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View Full Version : Recovering from shoulder surgery; feeling crummy...



Fishgrrl
August 17th, 2005, 04:37 PM
and actually considering giving up swimming. I am so discouraged these days....

I fell and hurt my shoulder about 9 years ago. I didn't have surgery at the time (was told I didn't need it) and thought I healed correctly. Fast forward to today...after swimming 6 years I start to feel an ache in my "bad" shoulder when I swim longer than a mile. So off to the sports med doc I go....I get an MRI which looks like I might have torn cartilage, which is causing the pain. Surgery is scheduled....they find nothing. Nothing is torn; nothing to fix. So now I will have to swim with the pain....

I know that some of the tension is a result of an imbalance in my freestyle...I always breath to my left, which means I pull harder with my strong (right) side. When I try to breath to the right it all falls apart. I don't feel balanced in the water; I am sure there are a million things wrong with my stroke...I should kick more...blah blah blah.

I just started swimming again...been in the water for the last few days and I am very discouraged. I'd love to hear from folks out there who have taught themselves to breath to their uncomfortable side.... and how you did it, how long it took, etc.

Anyone else out there going through a discouraging time...or if you have in the past, how'd you get over it?

Ande - what are your thoughts?

I used to box...maybe I should just go back to the ring and stay out of the water....:(

SwiminONandON
August 17th, 2005, 05:07 PM
Kari!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are still alive!!! We've missed you! Sorry to hear that you are feeling crummy. DON'T STOP SWIMMING! Swim lots of breaststroke! Actually work on changing your breathing slowly. 25 breathe right, 25 breathe left. It'll become more natural ...

Email me some time...

scyfreestyler
August 17th, 2005, 05:30 PM
I am still battling with my shoulder(s) from week to week. It seems the more I am in the water the better I am. If I take a few days off, that is when the soreness sets in. Weird huh?

I would suggest just cutting back on the yardage and increasing your intensity just a bit instead. I am sure that you can overcome this injury and I suspect that boxing will not do your shoulder very much good either. Best of luck and keep us posted as to your progress. Sometimes just sharing my experiences on here makes me feel better, even though nothing has really changed.

DianaC
August 17th, 2005, 05:37 PM
Kari,

I learned to breathe on both sides, and it took a while, but now I am very comfortable with it. I do mostly open water swims, and I wanted to be able to breathe wherever I needed to, so I worked on it a lot. Now I breathe every 3 strokes, and am very comfortable with it. In fact, if I breathe only to one side, it feels "off" and I have to go back to breathing every 3.

I think it has really helped to balance out my stroke a lot, plus some personal coaching. If your stroke has other problems, I would recommend working with a private coach, if you can afford it and find one. It is worth the investment, to get some really good pointers. My coach actually gets in the water with me and looks at the stroke from all angles. The tweaks she has made have made a huge difference.

One thing that helped me was to really focus on how you feel when you breathe to your strong side (where your hands are, how your body is rotated, etc.), and then try to replicate that "feeling" on your weak side. I hope this makes sense.

Good luck!
Diana

BillS
August 17th, 2005, 05:38 PM
I taught myself bilateral breathing a few years back. As I recall, I just started trying to do it by swimming a slow, steady pace and alternating sides. At first, I thought my lungs would explode -- Who can go 3 strokes without a breath?!!, but that went away as my mind adjusted to not having that gulp of sweet air with every stroke. It felt awkward as can be at first (I recall craning my neck like some movie creature emerging from a primordial swamp), then gradually less awkward, then finally became second nature. I swallowed a whole bunch of pool along the way.

Honestly, it's not that tough. I am about as far from kinesthetically gifted as a person can get (the word "dork" comes to mind), and if I can work it out, anyone should be able to. And I think it really helped my stroke mechanics, too. Good luck.

Rowdy
August 17th, 2005, 08:22 PM
Have you tried massage therapy yet? Deep tissue massage has worked wonders for me. I started swimming again after taking @10 years off. My shoulder was really sore all the time (I had injured it lifting in preparation for getting back in the pool) and I couldn't swim very hard. I had started seeing one at the suggestion of my chiropractor.

