• shoulder surgery climbing

Shoulder Surgery 3 Month Update

I (Neely) recently wrote a post describing my shoulder surgery (SLAP tear and bone spur, no anchors to repair the labral tear – just tenodesis and bone spur removal under the achromium) and the first 4 weeks of my recovery. It was long and detailed with horrible pictures of me, and if you’d like to read it, you can find it here.

Since then, I’ve gotten a few requests from people wanting an update on my recovery since then, so here’s a quick overview of how I’m doing.

12-Week Update

In short, I’m pretty psyched with my recovery, but I still have a long way to go.

  • It’s been 3 months as of yesterday, and here are my stats:
  • I was a 5.13 climber and now I’m projecting 11+ sport.
  • I used to be able to curl 35 pounds and now I can curl 15 on a good day.
  • I used to be able to shoulder press 20 pounds and now I can do 2.5.
  • I used to have full range of motion in my shoulder and now not so much (see photo above)…
  • I’ve gained a bit of muscle back (read: I can now detect some muscles when I flex and I’m able to flex)

Pain Levels

My bicep is the most painful part, since the biceps tendon was reattached from my labrum to my arm bone and it’s still not sure what the hell is going on. And sometimes I’ll get pain under the achromium (the top bony part of your shoulder) where they shaved off the bone spur. But only sometimes and usually it’s not too bad.

For a while – up until about 3 weeks ago – I would have a severe pain in my shoulder/bicep about once every couple days that would drop me to my knees sometimes and make my whole world go foggy. That hasn’t happened in a while, which I’m thankful for. Now it’s just sort of painful when I do random things or try hard on a climb.

I’m pushing through pain on climbs with the green light from my surgeon and PT (unless it’s terrible pain, which I haven’t felt so far).

Relearning How To Climb

Mostly, I’m relearning how to climb, which is fun but also sucks. My old warmups are quite literally now my projects (Yaak Crack (5.11c) currently in Red Rock), and I feel weird, tight, awkward, and pumped on them. My whole body is weaker now and doesn’t remember very well how to do what I used to do.

Also, there are moves that would have hurt a lot a month ago or 5 months ago and my mind still doesn’t think I can do them, so I say take. But then I try the move and it’s painless, so it’s just a process of re-learning what I’m capable of doing.

But it’s coming back!


My goal was 5.10 by January, 5.11 by February, 5.12 by March, and 5.13 by April. I did a 5.11a in January, and I’m about to send my 5.11c proj tomorrow (fingers crossed!), so I’m well on my way. I’m psyched! Did I already say that?

Moreover, I’m just grateful and a little blissed out to be climbing outside (or inside). I love it no matter what the grade, and this has really given me some perspective on that.

Continual Rehab

I do band work on both shoulders (because my other one hurts, too, and I want to avoid surgery on it) almost every day, sometimes twice a day. I have 3 different bands with different resistances attached to the front door, and I’ll do the typical rotator cuff work – 6 exercises 2 times each on each shoulder.

Then I have a rehab station in the living room, which consists of lots of 2.5 lb and 5 lb weights and adjustable barbells. About 3 times a week, I do another 5-10 different exercises with both shoulders with those while I watch TV.

If you want awesome rehab/preventative exercises for your own shoulders, definitely check out Jared Vagy’s (he’s a doctor of physical therapy) ebook, The Ultimate Climber,  and his latest post on TrainingBeta called “How To Strengthen The Rotator Cuff for Climbing”.

[Update to This Update: It’s been a week since I wrote this and my progress in that time has been pretty awesome. Pain levels are way lower, I climbed not only my .11c project, but a .12b in 2 tries, too. I’m curling almost 20 pounds and shoulder presses are coming along, too. Things are going well!]

I think that’s it! How’s Your Shoulder?

As with the last post, I’d love to hear your own experience with rehab in the comments. The last post had some great dialogue about that, and I want this to be a place where people can learn from each other about shoulder surgeries/injuries. So do tell! And if you have any other questions about my recovery just let me know in the comments.

TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. We offer climbing training programs, a blog, interviews on the TrainingBeta Podcast, personal training for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.

