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Recovery for broken shoulder

Pat H

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I'm sure there are other Tuggers who have broken their shoulder. How tough is the recovery? Will I really have to wait 5 weeks to drive? This is a travel story too. Last week on the way to Vegas I fell while changing planes in Houston. I have an acute fracture of the proximal humerus and an incomplete fracture of the surgical neck. The fracture is aligned so I don't need surgery. I'm in a sling and start therapy next week. Of course it's my dominant arm. Will I get full range of motion back? Any advice?
 

Fern Modena

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Pat,
I broke my left shoulder in 2003. First, let me say that every shoulder break is different, depending on where the break is, how severe a break, etc.

I don't think you should even be thinking about driving at this time. Some things to think about...you may have a strong enough left side to be able to do everything with that hand. Or not. I am guessing you don't have a manual transmission (I did), cause that would be a definite no. Do you have a "touch to start" button, or do you have to use a key? If you have to use a key, how do you plan to reach over the steering column to put the key in and turn? Don't think you'll do it with your bad side, it isn't a good idea do to more than they tell you if you want to heal well.

You do want to do everything they tell you to do, though. When you start PT., your arm will have been flat against your side for weeks while your shoulder was restrained. It is a somewhat slow process to get your movement and strength back. You'll do many different exercises, and do them exactly as they say and at home as many times as they say. Don't "cheat" by not extending properly on the lifts and reaches, cause if you do you may as well not do it at all. By cheating I mean not doing it properly because there is an easier way to do it. The easier way doesn't work the shoulder enough to make progress.

If they tell you to use weights at home, and you don't have any, you don't need to buy them. Use 1 pound bags of beans, or soup cans, depending what you need the weight for.

If you are using pulleys at the PT place, ask them if it would be a good idea for you to get an over the door pulley for home, and ask for a prescription for one. They may have them, or you can get one at a medical supply (or online). The pulley fits over a door, and then you either sit on a chair with your back to the door or do it forward, depending on what the PT says. The pulleys really help because the good arm pulls the bad one.

I had a pretty bad break, and I went to PT for about ten weeks. It was a workman's comp issue, and I was still going after I returned to work. Eventually workmen's comp "rated" my shoulder out at 10% disability. I decided not to do surgery and took the payout and bought a new computer :)

I was unable to sleep on my back or my left side for at least two years. I can now sleep on my back, but I've never been able to sleep comfortably on my left side since. Also, because of the 10% disability, my left arm does not go all the way over my head. That's my disability, but it is workable. I can do most anything but reach for things on high shelves with my left hand, but I have one of those grabber thingies, so it helps.

As I said in the beginning, though, my experience isn't the same as yours. It sounds like yours is much less severe. I know you, and I know you will be motivated, so you should do well.

{{{ HUGS }}}

Fern

PS--I stayed up to write this, I saw it on my way to bed. You're worth it.
 

Pat H

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Aww, how sweet of you Fern. I am very motivated because I want to be able to pack and pickup my suitcase without a problem. I forgot about having to put the car key in and turn it.

The last few nights I've been able to sleep on the good side. I can't get any rest sleeping on my back. I constantly wake up.

The hardest thing is getting dressed although I'm getting better at it.
 

LynnW

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So sorry about your shoulder Pat. I hope it heals quickly with no problems. I can see how things like that can happen at airports as I just about got hit by one of those carts at the Houston airport on our way to Nashville.

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

Lynn
 

ondeadlin

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I broke my right shoulder (neck of the humorous, did not need surgery) and suffered ligament and rotator cuff strains/sprains about five years ago skiing. I was in a sling for about a month.

For me, the big issue was a huge loss of range of motion after getting the sling off. I was in my early 40s, in good shape, but it still took 3 months of 3x a week PT sessions and daily PT exercises to restore (close) to the full range of motion. In the process, I learned that the shoulder is probably the most complex joint in the body and that once it's messed up, it's very difficult to restore to full health/capabilities.

Today, I ski about 20 days a year, including side country, and run about 15-20 miles a week. My shoulder is almost as strong as it was pre-injury, but there's still less range of motion than my left, and often after a long day of skiing it will be a little more achy than the rest of my body.

Good luck. Don't skimp on the PT - it's critical.
 
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bogey21

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I broke my right shoulder playing football when I was 14 years old. Before I did it I could really throw a baseball with power; afterwards my ability was maybe 35% of what it once was. Back in those days I don't think anyone knew how to spell rehab. Throughout life I have had no problem with normal living stuff though. If I were in your situation today I would overkill on rehab and hope for the best.

George
 

PrairieGirl

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Pat,
I feel your pain! Back in 1998 I suffered a fracture of "the greater tuberosity of the humerous" aka the hump on the tip (think of a dog bone). A stupid skiing injury - a "flyswater" fall on sheer ice. The only thing breaking the impact to my shoulder was my face. The ski patrol fellow was more worried about a possible concussion than my shoulder! Later that night another participant in the ski clinic who was a nurse told me to go to the hospital and get it x-rayed because "your shoulder is really big".

My doc told me that if I promised to wear my sling and behave myself (aka - do not use this arm - AT ALL, FOR ANYTHING) they wouldn't have to pin it. I complied. Stiff and sore for a while after I got the all clear. No PT (hey, this is Canada!) just a "move it as much as you can" instruction. I remember trying to swim a few months later - doing the crawl was absolute agony.

Now? Couldn't even tell you which shoulder it was.

So my advice it to follow the instructions to let it heal. I remember hearing from the doctor how lucky I was that it was "just" a break. He told me that breaks heal, but if I had torn ligaments or tendons it would have haunted my for the rest of my life.

Thank goodness he was right!

Godspeed to your healing,
LeAnn
 

decadude

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Wish you a fast recovery
 
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