My shoulder is a lot better now and I know some other people that it has helped. Maybe it will for you too.

Karen Duggan
August 17th, 2005, 10:15 PM
Kari,

It's old home week here :p

I would definitely go with the chiropractor. When you find a good one they can seemingly fix anything.

As far as the discouraging. I won't go into all of the details (far too boring) but I have been SO AMAZINGLY DISCOURAGED with my swimming for the last 5 years (yes, I know, I've had 3 kids, but still...). My point is, I've stayed in the water, as much as I could, and listened to all of the positive comments made by my teammates. I have definitely turned a deaf ear to the woman who keeps telling me that my belly fat won't go away!

I am starting to do other things out of the water that will help me in the water: weights, stretching, running, etc., but again I struggle with getting/finding a schedule that won't kill me!

Hang in there. Definitely listen to the positive, ignore the negative, do what you can and push the envelope when you feel you can without setting yourself back. The cool thing about Masters is that it will always be here. We will always be here. You are a great swimmer and work really hard- you'll achieve your goals :)

By the way, hi :p

USMSarah
August 18th, 2005, 12:24 AM
Hi there.

I know what you are going through, and it can be very discouraging.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I had surgery on my right shoulder about 6 years ago. I quit college swimming at that time... but then last year, I came back and it has been a tough road. BUT, it has been great swimming w/ Masters... it is such a great, supportive group. I've had tons of improvement over the year and I concentrate on that. I'm nowhere close to my old times, but I will get there someday.

To avoid further injury, you MUST concentrate on your technique as you practice.

To get yourself to breathe on both sides... Do DRILLS, DRILLS, and MORE DRILLS!
:D

I love doing three pulls and kick for 6. Then do five pulls, then switch to 7 when you are comfy.

Everything will be fine... stay in the water! ;)

Johnathon
August 18th, 2005, 03:01 AM
Hi Kari

I have also battled with shoulder pain whenever I try to swim consistently with freestyle. On occasions I can swim without any pain setting in and then for no apparent reason it will set in a couple of days after swimming only say 500m. The sports injury doctor didn't think it was anything serious and recommended deep tissue massage and specific excercises to strenthen the shoulder. Unfortunatley it did not seem to work.

I am currently in the midst of my big push to overcome the problem.

I recently joined a stroke correction class which focuses on all strokes including freestyle. I have enjoyed improving other strokes and feel these are good for overall flexibility. The coaches have detected that my right are exits the water a little awkwardly and I am trying to correct this. I definitely feel that this has resulted in a better stroke and has minimised the onset of the shoulder pain. I am not convinced it is all of the answer but it seems to be part of it. We are now working on distance and I expect future classes will work on rythmic bilateral breathing. I am hoping this will result in further improvement.

If my shoulder pain comes back with a vengeance I propose to go to a physiotherapist at the same time and see what they have to say.

Hopefully between the swimming coaches and medicos I will be on my way.

Good luck to you.

PeirsolFan
August 18th, 2005, 04:54 AM
Well something is causing the pain. What explanation did the surgeon give you? What was the diagnosis?

Keep track of when and where you feel the pain. According to the ASCA, 90% of shoulder problems are from impingement and can be helped with stroke modification. There are medical causes besides just technique. To ask you to swim in pain is not acceptable.

I've had my moments of dispair lately over injuries, but it's not going to stop me from swimming. Don't let it eat away at your confidence.

gull
August 18th, 2005, 10:53 AM
I've posted my experience here before. Two years ago I had an MRI which showed some arthritic changes in the shoulder but no tears. The diagnosis was impingement/tendinitis. Fortunately I was referred to a physical therapist with a lot of experience working with athletes. At the time I could not swim 1500 yards without pain. Now I swim 3-4000/day, including butterfly. Here's what worked for me:

Daily home PT exercises (concentrating on the rotator cuff and scapula)
Antiinflammatory drugs (Aleve) and ice (after swimming and at bedtime)
Glucosamine
Stroke correction
Building endurance with distance sets using a pull buoy (taking some of the strain off my shoulder)
No butterfly or paddles
Very slow increase in yardage
Patience (very important).