  Click here to subscribe
By | 2017-09-18T06:46:51+00:00 February 20th, 2015|9 Comments


  1. Ken Chambers October 22, 2018 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Hi Neely, thanks for the very complete and honest description of you surgery. I had the same surgery, bicep tenodesis and A/C decompression, on Aug 22,2018, 9 weeks this Wed. I had a complete A/C separation when I was 15 and I am now 55. I started climbing when I was 18 and have had shoulder pain the entire time. I am really looking forward to climbing again pain free and impingement free! I have full range of motion back and using bands for ROM and strength, but no green light for climbing yet or loading the bicep tendon. I understand your frustration in losing muscles mass, that’s tough for a climber but we’ll get through it. I used to dread working the antagonistic muscles but did them anyway, so it will be awesome to do them again without having the bone spurs digging into the bursa and shredding the bicep tendon. I have always done the rotator cuff exercises, so I was happy to hear that there was no Rcuff injuries. Big bonus.
    Thanks again,

  2. Eric Boxer July 23, 2018 at 2:56 am - Reply

    Had my right biceps tenodesis sx about 4 years ago. All healed and doing well. BUT
    MY LEFT Needs surgery now!
    I’m so scarred. It’s my dominant arm.
    I’m so afraid to be out of work for and extended time.
    I am a dentist. Drummer, weightlifter,tennis player.
    All this will be effected.
    My right biceps sx kept me out of the gym except for light weights for 6 months, the pain never went away until post surgical cortisone shots….
    If my left takes that long, my business will be wrecked and so will my life!

  3. fran nawn May 9, 2018 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    I am a 74 year old woman 3 months post rotator cuff repair for huge tear-biceps was shreaded could not be reattached-labum tear could not be fixed-extensive arthritis—extensive debridement–I just want less pain cannot even think about climbing–should concentrate on pain free which is all I am asking for-having a terrible time

  4. Ben Rouse June 17, 2016 at 3:41 am - Reply

    Thought id do a little update also, 2013 slap tear 2 anchors never got better, 2014 surgery capsule release, never improved pre surgery shoulder strength 30kg db shoulder press, now at 4kg on a good day, bicep pre surgery 17kg now 5kg with alot of crunching and pain, push ups 90+ now 6 or 7 , surgery number 3 in 3 weeks

  5. Lance May 25, 2015 at 3:57 pm - Reply


    I`m 11 days post op…….On 05/14/2015 I had left shoulder arthroscopy, removal of loose bodies, debridement of the anterior-inferior labrum no anchors, debridement of the anterior-inferior glenoid, arthroscopic biceps tenotomy, micro fracture of the glenoid, and an open biceps tenodesis.

    Which equals-No climbing for a while!

    Any insight, advice, positive vibes, workouts, PT that works, training regiment sent my way, would be much appreciated! I`m a 5.11 sport climber and have been climbing around a year and a half. I just wanna climb, thats all!


  6. Chandler V February 26, 2015 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Hi Neely,

    I had a Bankart tear in my labrum which was repaired sans bicep or rotator cuff work – 12 stitches in the labrum total – today is my 12-week surgical anniversary, so I am right about where you are in terms of recovery time. Overall, I have been really happy with how my recovery has been going – I was told pre-surgery that it would be 16 weeks at least before I was allowed to climb/train again, and I have now been doing assisted (i.e., weight removed via pulley) hangboard workouts for a week already! My PT has given me the green light to start some super easy climbing as well. I started with bands and light weights around week 7 (basically right after my sling came off) and have been able to steadily ramp it up since that time – I’m still not doing any crazy heavy lifts or anything like that but I can do all manner of planks, leg lifts, rowing machine, light kettle bell stuff and bands, which is at least keeping me busy and making me feel like I am doing something to help climbing-specific fitness. I think a big part of the recovery has been that I went into surgery strong – once I was diagnosed, I worked with my PT to come up with a bunch of rotator cuff exercises I could do without making my labrum tear any worse – in the two months before I had surgery I was doing band workouts 3-4 times per week, so my rotator cuff was feeling great- no way to tell but I feel like this minimized the atrophy in the 6 weeks I was in a sling and allowed me to start re-strengthening the shoulder pretty quickly afterwards.

