About time for another update I guess, again it’s been a long while! Put on your buoys and paddles people, this is going to be a long one.
Unfortunately, things are still not much improved since I last wrote. After what I will call “The Incident” at month 8, I have been stuck in a frustrating cycle of setbacks. These cycles typically involve a few weeks of doing well – I can swim the entire workout with no gear and actually push myself/put effort into my strokes - followed by an “incident” which makes my shoulder “die” and I’m right back at the start again – kicking and swimming with fins, can’t put any effort into my stokes, and have to severely modify the workouts.
(Let me explain what I mean when I say that my shoulder “dies”. I am mostly talking about severe weakness and notable muscle atrophy in my shoulder/arm area, especially in my tricep. There isn’t really much pain involved, and it doesn’t seem to affect my flexibility. Sometimes I will also get a heavy/dull ache in various places around my shoulder, and more often I get a pinchy feeling or knot behind my upper shoulder blade. With minor incidents, my arm just feels a bit weak after activity - be it swimming or my PT exercises - but a few days rest will take care of it. With major incidents, I can barely hold the weight of my own arm up, and I can literally just watch my muscle shrink before my eyes. At its worst, I will attempt to flex my arm, but *nothing* happens. What is driving me nuts is that I have not been able to determine what exactly makes my shoulder die, other than activity in general. It has died after doing PT, after swimming, and it seems that it sometimes just dies without doing anything – though I suspect that things like doing the dishes or inadvertently sleeping on it can cause its death as well. Most times the death is a delayed reaction of hours or even an entire day later - which makes it hard to determine the specific activity which triggered it.)
Around the holidays, I was doing quite well. I think I got a good 4 weeks in before I had another “incident” around Christmastime. It was a fairly minor one on the spectrum of things – but I had had enough. I was so frustrated and knew (again) that something wasn’t right. So back to the doctor I went. I didn’t go back to my surgeon this time, because I felt that what I had been experiencing was something beyond the usual setbacks in recovery. I mean, my surgery was a “success” in terms of fixing my shoulder so that it stayed in its socket – I haven’t had a subluxation or partial re-dislocation in 18 months now and that is a big deal LOL! At this point I just knew that I was experiencing wasn’t normal, and I again feared that something else had gone wrong somewhere in my shoulder.
So I went to a physiatrist, who for over 40 minutes thoroughly poked and prodded me, tested my range and strength, and asked lots of questions. At the time of my appointment, my shoulder had been recovering from the last incident and was doing OK. I guess the good news was that she did not find anything “else” wrong with my shoulder. The bad news was that I didn’t get much of an explanation for what might be wrong. She said that she thought that my “muscles could just be really locked up” and that we were “going to try a different approach” to the situation. She then referred me back to PT, but this time around I would be going to what they call “manual” PT for a “musculoskeletal disorder”. Even though she did not straight out say it, that type of referral along with my symptoms screams nerve damage to me.
It makes perfect sense actually that what I am experiencing is some sort of nerve damage. I mean, right there in my medical record it says “BRACHIAL PLEXUS INJURY” – something that I have had since I first dislocated my shoulder back in 2008. Before the surgery, I actually often dealt with symptoms such as shooting pains down my arm and into my hand, deep pins and needles, and I couldn't sleep on my left side at all. But after the surgery those symptoms basically went away. Occasionally now I do feel subtle pins and needles, but it is nothing compared to before and the night time discomfort is gone for the most part. However, at this point I really do feel that the nerve damage is still there, and it is now perhaps manifesting itself in a different form (ie, episodes of sudden atrophy).
So that is basically where I am now. I do plan on going back to the physiatrist again soon to further discuss all of this, and hopefully pinpoint what could be causing the flare ups (or shut downs, rather). In the meantime, I have had two sessions of “manual” PT, and let’s just say I am not overly hopeful about it. Basically half of the session is spent on doing the same old exercises, and the other half is the PT doing “manual” work on my shoulder – basically deep massage. The physiatrist assured me that manual PT was “not massage” but I beg to differ, at least from what I’ve experienced so far. I think that any well-trained sports LMT could provide the same treatment (including the one I have been seeing bi-monthly for some time now). If in fact I do have nerve damage, then the one thing that will truly help me is TIME. Yet more time……sigh. The fact that my muscles are able to recover at any rate at all is a good sign I guess.
Before I sign off, I just want to acknowledge how much of a mental roller coaster the last few months have been, especially the last few weeks. It is SO frustrating. It has almost gotten to the point where going to the pool has become a negative experience (right now I am only going twice a week). I am trying VERY hard to keep thinking positively and it can be extremely difficult to at times. There may or may not have been tears behind the goggles at times, because this is so damn frustrating. It’s hard to feel like you’re doing everything you can to help yourself – PT, acupuncture, massage, drugs, EVERYTHING – and you have nothing to show for it. It’s hard to jump in the pool and feel so WEAK when the pool is what has made you feel so strong before.
But I am so lucky to have incredible teammates who have given me so much support. I swim with a group of wonderful women (and dudes) who have been through it all – multiple surgeries, failed surgeries, even CANCER for god’s sake! They overcome it and eventually get back to doing what they love – and they are damn good at it too as they whoop my arse ALL the time! I try to think about them when things seem hopeless. I hope that I am able to be in their shoes (fins) a decade or two from now and look back on this time and have it be all worth it……
Updated February 4th, 2014 at 09:16 PM by swimslick
Long time no blog. To be honest, the last few months have been quite frustrating. Lots of low points which haven’t left me motivated to keep up with this thing. Let’s just say that my positive and semi-linear path of improvements were thwarted somewhere around early July (month 8). I had been doing so well, and suddenly things went waaaaay downhill. Massive setback so to speak.
