View Full Version : shoulder surgery

January 5th, 2006, 04:28 PM
After much pain, soul searching, cure searching, kicking with fins and general advise seeking, I've elected to have arthroscopic surgery to treat my "shoulder impingement syndrome" which I guess is tendonitis....The fact that I made the decision before consulting the USMC forum may be inexcusable, but, be that as it may, I'm on the docket for two weeks from today...
The surgery, as I, a layman, understand it, will widen the subacromial space allowing unimpeded movement of my supraspinatus (one of the rotator cuffs) muscle and tendon and biseps tendon....
I ain't looking for sympathy or an explanation...but I'd love to hear from someone who's had this type of procedure and can outline their recovery process...I was planning on making some waves in the 55-59 age group at Coral Gables in May but realize now I may just be a cheerleader...I'm keeping the Chesapeake Bay swim on my June calendar even if I can just kick my way across...I'd love to know what to expect..Thanks

January 5th, 2006, 04:32 PM
There isn't any one answer. Everyone is different. Everyone's recovery is different. Some people recover more quickly than others. The best people to ask are your doctor and your physical therapist.

Be completely honest with you PT. Tell them what hurts and when. Pay attention to what causes pain and where.

Have you had a second opinion? What have you done in the way of treatment thus far?

January 5th, 2006, 04:45 PM
Subacromial Decompression I believe is the term. I was considering the same procedure but I stuck it out a little longer on my MD's advice. It took me about a year to recover to the point where I could go a few days without pain. If it happens again, I will be marching down to the ortho to get that procedure done. Good luck and keep us posted. From what I understand, this is about the simplest shoulder surgery you can have from the standpoint of recovery. They shave material from bone and it is generally not required to cut any soft tissue/muscle. If my memory serves me correctly, you can expect to be back in the water within a month or so. One fellow on here told me that he swam in a championship meet just a few months after the surgery. Once again, best of luck.:)

January 5th, 2006, 04:49 PM
Here's a link where we discussed the procedure a bit.


January 5th, 2006, 06:12 PM
I just got done with my doc about my right shoulder. He said that if the drugs he gave me and rest don't improve, then it is surgery time. Please DRUGS DO YOUR TRICk.

Does anyone know what the average recovery period is from shoulder surgery?

January 5th, 2006, 06:13 PM
Everyone that's had at least one Subacromial Decompression, say aye.

January 5th, 2006, 07:02 PM
Originally posted by SwiminONandON [/i]

What have you done in the way of treatment thus far?

So far I've tried.....

Physical therapy
trigger point therapy
cortisone injections
aromatherapy (well....not really)
something prescription
lightweight dumbbells
sleeping on my leftside
electrostimulation (zzzztt)
buying a new bike
positive thinking
negative thinking
not thinking.........

This is over the course of the last year or so....
Kept it together through spring and swam pretty well till then but haven't taken a stroke with any authority since June.
I'm allowing the operating room as the court of last resort...
I know alotta people get this procedure done....my orthopeodist said he's done 400 in the past year....nice to know I'm not alone I guess.
Yes I've talked to Doc about recovery but I wanted the non cookie-cutter response from like minded swimmers and athletes..thus I'm throughing this into the thick air of the forum...

January 5th, 2006, 07:05 PM
Originally posted by BruceGianniny [/i]
[ throughing this into the thick air of the forum... [/B][/QUOTE]


January 5th, 2006, 07:54 PM
hey bruce, in your long list of tried things I did not see fist swimming. Lightly closed fists or fist gloves might be your answer. Any stroke, go easy. Try it. You'll like it

January 5th, 2006, 08:13 PM
Originally posted by Fritz
Everyone that's had at least one Subacromial Decompression, say aye.

I had both the right AND the left done. Plus the CA ligaments were cut in each shoulder, PLUS one scar tissue removal PLUS one thermal assisted capsular shift!

January 5th, 2006, 11:58 PM
Someone I swim with, Laura Winslow, just had this surgery a few weeks ago. Her email is posted on the USMS main page, but here it is also: WINSLOWL6@yahoo.com
I'd send her an email and see what she says.

