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Rotator cuff surgery? (arthroscopic)
Old 10-13-2020, 01:49 PM   #1
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Rotator cuff surgery? (arthroscopic)

I've just received a recommendation to have an arthroscopic procedure on my right shoulder. The procedure would be used to determine specifically the extent of my rotator cuff problem and then to do whatever repair is appropriate.

I've been dealing with this problem 6-9 months. I've done (at home) physical therapy exercises and had one cortisone shot, both to no lasting avail. The fact that there is a partial tear has been confirmed by an MRI.

I'm probably more concerned with the length of recovery period/rehab/down time than I am with the procedure itself. I like my exercise (although some of it has been curtailed due to this problem) and hate to think about going any extended period without it. I'm 75 so I'm sure I won't bounce back immediately but I'm in pretty good shape for a guy that age.

My next-door neighbor, about 10 years younger than I, has been dealing with a similar issue but has chosen to use a laser treatment that is somewhat new and, according, to the orthopod I saw, unproven. The neighbor reports relief from his pain. The orthopod (who does not do this procedure himself) expresses skepticism that this will be a long-term cure.

Any "war stories" from those of you who have had either the arthroscopic procedure or the laser surgery? Were you satisfied with the outcome? How much did the recovery/rehab process take you out of action? Would you do it again knowing what you know now? Any questions you didn't ask the doc that, in retrospect, you wish you had? Any other comments?

Thank you.

PS In case you're wondering, my right arm is my pitching arm. After their disastrous season, the Red Sox definitely want me back in the spring.
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Old 10-13-2020, 02:03 PM   #2
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I've had two rotator cuff surgeries on the same shoulder 4 months apart. While recovering from the first surgery, with arm still in a sling, I stepped into a post hole my husband had not filled in and fell, tearing out all the previous repair. So I went through months and months of pain and rehab due to these back-to-back surgeries. My surgeries were neither arthroscopic not laser, but the old-fashioned fully open repairs about 10- 11 years ago. They were very, very painful surgeries to recover from.

My husband is currently recovering from arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery. His surgery was on July 17. His ortho said tears come in small, medium, large and massive and that his was massive. He is still doing PT. He still cannot lift anything heavy (nothing over 5 lb), still cannot raise his arm up even to shoulder level, still cannot reach out and grasp something, still has pain, still complains... It was a painful surgery for him as well.

You will be unable to sleep in a bed for weeks following surgery. Get a good, comfortable recliner if you don't already have one. Be prepared for a lot of pain and a l-o-n-g recovery.

Sorry to hear you will have to go through this.
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Old 10-13-2020, 02:15 PM   #3
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Expert here! I had arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder in May 2019. I recovered just fine (I'm 64) and am 100% or thereabouts--no issues at all. Surgery is super easy. Recovery is long and takes a lot of patience, but certainly do-able. I was 6 weeks in a sling, and since I live alone and am right handed it was a challenge! P.T. is essential; I started to go on week two after surgery and went for sixth months. At first it was twice a week, then once a week, then once every other week, etc.

I had significant pain after the heavy meds wore off, for a couple hours, but then from day 2 on was just on OTC meds. I had little pain after day 1 but often an annoying ache that went on for months and then suddenly stopped. P.T. is tough for the first 6 weeks or so, lots of exercises and you feel so helpless for awhile! I swung a lot of canes and did a lot of hand crawls up walls, then "graduated" to weights. But then lo and behold it gets better and better.

Make sure to have someone with you for at least the first night, but after that I was on my own so I prepared ahead of time stocking food and having easy to eat things in the house that I could manage with one hand. I hired people to cut the lawn, clean house, etc. Probably the worst aspect of the whole thing is that many people including myself can't sleep for many weeks lying down. I slept fitfully in a recliner for about 8 weeks, then finally moved to a bed. Some people get by with just a lot of pillows propped up on the bed but that was very painful for me for a long time. So I'd recommend renting a recliner if you don't have one. You will also be using a lot of ice so get both big and smaller ice packs and have them ready to use.