Can’t pinpoint the exact cause, but back in early July it was like my shoulder just went ka-put. Went really dead, got super weak and numbingly painful at all times, even just sitting around. Really didn’t feel right. Naturally I got quite concerned so I went back to my surgeon, afraid that I had injured some other part of my shoulder or something. I had x-rays and some tests done but nothing was out of the ordinary. “Stuff like this isn’t abnormal” she said. Sigh. Least to say that my summer of glorious outdoor swimming did not go as planned!
So I basically started over, like in a major way this time. I put back on the fins and kicked for several weeks and slowly added back in some swimming. Again I’m super careful with balancing weights/PT and swimming as its proving to be such a delicate balance for me. I do one set of reps too many and I will pay the price in the pool, and vice versa. Right now I’m swimming full workouts again (fins go on after the main set), but 3 days a week max followed by ice. I’m doing bits of all 4 strokes with no issues, so that’s good. I just have to keep my yardage in check and make sure I get enough recovery time in between workouts. It seems that I do best when I follow a schedule of one day on – two days off, but it can be difficult to stick to that (not to mention that its far less that what I’d like to be doing). Sometimes I have to decide between only having 1 day in between workouts or 4 days – and sometimes I reluctantly go with the 4 days off, because now I know better lol. I’ve only just started pushing myself again speed-wise. I’m still quite reserved, but that’s OK. Purgatory and I are BFFs at this point.
Admittedly it’s been very difficult to stay positive throughout all of this. It is hard when you see all your progress just ~erased~ like that. At this point I feel that I’m fairly behind compared to where I thought I would be at this point. It has been a real test of patience, which I am getting better at mastering, but it’s still tough. It still hasn’t been a year yet, which I remind myself constantly.
Sometimes I wonder if I pushed it too hard at the beginning of this journey. Other times I just wish I had a good chunk of cash so I could afford to see REAL sport-specific specialists who could have helped me through all of this (though insurance is covering some acupuncture and I have been getting massage 2x month). Sometimes I kick myself for not having the surgery sooner, and I wonder how things would be if I didn’t let my shoulder re-dislocate all those times over the years. And then sometimes think I should just take a month off (honestly wouldn’t know what to do with myself…..).
Lots of shoulda coulda woulda, but I try not to think too much about it. I try and let the sounds of being underwater drown it all out
Updated October 16th, 2013 at 01:11 PM by swimslick
So after 3 weeks in the "Sweet Spot", I decided to attempt swimming 2 days in a row. This was 2 weeks ago now, and I am still recovering
At this point I know that whenever I get soreness that won't go away after 2 practices or so, its time for some 'extended' rest. So I took myself out of the pool for 3 days in row last weekend, and when I returned I had a great practice and felt good afterwards. The next day, since I was feeling OK, I decided to do my usual round of shoulder exercises/physical therapy upkeep. Well that apparently over-did things and now I am sore and weaksauce again! UGGGGHHHHH. Its been a while since I have been this sore....back to the point where just folding laundry and doing dishes will give me that 'dead arm' feeling. HIttin up the ice and NSAIDS…..which of course means that I've over done it - AGAIN!
I've got to say that I am getting pretty sick of this stupid cycle. Still learning I guess. Its just difficult to distinguish between a) the feeling of fatigue that I will recover quickly from and that serves to make me stronger; and b) the feeling of fatigue that takes me over the edge and ends up setting me back a few weeks. It is a balancing act, thats for sure!
Its also hard because I remember how good I felt when I was mostly kicking and doing multiple daily sessions of shoulder exercises. I felt really strong, but I was really keeping things in check. Even though I was in the pool just as often as I am now, I wasn't doing nearly as much actual swimming. But its still hard not to get frustrated when my shoulder is feeling weak, because I feel that it should only be getting stronger. But then I have to remind myself of the toll that swimming really does take on my shoulder. Thinking about my PT routine, I do about 3 sets of 10-15 reps for a few different exercises…. so we're talking like 200 reps total for one session. But how many "reps" are involved with just 100 yards of freestyle? LOTS. (I figure about 28-30 left arm strokes.) And how many 100s have I been putting myself through lately? LOTS! (So about 1000 left arm strokes or more, 3 days a week.) So I need to continually remind myself of that……
Sigh. So my plan at the moment is to go back to kick-only workouts for the next week or two. There is really no other way to kick this soreness other than by giving my sad and tired shoulder a break for a while. Le suck! I also set up an appointment for a sports massage, which I am thinking about splurging on for a few sessions to help me get back on my way. This scar tissue has got to go, that is for sure!
Updated June 24th, 2013 at 07:16 PM by swimslick
Wow, long time no update! Let's see…..I think its been 29 weeks and 3 days since the surgery now!
I guess you could say that for the past 6 weeks or so I have been on cruise control. I came to realization that I probably pushed myself a bit too hard going into the meet at the end of April. I guess I just needed to prove to myself that I could 'go there', but I am glad that I did it because helped show me that it could be done and that I will eventually get back to the way things were Since then I have scaled back quite a bit, not so much yardage wise but intensity-wise. Taking things slow this time around and not pushing too hard!
I've still been keeping up a 3x per week (10-12k) practice schedule since the meet, however its only been the last 2-3 weeks that I can truly say that I've felt 'normal' again. I was quite sore for several weeks (beginning before the meet), but lately I have been virtually pain-free to the point where I'm doing full, mostly non-modified workouts again (the snorkel still comes out fairly often, mainly for sets/portions of sets that involve 200+ intervals)…..plus no NSAIDs or ice needed lately! Haven't felt my arm go numb in quite a while so thats always a good sign! The plan is to hang out here for a while and maintain for a bit. On occasion I do feel my RIGHT shoulder getting a little sore, so I do feel that I am slightly unbalanced still and my right shoulder can sometimes get a bit overloaded. I'm also still working on getting some more strokes in….. I've been throwing out a 25/50 of back or fly here and there without much issue so it feels time to slowly add in more.
