as the life-straw would allow you to just get water at sources along the trail. Right now there is more water than you need along the trail!

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Re: The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by bobby49 » Tue Jun 18, 2019 5:19 pm

happycamper0313 wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 10:46 am
I was wondering if anyone who's had a similar procedure could tell me their experiences in the outdoors in the year after surgery/injury.
I sustained a rotator cuff tear on March 31. Mine was only the supraspinatus tendon, left shoulder (non-dominant side). The arthroscopic surgery was done on May 3, and I was home later that day. I walked my dog the following day, since I wasn't fouled up that badly with the arm sling. I stayed in the sling for 10 days until the sutures were removed, although it was supposed to be for six weeks. I've had two sessions with the physical therapist, and at each session I am meeting the flexibility goals for twice as many weeks post-op. Nobody can explain why. I mean, if I was trying to exercise heavily, then we could maybe understand, but I have not been doing very much. Now the physical therapist is going to ask the shoulder surgeon if it is OK to speed me up in the rehab protocol. I'm going easy backpacking in a couple of weeks, and then I have a killer trip in six weeks (which will be roughly at 3 months post-op). I am not a complete fool, so my backpack for six days will be around 27-28 pounds.

Sometimes you can use painkiller drugs as a temporary crutch so that you can get through a painful exercise session. Somehow I haven't needed any drugs after 48 hours after the surgery. It's a mystery.

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Re: The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by rlown » Tue Jun 18, 2019 8:22 pm

How did you all injure your rotator cuffs? Just so others don't.

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Re: The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by bobby49 » Tue Jun 18, 2019 8:46 pm

Yes, I would like to hear from the Original Poster, happycamper0313.

I was walking across a rough grassy field in Mother Lode Country. I stepped on a rock that was unstable, so to regain my balance, I suddenly jerked my left arm straight up in the air, and then it felt weak. The surgeon theorized that there was some earlier damage that was undiagnosed, and the jerk movement just finished it.

Another friend of mine did in his rotator cuff as overuse from tennis serves.

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Re: The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by happycamper0313 » Wed Jun 19, 2019 10:53 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Tue Jun 18, 2019 3:47 pm
Just curious- have you had trouble using trekking poles since your surgery?

You can do a lot with day hiking from trailheads. For example, from South Lake TH, staying at the nearby Four Jeffery Campground, I did a fun loop up via Chocolate Lakes and then back via the trails. I had plenty of time to fish too. Rock Creek is another area with great day-hiking. In fact right now with the snow day-hike distances are about all you can do before hitting a lot of snow. Perhaps just use a smaller hip-pack (for essentials and food) and tie a rain jacket around your waist. Those small water filters such as the life-straw would allow you to just get water at sources along the trail. Right now there is more water than you need along the trail!
Thank you for the recommendations!

I have not used my poles since surgery because I haven't been on hikes that needed them. My right arm has been confined in an immobilizer for 2 months, as the severity of my injury needed the most conservative rehab treatment. I am 8 weeks post op today, and I am now cleared to actively move my arm on my own. I cannot carry or lift anything with my arm, however, until 12 weeks and with pole use, it will be longer as the impact on the injured shoulder my be too jarring for the repair. PT said roughly 9 months post surgery is 100% fusion of tendon to bone, and I will be cleared then.

I sustained the injury 3 years ago when I slipped down some wet stairs and used my outstretched arm to break my fall. I didn't think much of it then, but the pain caught up with me last summer and it was agonizing at night as I laid on my back. I went in to urgent care one day after I lost all strength in my presses suddenly- couldn't do a single pushup or any kind of chest press (I used to powerlift competitively so I have very good quantitative measures of strength that let me know immediately something was wrong). Since I didn't go in as a result of a trauma, it took a LONG time for me to get the MRI needed to show that I had the worst kind of tear and at my age, would mean complete shoulder replacement in 10 years if I didn't attempt repair now. Even if it fails and I get a slight re-tear, it's better than bone because with my level of activity, I can wear down the shoulder pretty quickly.

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Re: The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by bobby49 » Wed Jun 19, 2019 2:19 pm

Happy camper, I am no medical expert, but it sounds like your shoulder injury was complicated a lot by the very long time between the injury and the surgical repair. Stop and think about how different it would have been if you were a professional basketball player with that injury. The coach and the team doctor would have had you in for the MRI scan on the same day, and arthroscopic surgery would have been done a day or two later.

The good news is that you will be able to do proper exercises on your shoulder someday, and then you can track your overall recovery.

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Re: The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by maverick » Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:33 pm

Don't rush your recovery, be patient, it will take time, your will have a lot of scare tissue built up, which will make getting back your range of motion a very slow and painful process. Once your ready to do some band work and very light shoulder work, pay particular attention to you rotator cuffs, which are paramount for shoulder strength and stability, a lot of people, even experienced lifters don't pay attention to them, and mainly focus on doing internal rotation exercises, which create a muscle imbalance and then lead to injury.
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Re: The outdoor experience post shoulder-surgery

Post by bobby49 » Wed Jun 19, 2019 9:47 pm

If you try to rush back too quickly after surgery, there is a chance that things can get re-torn. If you wait way too long after surgery before doing proper physical therapy, then a lot of scar tissue can be built up, and that is hard to set straight. That's why we have to listen to the physical therapists.

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