My Shoulder Hates Me
I've been dealing with a crappy shoulder for over 9 months now and I'm getting fed up with it. I've gotten some really good advice here regarding my back and elbow in the past - both of which are a complete non issue anymore - so I thought I'd give this a try. This post is probably going to end up being really long, so thanks in advance if you manage to stick it out.
This (link to log - June 16, 2010) is where things began. I did 2 sets of 2 reps, strict muscle-ups. The last rep of the second set got ugly - right elbow ahead of the other - and instead of bailing like I should have, I struggled through. I didn't have any immediate pain, just a "I probably shouldn't have done that" thought. The next day my shoulder is hurting.
Now, at that moment, I didn't think anything of it. I couldn't raise my arm above shoulder level without pain but I thought it was something minor that would resolve itself so I just trained through it - being a little more careful, but really not resting like I should have.
A several weeks of that and my shoulder still complains when I raise my arm overhead so I try resting. The "resting" wasn't very restful, as that summer I was working intermittently on a fishing trawler, involving a lot of pulling on ropes, carrying stuff, etc. Meanwhile my shoulder was always complaining - not hurting per se, but complaining.
Around the beginning of September I started training again, being careful to only do things that didn't hurt. Through trial and error I ended up ditching kipping pull-ups and bench presses and sticking mostly to strict presses and chin-ups.
Fast forward until December and my shoulder feels a only a tiny bit better. It still complains when I raise it and reach out at awkward angles. So I go to a "SportsMED" orthopedic doctor. I get an MRI and x-ray done. X-ray looks good. MRI comes back with rotator cuff tendinitis. This was over the phone and it was hard to get much more info out of the doctor.
Regarding treatment, the doctor asks if I've been taking ibuprofen and I say no. He tells me to start doing that and recommends a cortisone shot. I tell him I'm not too fond of cortisone and that I haven't been resting my shoulder properly - asking if that wouldn't be a better idea. He tells me I could try that in a kind of snide way that suggested he wanted me to give him money for the cortisone shot. I ask him how long I should expect to have to rest and he tells me I should see how it feels in 1-2 months.
Over 4 months went by without my doing any proper upper body work. The annoying pains or "complaints" from shoulder gradually disappeared over the next several weeks and before long I felt completely fine.
Now that I was feeling good, I didn't want to keep messing shit up so I rested some more. After over a month of feeling absolutely great with no pain or discomfort whatsoever I introduced some minor shoulder work (link to log - March 30, 2011). I did some overhead squats (3 sets of 8 reps at 40kg with limited rest) and that was it. I thought taking things slowly to begin with - just doing some isometric stuff with limited weight would be the smart way to go.
During the overhead squats, I felt fine. My left shoulder felt weaker than my right one but I thought that was to be expected. I'm a little shaky towards the end of the sets, but honestly I could have done another 8 reps on my last set, thinking I'm being smart about reintroducing things slowly. That evening my shoulder feels great. The next day, not so much. For a few days afterwards it was bothering me - not excruciatingly but enough to piss me off.
Now, a week or so later, it feels perfectly fine again and has felt that way for a couple of days. Apart from being a little less flexible it feels just like my good shoulder. I'm just not sure where to go from here. Should I suck it up and get the cortisone?
I was icing it religiously for the first few months. Once it started feeling better I dropped the ice. I tried stretching at some points but it seemed to aggravate it. I've been foam and lax rolling and it doesn't seem to bother me.
I would go back to the doctor for advice, who was actually recommended to me (limited supply of proper doctors here in Iceland) but
a) he was awful to talk to or get any proper information from,
b) he was expensive as fuck, and
c) he seemed more interested in making money off me than fixing my shoulder.
Big props to you if you managed to read through all this, I really appreciate it. I would love any feedback or suggestions from anyone with any experience (Steven Low? Garrett Smith?) or anyone who's gone through something similar.
It honestly sounds like you had some impingement and the rotator cuff tendonitis was just kind of there... or it could just be both.
Total rest is generally always not very good... always good to do some type of mobility work with it if at least getting it moving in non-painful ROM.
I'd start out with a week or so (2-3x per week) of just the rotator cuff exercises and see how that feels.
If that improves I'd add in some more stuff such as some LYTPs and such.
Have you tried using a tennis ball et al to work on the muscles on the back of the scap and rolling out your lats/chest/etc. as well? Might want to see if that helps as well.
Ice if it helps too, yeah. NSAIDs maybe if you wanna try
When you mention rotator cuff exercises, are you talking about something like this, or do you have something more specific in mind?
I'm going through my second round of PT for my shoulder. I had to cut it short the first time for money reasons, but also i don't think it was tailored as individually for me.
i think that an important point - i think with how complex the shoulder is, it's important to make sure your therapy is really geared to your specific problem.
i'll give you my current experience:
i'm having a lot more scapula focus now, with very little external rotation. we're just focusing on Y's and T's, with the T's both supinated and pronated. we have to wait for better scapular position and stability before trying to add L's. W's were troublesome because whenever i broke the 90 degree point, my shoulders would come forward as my elbows came back.
in addition, we are slowly developing my serratus. it's tricky because i thought i could do a pushup plus fine, even while i was working on planche progressions, but it turns out that when i try to extend my arm forward, they slide up as well and impinge. apparently my upper traps are constantly tense, and there's an imbalance between them and my serratus. as a result, i thought i had good strength there, but it's turns out i've developed strength in the wrong spot, and now it's biting me in the ass.
now i lay on my back and practice doing a pushup plus with no weight (or a 3# if i want) while trying to keep my humerus from sliding up (i can feel it when it does). the coordination is really hard, but i can feel when i get it right. i also do circles with my hands, because it's harder for me to keep them from sliding up as my hands approach the center line of my body and as they begin to go overhead. the overhead causes the most potential discomfort because if i don't get a good depression of the humerus, it immediately impinges. this is why the exercise that gave me the most discomfort out of any was pullups. doing a chinup instead actually gives me a bit of a buffer to hold my humerus down.
lastly, we've been doing levator scapula stretches to relieve some of my neck strains.
i have no idea if this is your problem as well, but take it as one guy's shoulder story.
Hence, generally why it's a good idea to see a good professional to check the shoulder out. :)
My blog chronicles my shoulder surgery. It has been an experience. Good luck. Hopefully you won't need it.
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