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.

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