As for bilateral breathing, I think the main benefit is making your stroke symmetric. Catch up drills, breathing to the weak side and kicking through the breath, have helped me. The key for me was changing from a two beat kick to a four beat kick, which has also improved my body position.

Leonard Jansen
August 18th, 2005, 11:25 AM
Don't give up! After my back injury I was told I'd have all sorts of problems like a pronounced limp, constant pain, etc. By rehabbing/swimming my butt off, most of the problems are non-existent or very low level and manageable. Patience, consistency and a refusal to give up will take you a long way.

Speaking of taking strain off the shoulder (as Craig did), I suggest that you consider using Fistgloves for some of your swimming. Although they are primarily used to promote the use of core involvement in your stroke, as a side benefit they also relieve some of the "pressure" on the shoulder because they don't allow your hand much purchase on the water. I have osteoarthritis of the right A/C joint (above the actual shoulder) and when it gets grumpy, using the fistgloves for a day or so seems to calm it down.

Your mileage may vary.

-LBJ

ande
August 18th, 2005, 11:41 AM
hi kari,

nice to see you back here
sorry to hear about your shoulder pain

you mentioned changing the side you breathe on
you just gotta force yourself to do it

concentrate

maybe try breathing every 3 so you'll alternate sides
when you quit thinking about it, you'll probably revert to your old habit until you replace it with a new one.

ande


Originally posted by Fishgrrl
and actually considering giving up swimming. I am so discouraged these days....

I fell and hurt my shoulder about 9 years ago. I didn't have surgery at the time (was told I didn't need it) and thought I healed correctly. Fast forward to today...after swimming 6 years I start to feel an ache in my "bad" shoulder when I swim longer than a mile. So off to the sports med doc I go....I get an MRI which looks like I might have torn cartilage, which is causing the pain. Surgery is scheduled....they find nothing. Nothing is torn; nothing to fix. So now I will have to swim with the pain....

I know that some of the tension is a result of an imbalance in my freestyle...I always breath to my left, which means I pull harder with my strong (right) side. When I try to breath to the right it all falls apart. I don't feel balanced in the water; I am sure there are a million things wrong with my stroke...I should kick more...blah blah blah.

I just started swimming again...been in the water for the last few days and I am very discouraged. I'd love to hear from folks out there who have taught themselves to breath to their uncomfortable side.... and how you did it, how long it took, etc.

Anyone else out there going through a discouraging time...or if you have in the past, how'd you get over it?

Ande - what are your thoughts?

I used to box...maybe I should just go back to the ring and stay out of the water....:(

Fishgrrl
August 19th, 2005, 01:45 PM
Thanks for the advice and encouragement, everyone. Being injured sucks. Feeling like you suck all the time sucks too.

I have moved to a slower lane in order to focus on my drills. I like the deep tissue massage and chiropractor ideas; I will give them a try.

OK....I'll stick it out in the pool and stay out of the boxing ring for now.

Hi Karen! I'm still going to show up at a workout one of these days soon!! I too have been cross training - spinning, working with weights, etc. and it's a nice change. I'm also trying to stretch, which I'm sure I've needed to do for about a million years.

So..instead of constantly thinking, I SUCK, I'll focus, focus, focus.

BillS
August 19th, 2005, 01:54 PM
Once, when I was in high school, I offered one of the older, more stellar athletes on the team whom I admired greatly the workout equipment I was using. "Why?" he asked. "'Cause I suck," I said, sort of half joking.

He stopped short, looked me right in the eye, and said "Don't EVER say that," then made me get back on the machine.

That was at least 28 years ago, and I can remember it like it was yesterday.

Don't EVER say "I suck."

Fishgrrl
August 19th, 2005, 02:14 PM
Bill - I will delete that word from my lexicon.