If anyone knows Laura, they wouldn't be surprised to hear that she was in the water as soon as possible (I want to say 2 weeks), doing kicking. She is doing as much PT as possible too, from the sounds of it. She isn't in Lane 2 (her usual), but I'm sure she'll be back soon enough.

If I remember before practice tomorrow (sometimes difficult for the 6am workout), I'll ask her to look here.

Good luck!


Nancy Ridout
January 6th, 2006, 12:12 AM

I've had 3 shoulder surgeries (both sides), both open and arthroscopic. I think you've made a good decision. Until the surgeon goes in and actually sees what is going on, you can't actually predict what kind of recovery to expect or how long it might take to get back to the level you desire. The impingement could be the result of a number of possibilities. I fooled around way too long with alternative remedies and was constantly having to take time off from training because of the pain. I kept aggravating the problem and by the time I went to an orthopedist I'd done a lot of damage. You're a lot smarter than I was.

The arthroscopic surgery was the quickest recovery and everyone I know who's had it, has been successful in recovering their former level of performance. Good luck! I wish you patience in your rehab; follow your doctor's and PT's advice and suggestions. Work on developing excellent technique. I also hope that 2006 will be a very good year for you and lead to pain free years to follow.


Paul Smith
January 6th, 2006, 11:45 AM
Nancy.......I 100% agree. I've had both shoulders done (left in 2001, right this past September).........both times after trying every possible treatment for 12-18 months but nothing worked.

In both cases I was back in the water (kick only) after two weeks, swimming again in 8-10 weeks, lifting in 12 and competing after 4 months. The curretn procedure is so dialed in that its really an easy thing.....I was in fr surgery at 7am and back home by noon the same day.

When I look back on all the PT, Cortisone shots, etc. etc. the last 18 months I'm made at myslef for waiting so long!

PS: Laura swam at nationals in Tempe a few years back with a 95% tear of her rotator cuff..........something the x-rays, mri's, etc. never saw......didn't find out till they went in to repair!

Nancy Ridout
January 6th, 2006, 06:23 PM
Paul and Bruce,

Unfortunately, experience is sometimes the only way we learn. My recovery from the open surgeries was way more lengthy and complicated than the arthroscopic one (which was the middle one) - 3 in 16 months gave me little opportunity to really get my strength back. I've been able to train about 2 1/2 years now with no setbacks. It's been a long haul but I'm finally to the point that I am training to sprint again. When you hear that within 9 months to a year you'll be right back where you were and it becomes your expectation, and you're still working on it 2 1/2 years later, you learn a fuller definition of patience, hopefully, without losing your dream.

I hope, your surgery will be uncomplicated, your goals will fit your situation, and your rehab go consistently forward. Don't count on it though. I don't know anyone who hasn't had setbacks in their recovery - I guess it's pretty normal, especially for an athlete. I can't stress good stroke mechanics enough. I had to change pretty much everything about my stroke and then try to put a new one together that not only allowed me to swim pain free, but to swim fast. That part is still a work in prgress but improving.

Good luck and please keep us posted. There are certainly enough of us who have gone through this experience to keep you on the right path!


January 7th, 2006, 01:15 PM
So I can put this in a perspective, what are or were your ages when you did the deed? .....I imagine age plays a role in recovery time...I'm 54..

Paul...I like the part about competing after 4 months...competing at a satisfactory level??

Nancy Ridout
January 7th, 2006, 05:37 PM

The first surgery for me, that included screws and total immobilzation for 6 weeks, was at age 59.75. The second one 4 months later, arthroscopic, was at age 60, and the third for another torn rotator cuff on the arthroscoped shoulder (unexpected, not part of the original plan) was at age 61, 12 months after the second one. Obviously, the younger you are, the faster you will heal, especially if you follow your doctor's plan. I recovered pretty quickly after the second surgery and was quite excited about the times I did at the LC Nationals at Cleveland 5 months later. Training to break the World record in the 50 SCM free after that meet, resulted in another set back and it's been a lot more lengthy and cautious process this time.

