So when you last heard from me I was three weeks post rotator cuff repair (and a bit emotionally fragile). Well I’m now almost 3 months post op and doing a lot better both physically and emotionally. Thanks for respecting my privacy and not inundating me with messages 🙏🏻
(If you were one of the people that asked me to diagnose your shoulder, I found this a bit insensitive, and shoulder surgery doesn’t qualify me to diagnose others!)
The purpose of this blog is to share my initial recovery process to help anyone having similar problems or anyone interested in the human body and recovery process. I will go through my feelings/findings week by week.
Week 1 Post Op
The Fear of The Unkown
I knew I was going to be in pain but I could have never anticipated that amount of pain. I had a nerve block, which means you feel nothing from the side of your neck all the way down to the finger tips, apart from constant pins and needles. The nerve block usually starts to wear off after 12 hours or so, so it’s advised that you are already on top of taking your pain meds. My nerve block wore off a little sooner than anticipated. Every 30 minutes I would feel a new part of my body writhing in pain (my chest, my collar bone, every muscle in my arm). Although the nerve block enabled me to go in the car home after the surgery it was so scary when the effects wore off.
I couldn’t sleep properly for weeks before the surgery because of the pain, and this didn’t change post op either. I couldn’t sleep flat on my back, it was too painful. So we created ‘The Den’ – we turned our sofa bed into a fort with pillows, duvets and throws. I had to sleep and spend my first week here, it was over a week before I was finally able to sleep in bed. The dogs loved it, and I discovered a new love for TV and Orange is the new Black!
the dogs enjoying the den!
I was SO swollen, not just around my shoulder but my chest, finger tips and all down my arm. I was at higher risk of developing frozen shoulder because my shoulder was such an inflamed mess when the surgeon went in. These first two weeks were all about REST and decreasing the swelling. Ice became my best friend – it was the only truly effective pain killer. I did incredibly simple range of movement exercises (that any grandma could have done better than me) but the emphasis was on letting my newly formed tendon attachment heal.
Every rehab movement had to be passive (without muscle contraction) and closed chain (holding on to something), which is the ‘easiest’ type of exercise for your body to perform.
Sling was on permanently here (unless in the shower or performing rehab) for 3 weeks.
Baggy clothes only! Had to be cut out of things that were too tight to get off. No bras.
Most painful moments: When things make you jump (dogs barking randomly), when people knock your arm by accident
Week 2 Post Op
Back to Work
No rest for the wicked. Usually it is advised to take 3 weeks off office work. However when you are self employed or run your own business these guidelines aren’t realistic. I was back in the office 3 days post op, but could only do a few hours a day because I was so exhausted. I was back teaching one week post op, privates and Workshops! One of my proudest teaching moments happened this week, I taught a private (slinged up) to a 7 month pregnant woman who had come all the way from Austria just for the private – and it was perfect and we were able to adapt and have fun even though we were both a little impaired! For Workshops I of course had demonstrators. I was so exhausted after teaching – my body was focusing so much on healing I had little energy to do anything else!
More emphasis on rehab and less on sleep now! I officially had one of the stiffest shoulders in the world. The whole arm felt as if it was not part of my body yet.
Physio – ROM and massage
If you thought physio and massage were usually ‘painful’ you have no idea. Physio after a major joint operation is pretty intimidating (they’re pushing you through ranges of movement that you don’t feel capable of yet) and incredibly painful. So much muscle inhibition, scar tissue and swelling are all factors that contribute to the painful experience.
I started going to the gym just to do my rehab exercises! Although I could have done these at home I felt more ‘cool’ and focused by going to the gym and getting out of the house!
Able to shower and dress on my own!
Most Painful Moments: Rehab and when you first wake up in the morning
Week 3 Post Op
One handed Christmas!
A lot of people said to me, “Well it’s a good time of year to have an operation, you can have a ‘relaxed’ Christmas”.
