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Thread: Shoulder surgery

  1. #1
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    Default Shoulder surgery

    Hi folks,

    I've been diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear and retraction in my right shoulder, and the only fix for this seems to be surgery. I've had X-rays and an MRI which shows it all. I've actually had this since early April, but it was diagnosed then as biceps tendonitis. But now, as it's not getting better, I'm told I need the surgery, and that I will have to have my right arm in a sling 24/7 for six weeks. I'm wondering if anyone on the forum has had this and how it went for you. Were you able to play the mandolin at all during recovery? I'm thinking, after looking at pictures of these slings online that I may be able to play by altering the position of the mandolin a bit. Thoughts on this?

    thanks,
    Jack

  2. #2
    Registered User George R. Lane's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Jack,

    I had the same surgery about 5 years ago and it took about 6 months before I could play the mandolin and another 12 months before I could play golf. (I play around 80 rounds of golf a year here in Montana) Yes you will have to have the shoulder immobilized for that first six weeks. This is major surgery and you can screw it up real bad by trying to do too much to soon. I now have about 90-95% mobility in that shoulder. I know what you are going through and it will be tough but, if you don't have the surgery it will only get worse. My only advise is to have patience. Good luck with your surgery.
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    Registered User Tom Morse's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    J...i had the rotator cuff surgery, right shoulder at age 62, which did not involve any bone spur reduction (subacromial decompression) work, which could prolong your recovery. (Sometimes there are bone spurs that are sawing through the rotator cuff tissue.) The good news is that as your recovery progresses you will be increasingly able to play the mandolin again. (Old joke: Patient: Doctor will I be able to play the piano? Doctor: Of course. Patient: Funny. I never could before.) The bad news is that you probably will not want to for about six weeks. In the initial recovery weeks, you're going to be very tender. And you want the tendon to reattach itself successfully to the bone, so taking it very easy is really a must. My doctor said I could begin playing after eight weeks at which point I played a gig and that didn't go so good. Fatigue and pain set in quickly. But over time you will get back to it. At ten weeks I was starting to enjoy playing again, so be patient. Also, be real diligent about your physicial therapy exercises and icing. They do help. Based on my experience, your MD and PT will tell you little white lies along the way. At the beginning, they'll say it takes three months to recover. At three months, they'll admit that it really takes about six months to recover. And at six months, they'll confess that full recovery takes from nine to twelve months. But you'll get there! Very best of luck for a steady and speedy-as-possible recovery. Feel free to direct message me with any questions you might have.
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    George, thank you so much for your feedback on this. Of course, I was hoping for better news! I'm just thinking that i might be able to pick the mando without moving my shoulder too much, but everything is connected so it may not be possible or a good idea. I'll discuss it in more detail with the doctor and see what's advised. The surgery isn't even scheduled yet, but it's going to have to be soon.

    Jack

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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Thanks, Tom. I actually haven't seen the doctor yet, just his assistant, for about 4 appointments, but I'll meet the doctor on Wednesday. The PA said recovery would be 6 months, with the first 6 weeks in a sling. I've got gigs coming up in February and March, so I may ask if it can wait til mid-March (I may not even be able to schedule it til then anyway, so it's all up in the air at the moment). I retired in May of last year, and I find I am more busy than ever. This thing does NOT fit into my schedule! But then these things never do, do they?

  7. #6

    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    dear Jack, I had my whole right arm rebuilt from my shoulder down to my wrist. I was in a motorcycle accident, the doctors will tell you it is not going to hurt that much, well that was a half truth. after the pain meds wore off it hurt a hell of a lot. but the good news was I have full motion of my right arm. do every thing they tell you plus a little extra. like get a rubber ball to squeeze & exercise your fingers & you will be fine. but above all do not over do it.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    I had rotator cuff surgery a little over 5 years ago after breaking the ball and socket of my left shoulder and tearing two tendons loose. A generator pulled me off the back of my truck after Hurricane Sandy. I couldn't play the mandolin for about three months as I couldn't get my left arm back up into place. I could however play the guitar within weeks as long as I didn't go up the neck too far. Go for the physical therapy and eventually you get a good percentage of the use of the arm back. You have to work at it but it all eventually works again. Best of luck.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User rockies's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    I had the same injury about 10 years ago , rotator-cuff tear and muscle pull. I also had surgery proposed but decided to try the physiotherapy first. Did the treatments and also the recommendation of the therapist to do the stretching into some pain. A pencil mark on a door frame as high as I could reach up (not very High) and then moving the pencil mark up each day. It took about 2 months plus until I could get my arm straight up. A couple more weeks of the stretching and physio and it's been good ever since. I was really thankful to miss the surgery especially when they told me the recovery time.
    Dave
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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    About 3 years ago I had a tear in the supraspinatus tendon repaired, a subacromial decompression, a bone spur removed, and a biceps tenodesis (where they screw the biceps tendon to the humerus). From my experience, you're not going to want to play for quite awhile---at least not until the sling is gone.