54 sounds like a good age for optimal healing. Are you in good shape now? Part of my problem was that I had let it go so long, that my shoulders were not strong anymore and it took awhile to get them strong. I was shocked the first time I looked at the repaired shoulder after the first open surgery. It looked like the outer part of the shoulder was gone. Rather than the upper arm/shoulder having a rounded look, it was pointy and flat - very weird looking and it took quite awhile for it to look normal and rounded again.

Are you a sprinter, middle distance, or distance swimmer? I think, from what you've said here, that you'll be fine. You're taking care of the problem sooner rather than later and barring unforeseen problems, should be able to put this behind you and move forward. I'm sure many of us can offer post-surgery training workout suggestions if you need them.


January 9th, 2006, 02:45 PM
Nancy...Thanks for the feedback...I particularly like the part about competing at Nationals 5 months after your surgery...Coral Gables has been on my May calendar and I'd hate to erase it....I may not be as fast as I'd planned but I'd like to be fast enough to justify the trip.....I'm in fair shape now having kept up on biking and running (or shuffling) and I hope I haven't lost too much feel for the water....I was planning on swimming all the freestyle events so should be interesting to see what my hiatus affects most...sprints or distance....

Paul...I think I've seen you swim...Will this surgery make me as fast???

Tim...Thanks for referral to Laura, who has been very receptive to keeping me abreast of her recovery...I'll be right behind her about 6 weeks.....nice to know what's in store for me.

Everyone else....Thanks for the info...I'm basically a chicken and appreciate the positive spin...


Jani Sutherland
January 10th, 2006, 01:05 PM
I agree with Nancy. I have had both open surgery (for a rotator cuff repair and decompression) and arthroscopic (just the decompression). Like Nancy, I let something get much worse than I should have, hence the RC repair. There is a big difference between the 2 surgeries, the pain levels and the recovery time. The recovery time for the decompression is much faster. Listen to your PT and do your strengthening exercises. I was in my mid 50's when I had both my surgeries, you heal a little slower but its possible to return to former swimming.

January 25th, 2006, 09:13 PM
So I can bring some kinda closure to this thread (although you may have thought there was enough said already and was therefore closed) I'm pleased to report I had the surgery a weekago tomorrow where the Doc found the Biceps tendon to be the injured party and the acromium to be the main culprit, and, after a bone scraping and soft tissue cleanup ("like cuttin the grass Bruce" he said) I've had less pain than I feared, have been sleeping through the night right along, even now without meds, made an on deck appearance at practice to tell lane two not to get too comfortable with my absence, am driving as of today (I feel the freedom of a 16 year old gettin his first license), got my stiches removed, was told I could burn my sling unless I wanted it a few more nights for support just while sleeping, start a fairly progressive/aggresive (seems to me anyway) PT program tomorrow and, best of all, can get in the water anytime, like tomorrow (like one week after the knife....yeah man), kicking only at first but adding my arms as I see fit with understanding that I can't rush this thing you've just had a major problem with body invasion surgery etcetcetc blahblahblah, but I don't care, and won't try to rush it too much, I hope, 'cause I feel so good being on the road to recovery....and it's not as bumpy as I thought it'd be....not yet anyway...

Tim.....Laura Winslow's thoughts, advice, support and general willingness to share were, and continue to be, invaluable...We share similar masters swimming histories and psyches so her input has been particularly applicable...Thanks for pluggin me in...I'm pleased to report it sounds like her recovery is going well also.

So...thank you all, and, for now, this thread has a happy ending..


January 25th, 2006, 11:27 PM
Great news!! Let us know how your in water recovery goes.

January 26th, 2006, 07:18 AM
Woooowwwhhhhoooo! Lane 1 misses you and looks forward to seeing you swimming next to us soon. :)

January 27th, 2006, 12:25 PM
It was great to see you last night.

Just don't forget that lane 2 will keep you on the straight and narrow path to a successful recovery. (We won't be afraid to tell you to get out if you are working to hard!). Don't want to lose you again anytime soon!

Just one question: Who gets to lead the kick sets?

January 28th, 2006, 09:58 PM
Ok so its been brought to my attention that I was tooooo easy on you. So Bruce, as much as you want to be in the water, give your shoulder the proper time to heal. This is important so you don't end up injured and out of the water again. You wouldn't want to inadvertantly extend your healing time.