What should I replace it with though?

Positive suggestions welcome! :)

USMSarah
August 19th, 2005, 02:16 PM
I know...

You're awesome!:cool:

Peter Cruise
August 19th, 2005, 02:26 PM
Karen: you're not happy with your times, what with demands & consequences of motherhood? Last time I checked your Zone results & times, they looked damned good to me!

Kari: reams of good advice you've gotten, if you accomplish the bilateral breathing (as a habit), then it should help-but, if you find that despite the good old varsity try it never feels natural (like for me), you can at least mitigate it by ensuring that your shoulder rotation is equal to both sides & by experimenting with the most minimal head motion possible in order to access your breath (you need someone watching you to give you feedback on that). This has helped stubborn old non-bilateral me a lot.

Karen Duggan
August 19th, 2005, 06:35 PM
Kari,

Replace that negativity, with what that old little blue engine has always said, "I think I can, I think I can..." you know the rest :p

I've learned, the hard way, with lots of self-doubt, that I do have control over myself and my swimming. I know that I cannot go back and do the times I was doing at this VERY moment. But I also know that I have the ability to look at my current situation, make some goals, work really really hard, and I bet I'll achieve those goals.

Peter,

I didn't realize how much of my self-confidence revolved around swimming. I used to go under 3:00 min for the 200m breast regularly and win my heat by a lot. I really took that easy stroke for granted. The day someone told me about USMS Top 10 Times I took a look and had quite a few, now I barely make it. I continued to do best times into my late 20's. I had Patrick when I was 29, a few months short of 30. Suddenly, no surprise, I couldn't work out as hard or as often, etc... Today, I am working on getting to swim at least 4 days a week (instead of my 2 day/week average for the summer).

I still have some pretty lofty goals (I think) for times I'd like to achieve. I haven't been doing many meets, which doesn't help a lot, and my times at these meets isn't entirely inspirational for me either. But, they are coming down again, and I think with a lot of hard work, waking up at 4:30 to get in that stretching and weight training will help. I told Kerry the other day that if I don't have "it" back together by Worlds that I'm taking up Ping-Pong!

Thank you for your support- I hope you'll see a lot faster times come next May and August :)

Peter Cruise
August 19th, 2005, 06:39 PM
I guess the Special K's are going to be scary in the water, as well as downright wild socially, in 2006

swimr4life
August 20th, 2005, 04:32 PM
Kari!

Hang in there and in the words of Dori from Finding Nemo.........
"JUST KEEP SWIMMING!!!"

I too have battled shoulder problems for years now. My shoulder was popping in and out of joint from years of swimming. I had to have a thermal-capsular shrinkage done....fancy medical jargon for having the cartillage around my shoulder tightened. The 6 months of physical therapy were so painful and scary. I literally could not lift my arm! My doctor told me I would probably never swim like I used to. I missed swimming so much that I cried when I used bleach in my laundry! ;( I couldn't lift my arm for weeks much less swim. I finally decided that no matter how silly I looked and felt, I was going to dog paddle with my right arm as well as I could and stroke with my left if I had to to get back in the water. I did my PT exercises religiously and just kept plugging away. It took time and most of all a LOT OF PATIENCE. The swimming helped more than anything!! The day I could do normal freestyle was one of the happiest days of my life. I eventually got back to swimming with my masters team and recently did close to lifetime best times!!

I still have pain occasionally but I just listen to my body and know when to push it and when to take a day off. I HAVE to do my PT exercises the rest of my life....if I don't, my pain comes back!! The things I have found to work....WARM-UP SLOWLY!!,stretch after warm-up and before you start working too hard, ice after your workout if it hurts, RELIGIOUSLY doing rotator cuff exercises and LOTS OF PATIENCE AND TIME. It took about 2 years to completely recover to where I am almost pain free (shoulderwise at least!) during/after swimming workouts. I can still tell the weather better than the Weather Channel! ;)

swimr4life
August 20th, 2005, 04:38 PM
PS I know you said your doctor didn't find anything wrong when they did surgery on you. It sounds like a muscle imbalance. That is what caused a lot of my pain before and after my surgery. Make sure you don't do too much freestyle. Balance your workout with backstroke. It will help strengthen the back of your shoulder and help stretch out the front of your shoulder and pecs.