Other shoulder-related things I've learned/noticed:
- FINALLY able to sleep more on my left side without irritation/pain. The time that I can sleep on my left side without having to shift has noticeably increased - woohoo!
- Flexibility has also increased. Can easily lie down on my back with both arms overhead and resting on the ground. External rotation still feels pretty stiff….but I also don't expect to fully get that range back. Luckily it doesn't really impact the swimming so much. Otherwise I'm feeling that I've got 95% of my flexibility back!
- Strength is a different story, still not quite there yet. Like I said above I can definitely feel some imbalances in the water, and those imbalances become quite obvious when you can tell you're not swimming in straight line! Definitely a bit of 'lean' to my stroke sometimes, evidenced by frequently hitting the lane line with my right hand lol. Lets hope there are no finger injuries in the future!
- Related to working on strength, I have learned that it is no bueno if I go too long without doing my shoulder exercises. My shoulder will get weaksauce and then get sore real quick if I slack! I've found that its not so much the Y's and T's and rubber band stuff that makes the difference however, but more the smaller isometric exercises. The one that I make sure to do the most often is the 'reverse pendulum' with a 3-5lb weight….which just involves lying on your back holding the weight straight up in the air, and then twirling your arm around in various size circles and at different angles until its somewhat overhead. Works a charm!
Anywho, not much else to report! I'm pretty much just hanging out in the right lane for now. I've seemed to have found my 'sweet spot' for now so I don't want to jinx anything haha. The outdoor swim season has begun and I have been enjoying working on my tan If things continue to go smoothly I will turn on my blinker and starting moving left over the next few months!
Happy to report that I have survived my first meet at 6 months post-surgery
After over-doing it the week before and suffering the consequences, I was pretty nervous going into this meet. Wasn't sure how I would feel, had no idea what to expect, etc. I just knew I had to survive! I had overdone it the week before the meet, and I was so sore that I imposed a 3-day NO swimming taper on myself. My last (crappy) practice before the meet was Tuesday and I didn't get in the water until warm up on Saturday morning! During warm-ups things were feeling pretty sore still. I didn't want to over-do it again so I only did about a 400 and then 2 starts/breakouts which felt OK on the shoulder.
I was signed up for 50 SCM free, 100 breast, and was on the roster for both relays on Day 1. Day 2 I had the 100 free, 50 breast, and both relays again. Before the 50 free on Day 1, I was laughing and thinking to myself, 'Why the hell did I sign up for the fastest, most intense event there is in this sport as my first race back from surgery?!' I had seeded myself at a :35.5 and I went a :34.0, so that was OK I thought. I made sure to start things out slow and sort of get the feel for it and build into it if I could. Halfway through the second lap I felt a fairly sharp tinge in my shoulder, and after the race I could feel that I was still really, really sore. I cooled down a bit and immediately took some NSAIDs, got out the ice pack (and I iced after every race), and wondered if things were only going to get worse over the meet.
But it turns out that things only got better! I actually ended up doing 3 more 50 frees over the weekend as part of the relays. This really helped me gauge my range of improvement, which was as follows:
Indv 50 free - 34.0
Relay #1 - 32.8
Relay #2 - 31.4
Relay #4 - 31.1 (Day 2, last race of the meet, dead tired)
At first I just assumed that the relay start gave me an advantage on that first relay, but it became clear that I was actually improving as the meet went on. Apparently I just had to warm up a bit! My shoulder actually felt BETTER as the meet went on….not sure how to explain that (adrenaline? def was not the altitude….). I am very pleased because at this meet last year I was splitting :30.5-:30.8. Heck, I swam this event back in October two weeks before my surgery and did a :30.9 flat start. So I am very encouraged by this! Not so bad at 6 months post-surgery!
Other meet highlights:
100 breast - Seeded 1:41 and went 1:35.7. Never swam this event in SCM before so nothing to compare to, so that and the fact that I am the furthest thing from being a breaststroker helped make it fun lol!
100 free - Seeded myself at 1:19 and went 1:11! Swam this in a 1:09 two weeks before my surgery. Glad I wasn't the only massive sandbagger in my heat….
50 breast - Seeded :45.5 and went :43.9. Did a :42.2 before the surgery. I was really feeling this one as the 100 free and relay #3 were both within an hour before this event!
Big meet highlight:
Women's 200 medley relay (relay #3) - I DID A 50 FLY!!!!! Coach had me down for fly, and I was immediately like "Did you not remember that I am only doing free at breast at the moment?!" So I was going to switch strokes with my teammate but then I decided why the hell not? I literally had not taken one stroke of butterfly since early November. So I did a couple strokes during my cool down after the 100 free and decided to just go for it. Well, I survived! I did feel a bit sore after but that soon dissipated. What sucks is that I have no idea what my split was due to touchpad and/or breaststroker error!! Argh! It feels like it was a 33-high/34-low? But I have no idea. Sigh.
- Seems like my shoulder can handle short distance/higher intensity at the moment, at least better than long distance/lower intensity
- Underwaters, I have them And they are stronger than ever, which really helped me out at this meet I think.
- 72 hour no-swim tapers *may* have beneficial properties
So, back to a normal routine. The shoulder is feeling pretty good again, and I don't seem to have any residual soreness from the meet. I am going to SLOWLY ease back into regular workouts again, and will try not to overdo it this time! I know my current limit and will try and do whatever it takes to move forward while limiting the setbacks. It has definitely been an interesting past couple of weeks with all the ups and downs I've experienced! LCM season is right around the corner and next meet won't be until August so there's plenty of time for improvement. I am SO GLAD that I survived this first meet….it was a great confidence-builder and it feels good to hop over yet another fence! Woo hoo!
