Surgery – Take One
No one can really prepare you for what to expect the day of a planned surgery. I talked to many people, asked tons of questions, and still wouldn’t have known how the day (and weeks after) would go. Also, I was one of the lucky ones – I was able to plan my surgery, prepare all of the logistics, start physical therapy to strengthen my shoulder, hit some PR’s in the gym, and take a ton of time off to start the recovery journey. Without the amazing support I had and have behind the scenes I don’t know how anyone else would do this…sometimes I still wonder how I have been able to.
How did I injure my rotator cuff, you may ask? Interesting question, because I don’t really know myself. All I know is that sometime in the early part of 2012 I started to experience pain in my left shoulder when I would do basically anything. I had just competed in my first real Crossfit event, Superfit Charlottesville, in January. Somehow I made it to the finals despite being sick, and had an absolute blast! Around that time frame there was also a pretty big dog fight in our household (we had 6 dogs ranging from 20lbs – 120lbs at the time). In order to wrangle the beasts the BoerBoel (Google it) has to be the one pulled from the fight, literally. So, was it Superfit and pushing through all of that adrenalin to be the 25th woman in the finals (yes, you had to be in the top 25 to make it to the last WOD)…OR…was it the dog fight when I tore the BoerBoel off the ground…OR…was it just all the wear and tear of using only my large muscle groups, going overhead a ton, and shaving away the tendon with my curved acromion process? Since I didn’t have one defining “ah ha” moment I may never really know.
Pre-Imaging – Sue Doss, NP is quite possibly one of the best primary care providers I have ever had. When the pain started I went to see her. She has the ability to approach everything conservatively and really listen to my partner, Lisa, and I. Sue cannot be duplicated in our book, she’s fantastic! Here’s what was tried even before the MRI:
- rest – no overhead movements, no pullups, no pushups (darn!), deadlifts and squats only, and be careful in yoga
- anti-inflammatory meds and ice
- massage – thankfully Lisa is the best body worker around!
- acupuncture – that’s an experience in itself, but damn it’s awesome!
- physical therapy – brought awareness and strenthened muscles I didn’t know existed and added new exercises to my warmups pre-wod
- Francios Aubertin – if you’ve never experienced Francios, then you’ve never experienced the true holistic approach to chiropractic adjustments
Torn? Yup, torn. As you may have guessed by now, none of the above methods “fixed” my shoulder, they only pacified the pain and decreased the inflammation for a short period of time. Sue ordered an MRI for me and told me to research some orthopedic doctors throwing in a suggestion or two. To my surprise the MRI was read in record time and I got a phone call while at work from Sue herself telling me that my supraspinatus tendon had a small tear, my acromion had a nice little bone spur, I had a little bursitis, tendinitis and tendonosis in my left shoulder. AWESOME. Now what?
Go see an ortho-pod. Once all of the avenues had been exhausted it was time to go to a specialist. I wanted an orthopedic doctor that was familiar with my level of activity both as an athlete and as a paramedic. Word of mouth can be the best advertisement available, and when in doubt trust your Physical Therapists! They see the handy work of all of the doctors around town and will eventually become your primary care giver during the healing process. The highest recommended, hands down, was Dr. Kevin Bonner and Sara Nester, PA-C. They are amazing, that’s first and foremost. I could go on about how pleased I am having them as my ortho pods, but a few things that really helped me appreciate these two was their friendly and sincere attention to our many questions and their conservative approach to my treatment. Surgery was NOT my first option, nor did they say I would have to have surgery. People live with this type of tear everyday. Even the day of surgery Dr B appeared behind my curtained room and asked “Are you sure?” Honestly, I didn’t want to have surgery. I hadn’t lost range of motion. I was only feeling pain that was more or less manageable. (Most of the pain occurred when I slept – a tell tale sign that your rotator cuff is f’d up.) Who wants to be cut open? And since my tiny tear seen on the MRI wouldn’t likely be repaired, I didn’t want to be unnecessarily put through all of the recovery, time off work, time away from all of the other things that I love, etc. My choice to have surgery came down to my age (I’m 34) and my activity level. I LOVE to be active and the risk of fully tearing my rotator cuff down the line was a real risk. Giving up how I choose to live my life was not an option for me. So I said yes to Dr B. However, once they were able to visualize what was really going on in my shoulder it was apparently worth the four holes I now have in my left shoulder. And get this! My humerus even broke one of the screws when they tried to place it. Moral of the story? Drink your raw milk and do weight bearing exercises – IT WORKS! Just do them properly so that you don’t have to go through this surgery.