    Find a good PT, and do what they say: no more, no less. Most important if all, stay on your feet. Being in the sling messes up your balance, and almost everyone I know that had shoulder surgery took a fall. Most not serious, but some were. I tore mine up in new and ugly ways that cannot be fixed. Disappointing end to what was a textbook beautiful recovery.
    1988 Reno mandolin, Trinity College mandola
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    Registered User mandogio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    About two years ago I had my left shoulder overhauled. I could play the mandolin after about eight weeks. However, couldn't play the mandocello for many months because ... had my right shoulder overhauled as soon as the left was more or less fully functional (about four months after the first operation). But I could play the mandolin, once again, within about eight weeks (probably less). The best advice I can give is to religiously follow through on the physical therapy and the home exercises. One other piece of advice, don't ever get carried away again just because you think you are back to 100%; I destroyed my right shoulder again last spring pulling decades-old ivy off a maple tree. Best of luck!

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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Thank you all for your great input! I guess it's going to be a long haul, and I need to not get impatient about it. I first injured the shoulder in early April, and I went through about two months of physical therapy, which did help some, but obviously didn't cure it. I stopped physio in October as my wife fell down the cellar stairs, breaking her pelvis and right heel. She was non-weightbearing for 10 weeks and I had do a lot of caretaking. She's weightbearing now and on crutches, but can't drive yet. The surgery is going to be the thing that will fix it, much as I'd like to avoid it. It looks like I'm going to be skipping my February and March gigs, but I have to do what's best to be able to play again.

    Louise NM, I'm very sorry to hear about what happened to you. That's got to be very dis-spiriting. I'll be super careful, thank you.

  13. #12
    Registered User Mike Scott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    At the age of 70 I had the left rotator cuff and labrum surgically repaired. My recovery went a bit better than it did for Big George. Six weeks in a sling, about 3 months before I could play mandolin and about 7-8 months before golf. It was about a year before I was totally pain free though. Feel like new now (18 months). Good luck! A friend re tore his during re-hab, so be careful!!!
    Thanks, Mike


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    This Kid Needs Practice Bill Clements's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Hi J, I hope what follows is helpful.
    I‘m sorry to say this procedure will impact most every thing you do for quite a while. You will not be able to drive for six weeks, both from a physical standpoint but also from a liability one. A sling & Norco were never recommended in driver’s training! You will be very weak for a couple weeks and bathing will be a challenge.
    I’ve had both rotator cuff tears/ruptures and tenodisis of the left shoulder. Months and months of painful physical therapy. I hope you have decent insurance, my friend. Even though the initial exercises are the worst, they are most important to enable you to gain range of motion. Do them carefully but not to the point where you have too much pain. Try at first to schedule PT 3X a week, with a day between if possible. Your therapist should assess you at your first visit to establish a baseline for later progress.
    After my first sugery, I had to sleep in a recliner for 4 months-not fun. Before the second surgery, I bought a Select Comfort Flexfit bed, which is similar to a hospital bed. Mine raises the back and legs independently. You’ll have to sleep on your back, and this bed makes it much more comfortable, if you can swing the investment. Buy shirts that button up front, keeping in mind the Velcro from your Donjoy sling may tear them up. I found Red Kap work shirts great, and also sleep in them. You will need assistance at home dressing and bathing for a little while. Use your cold pack (again possibly Donjoy) 24/7 for 4 days post surgery, followed by a cold gel pad or ice after each PT session. The cold pack will be a true friend. I like Torex cold gel pad standard size which is found in Amazon.
    Be patient-at least that what my wife tells me, and of course avoid lifting much more than a coffee cup for 8 weeks. PM me if you want to call/email me and I’ll try to answer any questions.
    I was unable to even tune the mandolin for many weeks, let alone play it. Good luck and listen to your medical professionals.
    "Music is the only noise for which one is obliged to pay." ~ Alexander Dumas