Well, I've got to suck it up and admit that I've overdone it.
Was feeling great so I ended up doing 5 workouts over 8 days, about 3600 average per practice. I was sorta feeling it during that 5th practice but I decided to push through since I had been doing so well the past week or so. I am paying for it now! Hot damn my shoulder is killing me! Very sore, feels like it is going to fall off again, etc. I threw in the goggles after 2000 yards last night.....so frustrating because I could feel that my shoulder was beyond fatigued but my cardiovascular system was still rearing to go. Bah! Was not expecting to hit another threshold so soon! Looks like I'll need to scale back for a while longer. I need to keep reminding myself that I'm just 6 months out at this point...what do I expect?
And I am supposed to race this weekend !!!!
The plan: Ice and medicate like hell and not swim at all until warm-up at the meet on Friday evening (not racing until Saturday). At least I now I am well acquainted with this feeling, and I know that rest is the only fix for it. Hopefully 72 hours out of the pool will do the trick. Hows that for a taper!? LOL
Updated April 24th, 2013 at 01:43 PM by swimslick
You know you're on the other side of the fence when:
- You arm no longer feels like its going to fall off at the end of practice
- You can swim 2 days in a row with only very minimal soreness that doesn't even call for ice
- Your arm doesn't go numb when you decide to push the pace
- Your PT no longer wants to see you!
Yep, pretty much able to do full distance workouts now! Its a lot of work to just keep up with my lane mates but I'm doing it! Still sticking to mainly free and breast....I've ditched the fins but I'm keeping the snorkel on for most of the main set still. I did 3600 yards on Sunday and a 3850 Monday and felt pretty good! Normally I wouldn't swim 2 days in a row quite yet but my schedule got tripped up for a bit. Breathing on the right is still a bit difficult but I'm forcing myself to do it so I don't widen any imbalances that I have right now. While the intensity isn't there yet the endurance is definitely back!
I signed up for our association's meet at the end of the month (free and breast sprints) so we'll see how that goes! I'm a bit nervous about handing the starts/dives, but it will be a good exercise for my shoulder and I so we can start trusting each other again, lol. Its actually been pretty funny......as the meet draws near, coach has been having us practice our underwaters. Lately we've been ending our workouts with 8-10 x 25s, half underwater kick-out and half swim. Let's just say I am CRUSHING my teammates on the first half of those 25s.....then they all crush me on the latter half lol.
Next month: a butterfly attempt!
Grass is definitely greener.....hello spring!
Updated April 17th, 2013 at 04:54 PM by swimslick
So yesterday was the 20 week mark! And I must say things seem to be going along ~swimmingly~ at this point, haha!
I seemed to have finally kicked the major soreness I wrote about last month. At my last writing I was about to go out of town for 4 days and I decided that I would do NOTHING shoulder-related during that time, not even my PT exercises or stretches. Well, that seemed to do the trick! I guess I just had to listen to my body and take a bit of rest. I’m not sure what my PT will say about this, but I don’t think I’ll care anyway since it feels like I did the right thing. Right after that long weekend I went back to the pool and felt GREAT….and things have just been picking up since then!
As of yesterday I was able to do a whole 500 yards freestyle non-stop after diving in for warm up, woo hoo! And on top of that, I was able to complete the entire 1500 yard main (freestyle) set with my zoomers and snorkel. So that’s a whole 2000 yards of swimming right there at 5 months post-surgery. Very stoked about that! (And I know I’ve said this before, but I again must give mad props to my snorkel. Seriously people, best. tool. ever!!! Not having to turn my head to breathe has been SO valuable at this point in my recovery. The snorkel has actually been an instrumental tool throughout my entire process thus far. Best $30 ever spent….I <3 my snorkel lol!)
It’s crazy how exhausting these practices have been. I am just moderately swimming along doing about 1:25/100yd pace WITH the zoomers and I feel like I am going to DIE afterwards lol. But I hope this progression can continue at this rate and I can get back to my old self soon. Right now I just want to focus on getting the yardage/endurance back. Still icing after every practice but no need for nsaids at the moment. I still haven’t really attempted much backstroke yet….I’m a bit wary of it actually since the first few strokes I did take were nowhere near comfortable. Backstroke was the most irritating to my shoulder before the surgery, so I’m in no rush. At least I got my underwaters all ready to go lol!
Yowza, the shoulder has been acting up quite a bit the last few weeks! Its hard to pinpoint the exact cause due to multiple possible contributing factors:
1. During my last PT appointment (which was 2 weeks ago now), I got quite a good stretch. I have my appointments in the morning, so when my PT reported that I hadn’t made any progress in my external rotation, I assured her that I most definitely had made progress and that my shoulder just wasn’t warmed up yet. So I got a bit of a stretch to help out with that, which turned out to be quite intensive and I feel like I’m still recovering from it. Note to self: next time (god forbid there is a next time) make series of PT appointments for the afternoon. I have noticed that I am definitely more flexible later in the day compared to mornings (makes perfect sense though).
2. New PT exercises. I am usually sore for a few days after I start new exercises…..but I think my latest set may be especially challenging since I’m literally at the “home stretch” (no pun intended, ha). Currently working on lots of muscle strengthening in extended/outstretched positions at the moment.
3. Swimming. Currently I’ve worked up to about a 600-700 freestyle per practice…..slowly but surely. I’ve still been kicking for most of the sets but I have been swimming the last length of each interval (with fins and snorkel most of the time). Last practice I did a whole ~100~ in a row, which was doable but challenging. I also DOVE into the pool as well for the first time in forever last week which was awesome! But yeah, I am definitely feeling it and it is still going to be a looooooong while before I feel any sense of normalcy.
