Shoulder Labrum Injury
I found this post through googling around the internet about climbing shoulder injuries, especially those that have to do with shoulder weakness and I must say this was a very well written piece. Sorry to hear about all of your recent injury troubles – I hope you can find some peace from all of that soon!
I dislocated my shoulder in Mallorca almost 2 years ago, I was in grad school in the UK at the time, went to two physical therapists there who eventually cleared me to climb after about 8 weeks. However, since then it has been a constant trouble-giver, I’ve had a couple scary in and out subluxations when doing shouldery moves and while I’ve basically learned to adapt my climbing style, the joint is weak and unstable and, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that it continues to majorly hold me back mentally and physically.
Anyway, I was wondering what your shoulder injury experience was like (torn labrum I suppose – did you dislocate or just tear the, and in addition to the orthopedic surgeon you recommended here, if you had any physical therapists or other people in the Bay Area you found particularly helpful to you. I expect that I will probably need to go under the knife at some point, but obviously I want to exhaust all other potential paths of recovery before that, a lack of good insurance is also quite a financial dis-insensitive to get surgery.
Thanks for any help – and best of luck in staying injury free!
Thank you very much for your message, I’m very sorry to hear about your shoulder, they are tricky joints. My physical therapist in the east bay is Andrea Long at Sports and Orthopedic Specialists in Oakland. I know that is quite a trek from San Francisco, and while I have not personally visited any physical therapists in San Francisco, I have heard great things about PSOAS in the city. I also have been to Dean Militello for sports related acupuncture and body work needs.
My shoulder injury was one of my typical “non impressive” injuries. I didn’t take a huge fall off of some really hard project, I wasn’t deep water soloing like it sounds like you were, nor was I doing anything that I could categorize as impressive. I was warming up in early June for what was supposed to be my last day of bouldering in Yosemite for the season. I only had a few hours that day and thought that battling it out with the heat and mosquitos would provide more climbing time than a few pitches. On my third warm up problem of the day, one that I had done numerous times before, I mantled with my right arm and heard a tearing sound in my shoulder. I hesitated for a second before topping out the problem, but even a stubborn athlete like me knew that any sound associated with ripping inside the body is not a good thing.
I should also mention that I have hyper mobile joints and have had issues with my rotator cuffs in the past. At the time of my injury, it had been countless months since I had done anything related to a shoulder exercise, which resulted in my shoulders being extremely weak, and the labral tear.
Returning home I feverishly started googling shoulder pains and shoulder injuries, desperate to find an answer to my injury. My right shoulder had a pain deep inside of the joint, one that I couldn’t physically touch or locate. In the past, I could always rub my shoulder or massage where it hurt. It also felt unstable, to the point where I didn’t want to carry a bag of groceries with that arm because I feared my shoulder would come out of socket. Page after page came up about “slap tears” and labral tears, leading me to eventually go see Dr. Steve Isono and get the dreaded contrast dye MRI.
Since my injury was not a full dislocation, I opted for the conservative route for my initial approach. I became religious about physical therapy and rehab for the next six months. Not a climbing day went by that I didn’t do shoulder strengthening exercises. With this approach I was able to get back to about 85% performance on most climbs. The steep, powerful climbs were still difficult for me, along with most training in the gym. Luckily, Yosemite is home to some of the best vertical technical climbing in the world, so I was able to progress on specific routes even with a torn labrum. Unfortunately, with the weight of an injured shoulder on my mind, I was held back from really pushing myself. About six months after my initial injury I hurt the pulley in my left index finger, leaving me on the couch. Faced with six months healing time for the pulley, I opted to get my shoulder fixed, not realizing how long it would actually take me to recover.
I’m definitely not a doctor, but if I were in your shoes, I would make the trek over to Oakland to see Dr. Isono and get a diagnosis. I know sometimes it’s worse to know you actually have an injury, but it might give you a good course of action. I recently sent a friend who had torn his MCL and who had no insurance to see him. I know it’s a big financial commitment to see a doctor, but I think it’s worth the money, our bodies are our most important things we have. I’m sure he can recommend a great PT in the city and get you on the right track for rehab. Even if you eventually need surgery, I’ve heard from numerous doctors and physical therapists that you’ll recover faster from surgery if you have started a PT program beforehand.
I hope this helps with some of your shoulder questions. I know how frustrating it is when you have to worry about certain moves or certain types of climbing. It definitely takes something away from my drive or intuition when I can’t go as hard as I want. But, I do think that by taking care of injuries and taking the proper amount of time to heal, you can get back there. It’s taken a long time, but everyday that I’m able to push a little harder, it puts a smile on my face.
Best of luck, and please let me know if you have any follow up questions or if there is anything else I can help out with.