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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Same surgery with the outcome as already described. One thought on ice - my orthopedist gave me an ice chest with a pump, tubes and water jacket built to enclose the shoulder. Fill the ice chest with water and ice, turn the pump on and sit back while the cold water is pumped through the water jacket. Not sure anymore what it is called but hopefully you get the idea.

    I had a similar device following knee surgery. The surgeon did not keep a stock of these so I bought my own at his suggestion. Less then $200 and well worth it.

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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    +1 for the ice chest, better than the pain meds. You can also wear tee shirts. Just bend at the waist and put the dangling, surgically-repaired arm in its sleeve first, then use the good arm to finish pulling the shirt over your head and putting the other arm through the other sleeve. In less than a year, my repaired shoulder had more strength than my neglected "good" shoulder.

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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Wow, Bill, Dukesdad, and Ken - great input. Thank you. I met with the surgeon yesterday, and he spent a long time answering my questions and describing the injury and the operation, and the recovery. I'll be having the surgery in mid-March. The thing that I think I may have the most trouble with is sleeping in a recliner. I am NOT a back sleeper, and it's going to be a very difficult adjustment to not sleeping in a bed on my side. I'm not looking forward to the surgery and recovery, but I will be glad to have it fixed.

    Jack

  18. #17
    This Kid Needs Practice Bill Clements's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Jack, you'll get the hang of sleeping on your back. It will take just a couple days and the meds will help you relax.
    Let us know how everything goes.
    "Music is the only noise for which one is obliged to pay." ~ Alexander Dumas

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    Registered User MissingString's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Jack,

    I’m pretty new here on the Cafe but I’m not so new to meeting with my share of orthopedic surgeons. I’ve had lower back (several), wrist (2), thumb (can tell the weather now) and .... elbow (ouch) surgery. The elbow operation sidelined me from strings for about 8 months. However that injury was preventing me from enjoying playing to begin with. So they way I look at it is that everything after that 8 month recovery is bonus time. And I’m now enjoying playing much more and playing a heck of a lot better while not in pain. Some great suggestions already, I’ll add that I learned that setting yourself up mentally for recovery helps a lot too. Make a great list of books, music, documentaries and movies you want to see. Set up a great hold list at the local library or splurge for Netflix for a year. I’m sure many of the folks here (I’ll be the first to offer) will be happy to send you some fun loaners of dvd’s and cd’s. I live on the “lesser known Cape” in MA (Cape Ann). I’d be happy to send some selections to help pass those first few weeks.

    Can’t tell you how many times I say “I wish I did it sooner”. So focus on the positive outcome and how great you’ll feel some months down the road from March. Keep us posted on progress and PM me when you get close to the surgery. Happy to send some interesting reads and music etc if you’d like!

    Regards,
    Chris
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  20. #19
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    As far as sleeping goes, buy lots of extra pillows. You can prop yourself in a position other than flat on your back. I was able to get at least partially on my side.

    Button-up shirts, with big buttons—you'll be doing them one-handed. With T-shirts, the bigger, the better. Even if you can get into a pullover, getting out is a bigger problem, and scissors are a bad solution. Find pants you can manage one-handed.

    I think I lost about 10 pounds, eating only what I could manage with my non-dominant hand and walking even more than usual, as I couldn't drive for a looooong time. The dog was thrilled with all the food that hit the floor. If you live with someone who can help with food preparation and clean-up, life will be easier. (Although they never seem to be home when you need them the most.)

    Try to find a physical therapist you like. You will be seeing a lot of him/her, and they will be doing things you won't particularly enjoy. If it's someone you enjoy shooting the breeze with, and are happy to see twice a week, it helps distract you from what they're their trying to get your arm to do. You'll spend way more time with the PT than with your surgeon, and the PT can advocate for you with doctors, insurance companies, and employers, if things are going sideways. Get them on your side.