So pretty much I think this combination of factors is hitting especially hard at the moment. My shoulder is SORE as HELL and I am occasionally getting pins and needles again. This is the probably the most pain/soreness I have experienced in my shoulder since the initial weeks after my surgery. I’ve taken up daily icing again and have been hitting the bottle of ibuprofen pretty hard. Haven’t been sleeping very well either (sleeping could also be a contributing factor)….just can’t get comfortable. Thinking about re-building the pillow fort to see if that helps. Ugh!
I’m also trying to find a balance between doing my PT stuff and swimming. I almost feel like right now it’s either one or the other. On my swim days (3x a week) I hardly do any PT exercises besides a bit of stretching early in the day, because if I did both I feel like my shoulder would probably fall off! I’m feeling like maybe my shoulder just needs a good bit of rest. I’m about to have 4 days in a row out of the pool, so I am going to try to scale back the PT exercises too and we’ll see if that does the trick. For now I think I might just kick the entire workout tonight since my shoulder is SO sore right now…..sigh.
Just have to share.....
So I went to PT this morning, and my regular therapist had another PT (with 'better swimming knowledge') come over and show me how I should modify my stroke to help protect my shoulder from now on. Let me just say, it took everything in my power to not laugh out loud and legitimately do an actual *facepalm* in front of her.
So apparently I need to:
- increase the roll in my stroke so that my elbow never goes behind my body (rotate, but no high elbows!)
- enter the water thumb first
This will ensure that the deltoid will do most of the work, and that it should protect my rotator cuff and help prevent impingement.
Of course, she proceeds to demonstrate and I just sit there and and
First, NO. Second, I have no problems with my rotator cuff or impingement issues....my problem was shoulder instability which is completely different! Of course, I'm sure she didn't realize that, but it was bad advice no matter what! Ahhhh, the downsides of an HMO......lol. And I know my own stroke isn't perfect, but I can definitely tell you bad form when I see it!
Anyway, I am almost done with PT. My next appointment isn't until the first week of April! Until then I am supposed to work on my 'end range' stretching and strengthening. It has actually been a bit hard keeping up with my PT routine lately, as a) now that I am swimming more, I don't want to overdo/overuse for the time being; and b) I feel more normal lately, so its harder for me to feel that I *have* to do them. Of course, I will need to manage and protect my shoulder from other injuries down the road as I age.....but for now if my shoulder can stay in its socket, then I feel that I'm golden lol!
Wow, its been a while! OK ok, so its actually been 3.5 months since my surgery…..but if you want to get technical about it, it has been 16 weeks to the day! Which means 4 months in my opinion And today I can officially start spinning the arms again….woo hoo!
Last time I wrote I was cleared to start doing breaststroke, which I have been doing just fine with the past few weeks. It took a few practices for my shoulder to get the hang of things again and I slowly worked my way up to about 400-500 worth of breaststroke per practice. This might not sound like much to some of you out there, but know that breaststroke is my worst stroke and I would almost rather kick than swim it lol!! I have also been getting in 400-500 worth of sculling (all types) per practice as well. So for about the past 2-3 weeks now my workouts have been approximately two-thirds kick and one-third breaststroke and/or sculling. I am also now doing full streamlines (though they still feel a bit stiff) off the walls and am able to keep my left arm up and out while doing one-arm fly and free. The streamlines alone have made a huge difference for me in the water….it has brought back a lot of balance and grace to my swimming lol! So it has been a good few weeks of warm up for my shoulder I’d say.
So, tonight I get to *officially* start swimming freestyle…but since I am so impatient I *may* have already attempted a few strokes or so. Last Monday I simply did a 25, then Wednesday I did a 150 or so, and Saturday I did a whopping 300 throughout the entire practice (broken into 25s at time, using fins AND snorkel). Of course my shoulder is still a bit stiff as my range isn’t completely back yet, but it’s slowly getting there. So far it feels OK though while I’m in the water. As soon as I get out however….it feels sore as hell! I can definitely feel it right after practice and during the drive home, but an hour later I don’t even notice it anymore, so that’s good (same pattern occurred after I first started sculling and breaststroke too). I also know that it can’t just be my shoulder that I am feeling…..cause man, my arms and upper body right now are WEAKSAUCE. Just about two weeks ago I finally noticed the reappearance of some muscle definition in my left arm (thank you sculling!), but my upper body muscle has definitely atrophied. And of course meanwhile my legs are completely jacked up and I’m walking around like I’m about to fall over all the time. Talk about muscle imbalance! lol.
Anyway, so now the fun really begins! I don’t have an exact plan yet for building back up to normal workouts, but I know that I’ll be keeping the fins on for a while longer and will make good use of the snorkel to get things going. As soon as I build back up to being able to swim reasonable distances, I can ditch the toys. I do plan on attempting some backstroke soon so we’ll see how that goes! I know butterfly will still have to wait a bit – I’m thinking at least 8 more weeks until I even attempt it (my surgeon says that I shouldn’t do it at all ….*knee slap* bwahahaha!).
And believe it or not – I have a goal of swimming at our Association championship meet at the end of April! It will be 24 weeks out from surgery then. The registration deadline isn’t until 2 weeks beforehand, so of course I still have lots of time to feel things out and see how they go. But I don’t’ see any reason why I couldn’t at least do a breaststroke event or two and help the team out on some relays. We shall see I guess!!
Not much to report lately as new developments are slower to come these days. On a daily basis I don’t even notice my shoulder any more…..unless I am doing my PT exercises or I am in the pool, things are feeling fairly normal! I’ve steadily continued to improve with my range of motion and right now I’d say I’ve got 70-80% of my full range back. It’s been almost 3 months since the surgery (11 weeks, 2 days) so I’d say that’s pretty good! I can get into a streamline position fairly easily now
I see my surgeon for my 3 month follow up at the beginning of February. My PT wants me to ask her if she wants me to continue PT until I get 100% of my full range back, or if I should slow down and hang out around 90% or so for a while. The theory is that my range will fully come back in time, so it’s more about becoming too loose too quickly. I imagine that I’ll loosen up quite a bit after I start swimming again, so no huge reason to rush back to 100% when 90% may be better for the long term for now. In fact many of my measurements are actually considered ‘normal’ at this point, even though I still have a bit more to go to match up with my other shoulder. However that isn’t a bad thing since my other shoulder is, of course, quite flexible and could be considered a bit loose anyway.