Where does your shoulder hurt?

BillS
August 22nd, 2005, 02:16 PM
Try replacing the committee in your head with a couple of meet announcers who are, to paraphrase Spiro Agnew, prattling paragons of positivism (he once famously referred to the media as "nattering nabobs of negativism") Try and forget times and past glories and focus on improving what you can right now.

"ANNOUNCER ONE: (voice of Mark Gill) Well, it's sure good to see Kari back in the pool. You can tell she's been working on those stroke mechanics in this recovery period. Just look at the glide she's getting in that drill!

ANNOUCER TWO: Right, and is that some bilateral breathing I see happening? Unbelievable, this gutsy swimmer has really gone back to school on her stroke, and it's starting to pay off . . . "

You get the idea. Good luck.

Fishgrrl
August 22nd, 2005, 05:44 PM
Hi Beth....thanks so much for the post. When my shoulder hurts, it aches deep inside near where my clavicle and top of my shoulder should meet (make sense?) - due to the initial injury, my clavicle sticks up. Looks really weird.

The doc thought that I might have a SLAP lesion (still not sure what that means) but once they got inside and poked around - nothing - clean as a whistle.

Fortunately, I have been lifting weights steadily for 2 years and when I take a week off, the pain comes back. Sometimes my arm goes numb if I swim longer than a mile.....

I will try to be patient with myself. This is really hard for me to do, so wish me luck!

BillS - Hmmmmmmmm. I like the announcer idea....! I for sure need to get that critical committee outa my brain....

Peter Cruise
August 22nd, 2005, 05:53 PM
Kari- sounds like it could be a cervical impingement in your neck; I'm no doctor, but have been working around that condition for sometime & my symtoms resemble yours (in the shoulder & arm, not the neck). Then again, might not be.

Fishgrrl
August 22nd, 2005, 06:23 PM
Peter - maybe so. When I've gone through an especially hard workout, the left side (bad shoulder side) of my neck hurts and I end up with a horrible headache.

What do you do for it?

geochuck
August 22nd, 2005, 06:35 PM
Treatment Ideas???
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/category.cfm?topcategory=Shoulder all kinds of things to check Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or whichever one you like they are all a pain.

Peter Cruise
August 22nd, 2005, 08:16 PM
Kari- in weight training, two key exercises: shoulder shrugs, full range of motion, light weight, high reps; barbell upright rowing very strictly done light weight high reps. These two help strengthen & condition the muscles supporting your neck.
- in posture: most people carry their head too far forward, stressing the neck: you should get feedback on this.
- in swimming: almost all of the tips you have been getting contribute to balancing the load on your neck.
- in doctor management: you should have an mri of c5c6, you can probably get it fairly quickly, up here it took over a year of constant pain before I could get one (the system: when I finally saw a neurosurgeon after 18 months, the first thing he said was "why has it taken so long for you to see me?" I could only gape). MRI should likely reveal if that area is the problem, if it is, they may want to do neck fusion-that is a last resort, many rehab strategies to try before that.
I have been 'managing' this condition for over 20 years, through several crises; always, part of the solution has been to get back in the water & do long, easy distance with no expectations working on perfect technique, slowly building from there. It has always worked, that is until I next collide with someone.

Hawaiiwoman
August 23rd, 2005, 01:05 AM
Hi Kari,
Check out this site. Stanford has a reputable program and I found the suggestions regarding changing one's stroke really helpful. Implimenting the changes felt real weird at first, but they sure relieved my shoulder pain.

http://www.physsportsmed.com/issues/2003/0103/johnson.htm

geochuck
August 23rd, 2005, 01:28 AM
The S stroke to me was always an I stroke. Always taught Newtons third law and the rotation of the body changes where the center line of the body was.