    From what you say, this one isn't going to fix itself, and will probably get significantly worse if you don't get it repaired. Get it done!
    1988 Reno mandolin, Trinity College mandola
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  21. #20

    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    OP wrote:
    "I'm told I need the surgery, and that I will have to have my right arm in a sling 24/7 for six weeks. I'm wondering if anyone on the forum has had this and how it went for you. Were you able to play the mandolin at all during recovery?"

    Leave the mandolin in its case during your recovery if need be.
    When the shoulder is "back to working" again, pick up the mandolin again.
    Why insist on playing -if- it's going to interfere with a proper recovery?

    It's really as simple as that.

  22. #21
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Lots of good experience shared here to benefit from. You may see that folks have had different experiences, as the location and severity of the tear, as well as reattachment of muscles, can dictate different surgical techniques and length of rehab, type of sling, etc. It's just plumb amazing how much can be done with a scope now than 30 years ago....lots of really nifty new tools and implants, and it just keeps getting better. Surgeons and therapists weren't created equally either, so shop around. Often times a good physical therapist can tell you which surgeon's pateints have generally done well, and surgeons have had their own experience with the spectrum of PT's.

    Also, the pre-op ultrasound guided nerve blocks are wonderful, allowing for less anesthetic drugs during surgery and giving you a good window of post-op pain relief. Please do yourself a huge favor and take the f-u-l-l amount of drugs b-e-f-o-r-e the block is due to wear off. Nobody gets addicted to drugs when taking them for acute post-op pain, and you can decrease the dose later. If you think leaving the air conditioning off on a 120 degree day and trying to cool the house down late in the day is hard, it's even worse to have nausea and try to catch up with the pain.

    Shoulder surgery has generally never been so good. Hope yours is smooth sailing in every way.

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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Never had shoulder surgery but I have had dislocated and broken fingers more than once in my dominant hand. Brushing teeth with the non-dominant hand is very interesting, as is taking care of other essential functions involving bathing etc. As mentioned above, eating is interesting also, for me cooking was not as much of an issue. You may want to look into Velcro shoes or loafers, tying laces is quite an experience one-handed. Best wishes for a quick recovery.

  24. #23
    Registered User Mike Scott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    I really donít want to underplay the whole shoulder surgery thing but:
    Iíve had surgery on both shoulders over the past couple of years
    Spend a few nights in a recliner, then if youíre a side sleeper, just sleep on the noninjured shoulder. Wearing the sling you wonít sleep that good, but........
    Be careful with the opioids- to me the side effects were worse than the pain. Mostly I got by with Tylenol
    Itís all temporary, so suck it up!
    Do the PT as instructed
    And lastly, itís a common surgery and rehab, so you will get through it!
    Thanks, Mike


    "Hey, careful man, there's a beverage here!"-The Dude

  25. #24
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    Been there, done that. The recovery was very painful, but the final results were WELL worth it. I found sleeping to be one of the biggest challenges during the first few weeks. Just about any position lying down hurt. I never imagined I could do it, but I found that sleeping in the recliner with the arm well propped to minimize movement was the most comfortable. Later on I found sleeping on my left side with my right arm on top, again propped, worked. Everyone is different and you'll have to find out what works best for you.
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    Default Re: Shoulder surgery

    More great advice here! It's great to have a community like this to turn to. I have been told that I should sleep in a recliner at 45 degrees, rather than flat on my back. That makes sense, but as I don't have a recliner I'll look into renting one for whatever time I need it. Chris, I do have a stack of unread books (and I love to read), so that will help, and we have Netflix. I'll probably spend a lot of time in pajama pants and slippers, with an old button-up shirt, so hopefully dressing won't be too hard. I also have my wife to help with everything. I've spent a little time trying to do things with my left hand only, just to see how it is. Brushing my teeth was almost impossible (I plan to get an electric toothbrush), and simple things like combing my hair were surprisingly hard. i'm sure I'll get better at all that with time. I'm thinking the first couple of weeks will be the most difficult, as far as adjusting to it. Once I can start PT I'll know that I'm about to turn a corner, and it's a matter of time and persistence. That will probably coincide with the coming of Spring, and that will help a lot.

    Jack

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