I’m hoping after my 3 month visit that I will get clearance to start doing some breaststroke and get a better idea of what my timeline will be for getting back to regular strokes. Until then, I am still in kicking purgatory. And it is definitely purgatory!! It’s been a love/hate relationship the past few weeks, that’s for sure. There are days where I feel all lonely in the gutter lane while I watch my teammates zoom by, but at the same time I am just thankful to be in the water. I constantly have to remind myself that I knew exactly what I was getting into, and that this is for the long term, and that I’m still putting in the time. It is frustrating though because I just want the time to go by faster, yet I know that there really is no rush. Such conflicting feelings!
I’ve still been averaging 2500-3000 3x per week, which is about as much as I can do if I want to keep my legs from feeling like complete jello. My legs are sore ALL the time these days and I can definitely feel it with just one flight of stairs! My ankles are also super sore and crazy flexible right now too, so my big fear at the moment is that I’m going to trip, stumble, and/or fall and re-injure my shoulder, lol. Coach says its time to start weaning off the fins so that might help a bit with the soreness (but not with the boredom! lol).
To help combat the kicking purgatory I’ve also started to re-vamp my gym routine. I’ve recently been given the OK to start using some of the upper body weight machines so I’m really starting to focus on strengthening work again. I’ve upped the weight/resistance on a lot of my PT exercises and have been incorporating a lot of core work too. Last year I literally focused the entirety of my strengthening work on my shoulder(s), so I’m trying to bring back some balance now that I don’t have to worry about my shoulder as much
Till next time….which will probably be in breaststroke purgatory
Still kicking along, averaging 3 practices a week for the past 3 weeks. Getting in about 23-2500 per practice, but I did a solid 3000 on New Years day practice just to start 2013 off right! Gotta say that my legs have been feeling pretty dead lately, and I anticipate that my pants will fit tighter in the thigh area soon lol.
Last time I mentioned that I had purchased a training snorkel, and I must say this might be the best swim toy EVER. Makes kicking on my stomach with my arms at my side a total breeze, even though looking at all the dirt and hairballs at the bottom of the pool gets a little boring after a while lol (sometimes I try to imagine the hairballs and bandaids as tropical fish and corals). But I could literally kick all day long with my snorkel. It’s amazing how relaxed you become and how your swimming transforms when you have a full and unrestricted supply of air…and I’m just kicking! I cannot wait to use it with strokes and drills when my shoulder is all healed. I can already feel my core and my lungs getting stronger. I’ve been called a ‘roller’ with my freestyle before and coach was always telling me to ‘anchor my vessel’….so spending several weeks doing nothing but kicking on the straight and narrow will only help! Also, apparently kicking this way is allowing me to practice true ‘forward’ kicking rather than ‘upwards’ kicking that you do when using a kickboard (read this in some USMS training article). So if you don’t already use a training snorkel I highly recommend you give it a try! What an awesome tool!
Still making improvements at PT….had my appointment earlier this week and I am improving spot on schedule. Forward flexation is now at 160 degrees (last session was 152) which is actually considered in the ‘normal’ range, but I still have a bit further to go to match the flexibility of my other arm. External rotation was at 55 (last session 50) and this time my lateral external rotation (lying down with my arm abducted at 90 degrees) was measured, and that was 70 degrees (normal range 80-90, so I’m definitely on track!). I was then put through a few isometic strength tests which I easily passed. I left with one additional exercise to do with weights and I was upgraded to the next stretch band level. Officially going to PT every other week now!
Been to 4 practices since I got clearance to kick 9 days ago….so far so good! I’ve been kicking in the ‘executive’ lane, aka the gutter lane. It’s actually very roomy – about 4ft wide when the pool is setup long course (just have to watch out for the ladders) and even wider when in short course. Very executive indeed!
I was only out of the pool for 5 weeks and 4 days but as soon as I hit the water I felt like I was going to cry chlorinated tears of joy lol. Right now I cannot use a kick board and I can only use one arm while I keep my other arm at my side. I started off my first day back with a whole 1000 (my intent was to get to 500, but I just had to keep going cause it felt so awesome!), then I upped it to 2000 and then for the last 2 workouts I’ve gotten in a 2500, which is about all the kicking I can do in a workout right now before I’m bored out of my mind lol (takes me about an hour using short fins most of the time). I do flutter/fly kick on my stomach and back….sometimes with both arms at my side and sometimes with my good arm stretched out, and then breaststroke kick on my back. I’ve been throwing in some side kicking and underwater dolphin dives too. Pretty much I’m just swimming along and doing my own sets and just getting the feel for the water again. Still taking it pretty easy….the few times I attempted to get up to speed it quickly became cramp city! Gotta ease back into it. But I’m just thrilled to be back in the water again!
Coach also suggested that I try out a training snorkel, which I’ve never used before. So I ordered the FINIS one and will be testing that out soon…..looks like it will really help me hone in on body alignment and using my core. So yay, new toy! I’m all for getting back to basics as well as trying out new things while I’m in kicking purgatory!
I think in another 6 weeks I will move on up and get clearance to do some breaststroke…..never in my life have I been so excited to do some breaststroke! Seriously, it’s my worst stroke and I despise it, but I shall be forced to improve lol. Really looking forward to all kinds of progress in 2013!