I joined a Facebook site (two actually) on rotator cuff surgery recovery and they were life savers! People advise how to prepare, what to expect, as well as share experiences. I'm no longer on them so can't remember the exact names of these groups but you can look for them and/or shoulder surgery groups. In fact, I "met" a woman in her 70s on one of these sites: it turned out we had surgery at about the same time with the same doctor, so we became virtual recovery companions. She also recovered very well.


I'd say, all in all, it took me 3/4 of a year to feel normal again. I've heard people say it takes anywhere from 1/2 year to 1.5 years, depending on the person and the conditions. But I'm here to report it worked for me! Good luck, and let me know if I can help with other questions.
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Old 10-13-2020, 02:35 PM   #4
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Two other things:

There are some very helpful Youtube videos on recovery from rotator cuff surgery. In fact, there are even some with the surgery itself, but don't watch those until at least 6 months into recovery!


As to exercise, I started walking in week two and that's a game changer. You can stay active by walking, even if it is more strolling that fast walking due to being a bit off balance. What you don't want to do is sit for 6 weeks. I went back to work at 8 weeks and that helped a lot, too, in terms of mental health and starting to feel more normal and productive again.
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Old 10-13-2020, 02:49 PM   #5
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I have not had rotator cuff surgery, but have had surgery on both shoulders. One was to fix a bone spur and some torn tendons, and the other was to fix a bone spur and a partial bicep tendon tear.

Both times, I spent the first night in the hospital by choice just in case I had problems with pain management. I needed it the first time when I unexpectedly threw up the first pain pills after the anesthesia wore off. The second time, I took medication to settle my stomach and had no issues.

Once you are cleared for physical therapy, I recommend working at it as much as you can handle since the PT will in large part determine how well and how fast you recover. I had or built/bought enough equipment to do nearly all of the PT exercises at home that I was doing at the therapist's office.

Good luck!
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Old 10-13-2020, 05:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by friar1610 View Post
I've just received a recommendation to have an arthroscopic procedure on my right shoulder. The procedure would be used to determine specifically the extent of my rotator cuff problem and then to do whatever repair is appropriate.



I've been dealing with this problem 6-9 months. I've done (at home) physical therapy exercises and had one cortisone shot, both to no lasting avail. The fact that there is a partial tear has been confirmed by an MRI.



I'm probably more concerned with the length of recovery period/rehab/down time than I am with the procedure itself. I like my exercise (although some of it has been curtailed due to this problem) and hate to think about going any extended period without it. I'm 75 so I'm sure I won't bounce back immediately but I'm in pretty good shape for a guy that age.



My next-door neighbor, about 10 years younger than I, has been dealing with a similar issue but has chosen to use a laser treatment that is somewhat new and, according, to the orthopod I saw, unproven. The neighbor reports relief from his pain. The orthopod (who does not do this procedure himself) expresses skepticism that this will be a long-term cure.



Any "war stories" from those of you who have had either the arthroscopic procedure or the laser surgery? Were you satisfied with the outcome? How much did the recovery/rehab process take you out of action? Would you do it again knowing what you know now? Any questions you didn't ask the doc that, in retrospect, you wish you had? Any other comments?



Thank you.



PS In case you're wondering, my right arm is my pitching arm. After their disastrous season, the Red Sox definitely want me back in the spring.


I had this surgery on my right shoulder at 50. I stalled on the surgery for a long time but it got to the point where the pain was so unbearable I had no choice. Honestly, itís tough and it took a year for my shoulder to feel completely normal. I would say the tightness lasted at least 6-9 months. I am glad I had it and the right shoulder now feels better than my left shoulder.
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Old 10-13-2020, 06:18 PM   #7
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So sorry you've going thru this. My physical therapist says shoulders are his most dreaded injury--often taking 1 year until they're normal if the patient is compliant with his instructions.

I had a slight shoulder injury that wasn't enough for surgery, but kept me up at night. Time finally healed it and I'm 100%.

My wife wasn't so lucky with an injured shoulder. The orthopedic surgeon was surprised and would have done a replacement had he known her condition. He didn't tell us for a year that she has a 7" rod going down into her arm held in with screws--to stabilize the injury. It took her 1 year to quit hurting.

