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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Shoulder Surgery Rehabilitation--Don't Get Stupid!

For all you rotator cuff fans I thought I'd pass on some advice I just received from my surgeon today (who also BTW is a long time aikido practitioner) in response to my questions about regaining my range of motion. All through my physical therapy and whenever I do rehab exercises on my own, I would constantly say to myself "push thru the pain! You're a warrior--use it to your advantage and get better faster!" On range of motion exercises I'd try to eke out another 1/2 inch, trying to get back to normal on every repetition. If the physical therapist said go to a pain level of 3, I'd go to 6...well, maybe even 7, what the hell.

Well today my surgeon checked my range of movement and said I'm right where I need to be and glad I wasn't doing better. "What?!?" I said, "what's wrong with better?!" He said what happens is he often gets martial artists as patients and that they stretch and stretch and scream and fight thru the pain and they come in to his office all proud of themselves because they've surpassed their expected progress points and exclaim "see? I can bend my shoulder all the way to here now!" Next thing happens, they wreck their surgery because the damn tendons won't stay attached to their bones. They don't exactly pop their screws but their rotator cuff never turns out a strong as it could have.

I work with a guy who tore his shoulder to shreds as a high school baseball player. Being a self-described "exercise fanatic," whatever the therapist said to do, he'd do 3, 5, heck, 10 times as much! If a little is good then a ton is better! Well his shoulder never healed perfectly and to this day makes strange noises and doesn't work completely normal. Would he be better if he didn't push it to the max? Who knows.

The lesson is that it's not the amount and intensity of the rehab that gets you better, it's TIME and consistency without strain. Can I do it? Check back in January...

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