PS - No PT progress to report this week as my PT was out sick. Won’t see her til Monday. But I gotta say that I have seen some huge improvements in my everyday functional activities. I can now easily wash my hair, reach up and get things from high shelves, and even carefully reach out to close my car door! Still no external abduction or extension movements, but its interesting how non-essential those movements are for everyday functionality....
Updated December 29th, 2012 at 05:46 PM by swimslick
Today my PT gave me clearance to get back to the pool to start kicking! Such a great feeling and it has totally made my day! Technically my surgeon said that I could get back in at 6 to 8 weeks. Today I am at 5 weeks and 3 days. Part of me wants to be good and wait EXACTLY 6 weeks, but I’m about to go out of town for the holiday and I don’t wait to wait until I get back! I figure there’s no harm as long as I’m careful….I mean its not like I’m going to jump in and kick 3000 yards or anything. I figure for my first workout back I’ll get an easy 500-600 kick in and then hit the hot tub. Basically I just want to suit up and get wet….so I think I might head to the pool tomorrow night! *excited*
I think my PT gave me the go ahead because I made really good improvements this week. Forward flexation is at 152 degrees (last week 145, plus my max on my good shoulder is 165….soooo close to a proper streamline!!) and external rotation is at 50, up 15 degrees since last week! I’ve also been hitting up the gym for the past 1.5 weeks and getting 20-30 minute cardio sessions in on the elliptical….ie, I’ve been doing all my homework and I have earned a gold star, yay! I am also officially ditching my shoulder brace for good
New exercises for the week include two gentle external abduction stretches, and one very slight extension (behind the back) exercise. I’ve also graduated to 3 pound weights for my bent over rows and tricep exercises, lol. Couldn’t be more trilled though! And after next week I switch to every-other week appointment schedule. Meaning that the show is finally packed up and ready to hit road! Let’s go!
Today it has been exactly one month since my surgery, and this week has thankfully been much better compared to last. After attempting to adjust back to normal life last week, I got a bit overwhelmed and that resulted in a low-grade fever and slight sickness. But luckily it only lasted a day or two and I was able to sleep it off. I attempted to work a full week last week but only ended up working 27 hours…oh well. Since then I think I’ve finally adjusted as my sleeping seems to have returned to normal patterns and my energy level is much improved. I think I’ll actually make it through this week, and will be able to get in a few light cardio sessions at the gym as well. I haven’t had proper cardio exercise in a MONTH now so it’s definitely time to start building back up!
Because of last week I didn’t think I’d see much improvement with my range of movement at PT, but I did still manage to make some progress. This week I’m at 145 degrees forward flexation (last week 138) and external rotation is at 35 degrees (last week 30). My PT wants me to ease up a bit on the forward flexation, since now I’m above where I should be (I’m like 10-15 degrees away from a decent streamline position ), but I still need to keep working on the external rotation. This week I get to add bicep and tricep exercises using light weights, and I also get to start weaning myself off the shoulder brace! I can have it off while at home and at work, but I should keep wearing it whilst coming/going and when I’m out and about in public places. Honestly though, I’ve been weaning myself off for a while now already…..shhhhh. But mostly looking forward to not having to sleep in the damn thing.
Another milestone is that I can *finally* get my elbow high enough to tie my hair back and get my contact lenses in with ease. Victory!!! ….lol.
I’m also starting to get excited because 2 weeks from now I’ll hopefully get clearance from my PT to get back to the pool and start kicking!! I’m hoping Santa will bring me some new fins and socks for Xmas And then I will laugh at my teammates as they are tortured by holiday training while I’m fluttering around like a 6yr old….mwahahha! (Of course, we both will silently acknowledge that we would rather not be in my position….maybe lol).
Updated December 29th, 2012 at 05:54 PM by swimslick
Ugh, rough week so far.
Last week I was rearing to get back to work, as I was feeling quite stir-crazy after almost 3 weeks post-surgery. So on Friday I went in for a half day and then walked a half mile on the treadmill at the work gym. It felt so good to get out and get some brain stimulation (in the form of wading through hundreds of emails) and a bit of physical activity! Since that went well, on Monday I decided that I would work a full day and then walk an entire mile on the treadmill. I didn’t think that would be over doing it….if anything I would be nice and tired by the end of the day and then sleep really well.
Least to say I haven’t recovered from Monday yet. I don’t know why but since being back at work I am sleeping even more terribly than before, but not from any pain or discomfort. It’s like suddenly I have insomnia....just can’t fall asleep it seems, which has rarely been a problem for me. Make sense I guess….I’m one of those people who have a hard time falling asleep if I know I need to get up and go somewhere in the morning. I guess my brain juices are fast flowing again and I can’t get my mind to relax. Last night I went to bed at 10:30 and was still awake when I heard the clock chime at 2:30am. I know I’m physically tired….just getting up, showering, making myself look presentable, and then getting to work takes quite a bit of effort. By the time I sit down at my desk I am totally exhausted. I’m so out of shape! Lol.
Also, I’ve only been back in the office for 3 days now and I feel like I’m getting sick. Don’t know if it’s an actual bug or if I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed by getting back into the routine of things. I’ve had a couple moments of frustration and emotional release this week, so I’d say re-adjusting back into normal life has proved to be a bit of a challenge. Obviously I’m a bit stressed, but I’m unable to do what I’d normally do to deal with it (swim and/or sweat it out at the gym). Luckily I still have plenty of sick leave and a very understanding boss, and I’ve been given the OK to just go home early or come in late if I need to. In hindsight I should have just planned a gradual return to work schedule over a week or so…..few half days, few six hours days, etc etc. Though this would all be much easier if I could just catch some sleep!