Was I stern enough?

Marcia Hill
January 30th, 2006, 07:10 PM
I had arthroscopic surgery for subacromial decompression, they said I would be back in the water in 6 weeks. I was, but not to swim. I had the surgery in August and did not swim a full workout until Dec. In Jan I swam the hour swim. No fly allowed until later. I was 55 or 56 at the time. I had an RC full thickness tear repaired in april 2005 and was ready to swim in July, I don't know if that was the dr. or what (different surgeons). Now I have a tear in the left shoulder and the MRI showed all kinds of arthritis there, which the right shoulder never had, so this makes me wonder if the first operation didn't set up the conditions for arthritis to develop.

Nancy Ridout
January 30th, 2006, 08:07 PM

Thanks for the update! I'll bet you're glad it over. Remember to take it slowly. No one takes this advice to heart until it's too late but...a word to the wise. Be the first one!

Make some goals that are technique oriented, kick a lot and improve your core strength, learn new drills, feel your stroke - anything but speed goals and distance goals. I'll tell why. If you have speed and/or yardage goals you will up the ante every time you achieve one. We all tend to do that and it's not long before they are unrealistic for your rehab situation. Never forget that for many months you are in a recovery situation, you are a recovering injured athlete and in the long run going slowly now, will pay off down the road. Going too fast now will definitely impact your ability to be the best you can be (as a recovering injured athlete) in August for the Worlds.

Have fun with your recovery, improve your technique, enjoy being in the water, and treasure your opportunity for a second chance to do what you love.


Nancy Ridout
January 30th, 2006, 08:18 PM

You'll never know why your left shoulder now shows arthritic changes, but it doesn't necessarily point to a bad repair earlier. With my 3 surgeries, the first one was considered to be the most serious - so many full thickness tears you could see through the shoulder - but actually, the arthroscopic bone repair on the other shoulder turned out to be the most serious. There were arthritic changes that caused the doctor to doubt that I could ever swim again at the level I aspired to. He told me he wished he could get me to try another sport. The first surgery had nothing to do with it, it was the result of poor technique, heavy weight training, etc. that caused the changes on one shoulder and not the other - the luck of genetics I guess.

The result was that the doctor told me I could never put any weight on that shoulder again - ever. No pushups, getting out of the pool over the edge, nothing that would put all my weight on my shoulders.

So far, so good. I'm swimming and after two 1/2 years training with lots of intensity. Hang in there and good luck!


January 30th, 2006, 10:46 PM
Nancy....thanks for checking up on me...yes, I'm glad the operation is behind me, not because I had any qualms about it, but because I'm now that much closer to being a recovered subacromial decompressionite....I'm sure I was one of their most enthusiastic patients veritably leaping onto the gurney and plugging the IV into the vein myself wilst cheering encouragement to the surgeon as I faded into anesthetic oblivion....I was so excited I thought I'd burst, having tried nearly every other feasible remedy, to no avail, and, believing surgery to be my deliverence I was like a kid waiting for christmas morning....

yes, but that was the easy part and I now, only lately understand the difficulty and importance of the next phase...I have heard the "now..take it slow Bruce" so many times I'm actually starting to believe it...I mean REALLY believe it and understand it, and its been absolutely necessary for me to hear it so many times because otherwise, the advise would make nary a dent in my prideful armor of hubris....the whole concept runs counter intuitive to the psyche of a proud and aging athlete because we, as a group (you included I'm sure) are people of action and the success of this lies with inaction....an almost unbearable paradox and so difficult....until I began adjusting my mindset, I found myself vowing to set a record for quickest recovery...fastest to discard the sling...fastest to put a sweater on over my head...if the therapist prescribed 2 sets of 10 reps I wanted to do 4 sets of 20...I'd "make" the best recovery happen onstead of "letting" the recovery happen....

...I'm gradually accepting the concept...but, man, it ain't easy....

thanks for your thoughts
rereading this I seem the tortured soul...It's not like that...I'm ok, really...Bruce