But every case is different and so are the recovery times. Hopefully you'll come out good as new.
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Old 10-14-2020, 08:20 AM   #8
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I went to an orthopedist who spent 3 minutes talking to me about my shoulder, and then announced I needed surgery, then did an MRI, which he showed me for about 30 seconds, which he said verified I needed surgery. I was not impressed.

I went for a 2nd opinion, and the new doctor looked at me and asked why would I want surgery before I tried other options -- to which I responded that the reason I'm seeking a 2nd opinion is to see if surgery is the only option.

He gave me a shot, which completely cleared up the problem within the next few weeks. That was 9 months ago. Needless to say, I'm glad I looked for a 2nd opinion.

You've maybe heard the saying "to a hammer every problem looks like a nail"? Surgeons tend to find surgical solutions to problems. A doctor with a broader view of patient care will make the effort to consider all care options.
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Old 10-14-2020, 08:30 AM   #9
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The protocol is typically that they send you to P.T. and/or give you a shot first, and then if those things don't work surgery is indicated. I had the shot and then P.T. for about two months prior to surgery, and was in worse shape at the end. So it is a good idea to try those first. There's a book called something like Heal Your Own Rotator Cuff on amazon that talks you through exercises to try before moving to surgery.
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Old 10-14-2020, 08:41 AM   #10
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Both my shoulders are torn up. After CT scans (the only way for the surgeon to know anything) my surgeon asked me about how much pain I had and how much loss of use. My pain is only really noticeable at bedtime and so far, my lifting isn't affected. I just laied a 63,000 pound cultured stone wall one at a time with no problem. He told me both shoulders are as bad as he's ever seen, some parts hanging on by a thread. He then told me that as long as there wasn't much pain, then he advised not getting surgery. He said it is the most painful surgery of any type, that the arm, one at a time, would be unusable for at least 6 months with a full year before I could use it fully. He also said it's as likely as not that the pain will still be there.
When a surgeon tells you to avoid surgery as long as the pain is bearable, that says something.

I had been going to PT. When I had the CT done, I asked the PT to take a look and if she thought PT was going to fix anything. She looked and said she would not proceed with today's PT, she was scared the last remaining shreds of ligaments would fail on her watch. Wow! She recommended I no longer do the exercise she had me doing at home until I spoke to a surgeon.
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Old 10-14-2020, 10:42 AM   #11
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I have 3.5 tears in my right arm when I dislocated my shoulder several years ago back in 2012--partial supra spinatus tendon tear, large hills-sachs legion, and 4 and 8 labrium tears. I was told I would be in pain forever. I opted for the laser from my sister who had used in the past for ailments. I used the Laser 4 treatment to ease the pain along with normal PT therapy. My arm is back to normal now. The tears are there yet they healed back in place. The laser was not covered by insurance yet that didn't matter. It was not a rotocuff tear yet I would have tried the laser to help ease the pain and help the body heal itself before trying surgery. Alternative stuff is not for all. It worked for me and it saved me money from spending it at doctors who were have said that won't work. I use the laser stuff wherever--falls, back pain, knee aches. A doctor may be against you trying it as if it works, you won't see them anymore for pain. If you have surgery, you can still use the laser for pain afterwards and help the body to heal. The laser 4 is not carried by all doctors/PT places, so one has to look around for it.







Quote:
Originally Posted by friar1610 View Post
I've just received a recommendation to have an arthroscopic procedure on my right shoulder. The procedure would be used to determine specifically the extent of my rotator cuff problem and then to do whatever repair is appropriate.

I've been dealing with this problem 6-9 months. I've done (at home) physical therapy exercises and had one cortisone shot, both to no lasting avail. The fact that there is a partial tear has been confirmed by an MRI.

I'm probably more concerned with the length of recovery period/rehab/down time than I am with the procedure itself. I like my exercise (although some of it has been curtailed due to this problem) and hate to think about going any extended period without it. I'm 75 so I'm sure I won't bounce back immediately but I'm in pretty good shape for a guy that age.

My next-door neighbor, about 10 years younger than I, has been dealing with a similar issue but has chosen to use a laser treatment that is somewhat new and, according, to the orthopod I saw, unproven. The neighbor reports relief from his pain. The orthopod (who does not do this procedure himself) expresses skepticism that this will be a long-term cure.

