Broken Wing: 28 Days Post Surgery (A Tale of Atrophy)

Therapy.  Atrophy.  Ever wonder why those two words are one letter away from being anagrams?  It's because they go hand-in-hand.  Luckily, I've got plenty to do getting this app and new site running the way I want it to, so I'm not going stir crazy.  It is, however, pretty amazing the way the body starts to feel when you can't do much in terms of physical exercise.  It feels like crap.  Not to mention, when you aren't using muscles, your body has zero interest in maintaining them.  They disappear FAST.  Particularly quick to go have been my supraspinatus (the supraspinatus tendon was one of the repairs) and infraspinatus, as well as the bulk of my deltoid.  One of my friends remarked that the right side of my back feels like I'm a "gamer," like I just sit and play video games all day.  It's a little freaky.

Oh well, I suppose I have no choice but to be patient.  Besides, it gives me some workouts to look forward to.

For now, intense exercise is out of the question, because most everything would jostle the shoulder.  What I can do is limited, but I'm taking full advantage of the things I can safely do.

I've (somewhat reluctantly) started stretching my hamstrings a fair amount, because my hammy flexibility is pretty much non-existent.  I haven't needed flexibility there since my offwidth and dihedral days, and it shows. And Lord knows I won't be doing much stretching when I can actually train again because I don't have the patience (nor do I necessarily believe it to be very important).  Might as well get it done now.

Besides stretching (and therapy), core and one-arm work are my focus.  Problem is, my left arm was the stronger arm to begin with, so I'll have to be careful not to end up extremely lopsided.  That, or I'll just find projects that are entirely left arm cruxes.  Recommendations are appreciated.

In all seriousness, I've just started working with dumbells, on the good side, of course.  One-arm bent-over rows, curls, overhead presses, one-arm bench press, lateral raises, and even some one-arm deadlifts.  I'm also doing band work on the good side, trying to keep that shoulder healthy while I feel so unbalanced.  More than likely I'll start one-arm deadhangs in the next couple of weeks, removing weight with a pulley setup.

Therapy is still mostly about range of motion, which is getting better somewhat quickly (I say in a very patient voice).  I've just this week started to do some active assisted motions, meaning that I am raising the injured arm through it's current ROM into flexion with the help of the good arm, using pulleys, hand pedals, or by doing a benchpress-like motion using a Theracane (my new personal favorite).  Despite these exercises being baby steps, they feel AMAZING!  I can get a little above 90 degrees flexion now, which is exciting, considering it was only a couple of weeks ago that 90 degrees felt horrendous!  It gets a few degrees better every session, and I've been climbing long enough to know how to appreciate tiny bits of progress, so I'm amped.  (Not too amped, should my PT read this... still being patient!)

A few days ago I read a study of 17 climbers of varying ability levels who had similar injuries, and nearly identical surgeries to repair them.  In all cases but 1, the climbers were back to full strength in 18 months.  It sounds like a long time, but I'll have a lot going on in that 18 months (17 left!), so I'm absolutely ok with it.

I'll leave you with one last photo of my poor, atrophying arm.  I'm amazed more than I am distressed at how efficient the body is in directing its energy toward what you're using, and not maintaining what you don't.  It's a good lesson in the "use it or lose it" theory.  For all of you who believe you can stop climbing for months, and then "train" for a month before the season, and still get anywhere, think again.  You're just spinning your wheels.  The body just won't allow it.

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