Thursday, November 02, 2006

Shoulder Update

I’ve noticed every now and then I get blog hits from people who searched for information on shoulder injuries, frozen shoulder, broken arm, physical therapy, and/or manipulation under anesthesia or MUA. That observation, and the fact that I saw my old physical therapist at the gym recently, prompted this post.

As background, I cracked my humerus last January in a fall that is best recapped by Dianne in this post. No cast was needed and there wasn’t major soft tissue damage, but the orthopedist didn’t want me using the arm until the crack started to heal. At that point (I should say after some delay due to workers comp paperwork) I started physical therapy. By then, my range of motion had decreased a lot. A common problem with a shoulder injury.

I went through a lot of painful stretching during physical therapy to get those muscles back to a normal range of motion. There are way too many muscles in a shoulder. I described a bit of the saga in this post. Early on, my therapist showed me an article on shoulder rehab that gave a mean time to regain strength and range of about 16 weeks. The standard deviation was quite large with some folks taking easily twice that time. Also, most people only recover about 90% of their original range (based on contralateral measurements).

When I was talking with her last week at the gym (just over 3 months since I stopped therapy), my old therapist was pleased that my range is nearly equal to the opposite shoulder and the strength is very good. She was happy that I’ve kept working at it and that I continued to improve after I left her care. She mentioned the hardest thing for her to do is to keep patients motivated. In this age she said everyone wants results immediately. In shoulder rehab, it doesn’t usually happen that way. However, she said there is a good payoff for folks that stick with a program and keep working at it.

So to those of you dealing with a shoulder injury that find this post through a Google search, I have two bits of advice. First, it can be a long road to recovery, but stick with it. Keep stretching and building your strength. The outcome can be good. Second, don’t pick a blog hit in your search results for detailed information. Go to WebMD or a credible site to get the real scoop on shoulder rehabilitation – or better yet ask your orthopedist or physical therapist.

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