But the reality is Christmas was really hard Post op. Christmas dinners one armed being spoon fed by my partner, unable to wrap or unwrap presents and trying to pretend I was fine in long social situations with no where to go to hide and rest.
This week my rehab was progressed. You have probably all seen the traditional range of motion shoulder op rehab exercise with a stick? Well this and another exercise when you have to simply slide your hands up a wall – seemed impossible for the first week. They were so difficult I cried. The first time of trying them it was so painful and it tired me out so much I had to take off all my makeup and work clothes (which I had JUST put on) and spend the rest of the day in bed.
3-6 weeks you are allowed to start ‘weening’ yourself off the sling. At this stage my body was so confused, it ached in the sling (inbetween my shoulder blades) and as soon as it was out the sling it tired so quickly and ached out of the sling too! It’s so hard to know what is best for your body at the point!
Rotator cuff loading
You are allowed to start genly stimulating the rotator cuff now. So this means very simple mid range istometric (with out movement) muscle contraction. These are of course painful (even though they are not supposed to be).
Week 4 Post Op
This was the week I had my follow up consultation from the surgeon. It was a success – he was super pleased with my progress and to see that I hadn’t developed frozen shoulder. He was still adoment that I do NO Active shoulder activation still and continued to take things slowly.
Whilst I was at the consultation when I looked in the mirror I realised that my once muscle arm had no completely turned into jelly. My forearms too!
Arm started to ache more in the sling now than without. Which made it pretty easy to decide to wear it less.
I finally started to get a glimpse back into my old life – I started training ❤ (In the sling of course – and nothing too spectacular). But the endorphins that came from these mini training sessions meant the world to me.
Shoulder stick flexion progress (no more tears)
Week 5 Post Op
Driving is usually recommended 6-8 weeks post op. I felt nowhere near ready…
The Bendy Brand
The biggest achievement this week was being able to pack parcels again for my business The Bendy Brand. Imagine not being able to pack hundreds of Black Friday and Christmas orders?! I can’t thank my assistant Rach enough for all her help at this awkward time.
This week I was cocky enough to walk to the physio without my sling on. Big mistake. I already let you know how painful the physio was, my whole arm ached so much, then I had to walk back for 30 mins.
My Physio pointed out that I was still really lacking a lot of external rotation still at my shoulder joint. Perhaps I focused too much on flexion with the stick instead of external rotation. Which would mean when I did was starting to try and Active assisted (with the help of my other arm) my arm with internally rotate above my head because it was so tight. Homework = accepted!
I managed my first run this week! It was Biggles’s first run too! The surgeon thought my arm would ache too much to run, but I still managed it 🙂
Week 6 Post Op
6 weeks post op is a big milestone post shoulder surgery. As this means I am onto the next level of the rehab protocol. I am allowed to start stretching the joint capsule more, engage my rotator cuff properly and my aim is to reach full active assisted range of movement (with the help of my other arm).
The timing couldn’t have come better because I was about to fly to Australia to take part in my first tour back, with the help of my lovely assistant Roxi Ziemann.
My surgeon told me to wear my sling on the plane, so I wasn’t able to try and lift and luggage or incase someone knocked me. I assumed that airport staff and passengers might notice the sling and offer to help, but this was the opposite actually. Airport staff in the UK = Shitty Shit Shit.
22 hours up in the air meant I had all the time in the world to do my rehab. So whenever I could I would take my arm out of the sling and do my rehab exercises regardless of how silly I looked!
When I got to Dubai I got a complimentary upgrade to business (my first ever!). Which meant I pretty much had a single bed to sleep on for the 14 hour flight!
The following days I was really sore in my shoulder. I assume because the change in air pressure can cause swelling, it must have made my shoulder joint pretty swollen.
We arrived in the evening, the next day we were in the studio all day training Roxi up on the masterclass content and then teaching Workshops.
For the Workshops and Roxi’s training, I lead the warm ups and I joined in with as many things as I could but left the pole demoing to Roxi. For this first day I taught without my sling, but realised I had used my arm too much by the start of the second workshop I had to put my sling back on as my shoulder was so sore.