    Easing back into hangboarding has also been great- started with 45 lbs removed and have been removing 5 lbs from that every time for two sessions now with no problems. I see my surgeon in two weeks, and am hoping they will give me the green light to push it a bit more. My range of motion is similar to yours it looks like- overall I’m at about 85 – 90% except for the full “I” position (this is especially noticeable if I lie on the ground and extend my arms overhead) and external rotation when my arm is shoulder-height at 90 degrees- every week it gets a little bit better though so I am pretty confident I will get it all back. I have been able to start doing light Turkish get-ups and windmills which I think has been helping stretch the shoulder capsule a bit as well. Still some pain in the front of the shoulder where the tear was the worst, and the occasional scapular knotting/ twitching, but my PT has been able to handle these pretty well with her weekly massage/ dry-needling. Excited (and nervous) to start climbing again- happy to hear you’ve been making progress! Looking forward to more updates in the future!


  7. ABack February 23, 2015 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Neely, I have had no pain in the bicep, pre or post tenodesis surgery (please note I tore the long head bicep tendon because of a bone spur in the AC joint of the shoulder). Personally i thought I would of had pain there, I had more pain in the back of the rotator cuff. I went completely pain free around 4 months, I still get sore in the shoulder after PT or after climbing (no soreness in the bicep). The soreness lasts a few hours and is gone by the morning. I have not done any bicep curls at all, I have done tons of push-ups, Y’s and T’s (no I’s), cable pulls and band work.
    In regards to what most people are calling route climbing these days,I have no good idea. I use rope or route climbing to differentiate from bouldering. i used the word “roped” in my post above to clarify that I didn’t just start bouldering after surgery. I started out slowly on routes first, then moved into easy bouldering once I could climb 5.11 again (a month an half worth of time). Then climbed at the 5.12- and v5/v6 level (another month worth of time). About 2 weeks ago I stepped it up a notch and started only bouldering doing one or two hard problems per session at the v7/8 level depending on the movement. I still avoid doing dynos which I need to completely body weight the left arm. I have started to moves that I need to dead point to with the left arm as long as I can keep my foot on.
    The best thing I have taken away from all of this is that hard work and time is what it takes. I don’t look at the day to day, but week to week. At the end of each week I look at my training log, then plan for the next week.
    Hope this all makes sense.

  8. ABack February 22, 2015 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Neely, I am about two months ahead of you from the same surgery. At around two and half months I had the same pain “pain under the achromium (the top bony part of your shoulder) where they shaved off the bone spur”. Took about another month for that to go away. I have had no pain in the bicep muscle . I started climbing and training at three and a half months after surgery and around four and a half months the bicep and arm really started to work together, but the arm still felt weak to me. I am now five months post surgery and bouldering at v7/8 level. I feel like I could push harder, but I want to feel stronger in my left arm, especially in the back of the rotator cuff. I have been doing some of the same band work you talk about, plus I am still going to PT once a week. During these sessions I do a lot of work strengthening the rotator cuff while my arm is away from my body, plus I do a ton of ab work. For my training I did 10 hang board session for the month of January, plus roped and bouldered in the gym the day after PT or a hang board workout (climbing twice a week). Since the begin of February I moved to bouldering three or four days a week, plus strength training. About a week before I hit the five month mark, I got a ton of power back, I was able to a powerful v7 undercling problem (at 4 months I couldn’t even hang off the holds). My plan for the next month is to continue bouldering and strength training, plus add in some foot on campusing to start to strengthen the fast twitch muscle fibers. Then a quick trip to the south at the end of March to boulder on some sandstone.
    Keep the updates coming, it great hear from someone else going through this too.

    • Neely Quinn February 23, 2015 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Aron –

      Thanks for this! I have a couple of questions. Do you mean that since you had your tenodesis done you haven’t had any biceps pain at all? Or just recently it started to go away? It’s definitely the most painful part of my recovery. Secondly, I’ve been hearing people call route climbing or rope climbing “roping”. Is this what peope are calling it now?


Leave A Comment