Any "war stories" from those of you who have had either the arthroscopic procedure or the laser surgery? Were you satisfied with the outcome? How much did the recovery/rehab process take you out of action? Would you do it again knowing what you know now? Any questions you didn't ask the doc that, in retrospect, you wish you had? Any other comments?

Thank you.

PS In case you're wondering, my right arm is my pitching arm. After their disastrous season, the Red Sox definitely want me back in the spring.
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Old 10-14-2020, 12:31 PM   #12
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Depending on the extent and degree of your injuries, I suggest "sooner" rather than "later" for the surgery. I waited and waited and ended up in a mess. It took me a year to really recover and I still have some pain if I am not careful. My other shoulder is a mess but I am delaying due to Covid and the passing of my spouse. My husband had to help me a lot for an extended time. You are right to join the FB pages regarding this surgery. Sleep will be a big item and there are many helpful suggestions. I have known people who are "good to go" in six weeks or so. Degree of injury and follow-up care determines length of recovery.
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Old 10-14-2020, 01:43 PM   #13
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Thanks very much to all who responded. I'm going to have a second chat with the orthopedist using some of the info I've received from your responses and some things I came up with on my own as the bases of my questions. Then make a decision.

As far as any other responses are concerned, keep 'em coming!

Thanks again.
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Old 10-18-2020, 01:09 PM   #14
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I had surgery to repair a small, old rotator cuff tear and clean up some bone spurs on one shoulder, then surgery on the other shoulder for some similar clean up, plus got a frayed bicep tendon snipped and reattached to the humerus. The surgeon also trimmed off the Type 2 ends of my acromion bones, which had been causing damage due to impingements. Had the first surgery in June 2016 and the second in October the same year. I was 54.

The post-surgery pain wasn't bad, except the first night when I made the mistake of postponing the second dose of painkiller so I could take it at the same time as the antibiotic, instead of waking up twice in the night. Another big ouch was the first few times pulling the arm up with the rope and pulley.

I did have some nausea from the hydrocodone a few times, and didn't want to take the antinausea med the surgeon prescribed, hydroxyzine, because it causes such drowsiness and brain fog. Learned a trick online that helped: lie down flat on your back on the floor until the nausea passes.

Four years later my shoulders are doing fine, and I actually have improved flexibility.
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Old 10-18-2020, 03:53 PM   #15
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I too had surgery on both shoulders (not at the same time) and can attest that it is worth it in the long run. My surgeon said that most folks continue to suffer the pain until they can bear it no longer and then opt for surgery. One surgery was for a "frozen shoulder" the other for bone spur and tear. PT is no picnic but necessary for range of motion. Since you enjoy exercise this should not be a problem and you sound like you will follow up at home with recommended exercises. It took about 3 months to start to feel pain free and about a full year to completely recover. Have not had any issues with my shoulder since the surgery.
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Old 10-22-2020, 06:55 PM   #16
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Here is an update. I haven't really liked the idea of surgery, or, more specifically, the recovery/rehab. I decided to get a 2nd opinion from an orthopedic surgeon at one of the major hospitals in Boston. (Actually it was two of them: I was seen first by an ortho resident and then by the attending.) They thought that the tear was too small to do surgery at this point. They strongly suggested a course of formal PT before doing anything. (The PT I've already done was "at-home" using a few handouts from my PCP. Frankly, I did a half-assed job with it. I think I need the structure of a couple of weekly appointments and homework assignments.) I found the Boston docs to be far more thorough, both with the exam and the explanations, than the local doc had been. That contributed to my decision.

So, with really little to lose other than spending time doing boring exercises, I'm going to try PT and see where that leads. If it doesn't kill me, I'll be back to let you all know the outcome.

Thanks again for all the thoughtful responses.
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Old 10-22-2020, 07:57 PM   #17
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I don't know of any MDs that don't point to PT first. That is S.O.P. It is very rare to go directly to surgery without having had PT. It does work for some people and if you have a small tear it will most likely be successful. Good luck.
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