Shoulder is doing well otherwise. I’m following my prescribed exercises exactly and have seen steady improvements over the past week. My forward flexation (lying down) is at 138 degrees today, which is spot on schedule at this point in recovery (should be 120-140 degrees at Week 4). My external rotation last week was only 10 degrees and this week I’m at 30, which is a good improvement but it’s still a bit shy of where it should be (35-45 degrees). So my PT upped my daily external rotation sets and gave me a few more stretches and movements to do. I also was given two yellow band exercises to add to my list today as well….woo hoo! Movin on up…..
So yeah, road is fairly rocky right now, but still moving forward
Had my post-op appointment yesterday and things are moving along as they should. I got my stitches taken out - its amazing how little external damage there is from the surgery. The 3 incisions are so small and the wounds are healing fast....by the time they are fully healed they will be barely detectable! Gotta love medical advances. Anyway, my surgeon asked how things were going and I told her overall things were well except for my night time troubles, which are totally normal. She showed me some before/after photos of my shoulder joint that were taken with the arthroscopic camera and walked me through the procedure steps, which was totally gross yet totally fascinating at the same time. Then she pointed out all the parts of my shoulder that are showing signs of arthritis which are not related to my initial injury. I said that I thought that most people start disintegrating after age 25 anyway, but then she said that this arthritis was a little more advanced for my age. So thanks for that, swimming! lol. I then scheduled a 3 month post-op appointment and was out the door.
So the last week has been fairly tolerable. I went out of town for the holiday, and my shoulder didn't like the 3+ hour car ride all that much. I was also sleeping in a different bed for a few nights and holidays in general are a bit stressful, but I survived. I have good days and bad days....some days doing my PT exercises are super easy and other days they are a struggle. Night times are getting better....I think I finally built the perfect pillow ramp a few days ago so things are a bit more comfortable. Last night was the first night that I didn't take any pain meds before bed, and while I woke up several times during the night it wasn't because of any pain. Progress!
I've been noticing other signs of progress too....like last week I was able to hold my coffee cup in my left hand, and this week I can easily carry my dinner plate, stuff like that I can totally feel my muscles starting to re-activate (hence all the twitching) and my strength and flexibility are definitely improving. Though I'm supposed to keep my arm immobile most of the time, getting all the little/daily things done is becoming much easier. I actually can't wait to start increasing my range of motion, cause things like putting my hair back and getting my contact lenses in are still challenging.
I'm also starting to crave those cardio endorphins again, so I know that I'm on the mend. When I think about exercising, my brain seems to automatically calculate how long its been since I've been in the pool. Today it has been 16 days.....which means that I am 16 days closer to getting back in
So things are definitely a bit more uncomfortable these days. The first 4 days after surgery were a breeze, but since starting PT on day 5 post-surgery, things have been more difficult. Makes sense, since things are healing and I'm supposed to be moving my arm around more. That combined with cutting back on the pain meds will do it. And I think its not really the passive exercises themselves which are killing me at this point....its just that doing them along with other small daily tasks (like typing this) has my shoulder very sore and tired by the end of the day. I only have enough shoulder/arm energy for so much right now.
Sleeping has still been rough the past few nights. I'll wake up in the middle of the night either with sharp/shooting pains or because my arm muscles are twitching like crazy. I'm not sure if its because my arm wants to move (I'm required to sleep in the shoulder brace) or if I'm not positioning myself correctly in the bed, but least to say the nights are becoming troublesome. But as soon as I get up and start moving around and get the blood flowing, the pain disappears rather quickly. As of now I've cut way back on pain meds during the day but I'm still taking full doses before bed. For a few nights now I've woken up during the middle of the night and taken a 1/2 dose to help with the pain at night.
At the moment I have a love/hate relationship with my shoulder brace. Last week after the surgery, I couldn't stand being in it most of the time. It was very uncomfortable to NOT move my arm a little bit...very similar to what I experienced when I first dislocated it. My doc said that it was OK to leave it off as long as I was just sitting at home on my couch doing nothing....and since I did just that for most of last week I had the brace off for several of my waking hours. Now its a little different - since starting PT and with my arm being so sore/tired now, it now feels more comfortable to have it on at times, lol.
Boredom is beginning to set in and I'm starting to feel antsy. The internet is only entertaining for so long lol. They said I could go back to work after one week (desk job) but at the same time I don't see how anyone could be ready after one week. I mean, just yesterday I woke up, ate breakfast, read the news, and was so tired that I went back to bed for another 3 hours lol. There hasn't been a day yet since the surgery where I haven't needed a 2+ hour nap sometime during the day. I'm scheduled to go back to work starting in December (3 weeks post-surgery) but I might go back earlier after the Thanksgiving holiday....we'll see. The thing about work is that there's a gym there. Its been so crappy outside the last few days so there's been no dog walking. Just thinking about how nice a indoor treadmill would be at this point....
I can feel the mental game starting too....whenever I get the least bit frustrated I have to remind myself that a) things are supposed to hurt right now; b) its only been just over a week; c) this is a long-term process and d) I should cut myself some slack. Repeat, repeat, repeat lol.
Headed home for the holiday and while my appetite isn't quite back up to par yet, I'm looking forward to some pumpkin pie
Well yesterday I wrote about how the first day of PT wasn't so bad....and it wasn't, until the evening came around. After I had repeated my series of exercises two more times during the day (as directed), my arm was killing me by bed time. Last night I slept horribly, probably the worst night since the surgery actually. I kept waking up with sharp pains and had a hard time staying comfortable. I've been able to sleep in my bed but I build a 'pillow fort' every night which keeps me reclined at about 45 degrees. I took a pain pill before bed as I have been doing all this week, but it obviously couldn't keep me comfortable last night.
I missed a dose of ibuprofen yesterday too, so I'm sure that contributed a bit even with the addition of my new exercises. I know its definitely the external rotation that is causing the pain....and literally all I can do right now is get my arm/elbow in a neutral position....aka not any real external rotation at all!
sigh....here we go!!!