For the Workshops the next day I had to teach in the sling as I was worried about overusing the arm too soon into my recovery.
I realised here that I had REALLY lost a lot of confidence. My body was soft and a little bit flabby from complete rest and of course Christmas. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a pregnant woman to accept the change in her body now. I felt embarrassed to be travelling the world teaching masterclasses but feeling so out of shape 🙁
The great thing is, I’m old enough to realise I was being silly. And as soon as I got to the gym or ran everyday my old toned body was coming back before I realised.
I was allowed to try breast stroke only at this stage of my recovery. On our second day off in Australia we had booked a tour of The Great Barrier Reef. Which meant I had three days to re-learn how to swim! The first time I tried to swim was in a shallow lagoon, my technique was pretty ropey. The next day I swam amongst the babinda boulders (I had to do some epic one armed climbing to get there too), and I was already getting much better and able to do a semi normal breast stroke. I also discovered here that I could do a one armed plache – providing I took my arm behind me as I didn’t have the active flexibility to lift it infront.
My first planche
On the day of our trip to the Great Barrier Reef, I didn’t tell the staff about my op incase they didn’t let me off the boat, and I was determined to snorkel without a floatation aid. Luckily the flippers made keeping afloat so much easier and I was even able to swim for up to 45 minutes whilst snorkelling. Me and Roxi saw a turtle and two sharks all by ourselves!
I finally started to wear a bra! I wouldn’t have been able to teach without one. My boobs had gotten so much bigger with the rest!
Week 7 Post Op
Principles of Training
This was my most interesting week post op yet! I finally could see and understand ‘The Principles Of Exercise’ and progression first hand in my own body. Some exercises were impossible, until I laid on my back and did it with gravity helping. And I could see how much easier exercise was with shorter levers (bending the arm).
Difference between trying to active raise arm against gravity, with less gravity
Active Vs Passive
Passive exercises are those that are done by an external force that is not generated by your own muscles. Active exercises are movements performed by your own muscles. My passive movement of the shoulder was pretty good. Actively – I could do nothing.
This week I looked in the mirror and felt my little noodle arm was starting to get some definition back!
This week I was able to run and actually move the arm (before I was running a bit like a robot with my arm tucked into my side!)
For the first time I was able to hold onto the handles of the cross trainer whilst running!
All of my teaching from here on was done without a sling.
I was able take part in my choreography masterclass ‘Pole Fiction’ at full pace whilst teaching. My shoulder was pretty tired after this though!
Week 8 Post Op
This week I discovered I was able to do a lever again, which are the building blocks of hand balancing! As you can probably guess – I was on a mission to re learn how to handstand!
I was able to dance more
I did a baby press up, which for this stage in the recovery was pretty amazing. I think it can take some people up to a year to do a press up/pull up again.
I was finally flexible enough in my shoulder to get my arm in a position to actually start stretching my pecs again.
I had a shoot with Emma from the Black Light and managed to pull it off one armed :))
Still Unable to
Do my hair like a normal person
Carry anything in my left arm for more than one minute (the arm gets too tired)
Can not actively raise the arm even if my life depended on it 🙁
2 – 3 Months Post Op
You guys will have noticed my progression on social media. But in the last 3 weeks really magical things have happened to my shoulder and body.
I am now able to ACTIVELY raise my arms in all directions (straight and bent), this is not pain free and this is not easy – but I can do it! I started to do very very basic pole, handstands (I can’t lift yet but I can get there and I can hold it). I can go upside down again!
Please don’t feel worried for me, I am very in touch with my body. And if something did not feel right I wouldn’t dream of doing it. Of course I get a DOMS like feeling in the left shoulder whenever I push my rehab to the next level. But I’m confident this is pretty normal after a major operation.
See my progress in motion stop here.
I’m excited to see where it goes from here, I will of course keep you updated <3
Shoulder Flexion Progress over 3 months
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