• 1 month shoulder surgery update

Update: 1 Month After Shoulder Surgery

On November 10th I had shoulder surgery. I, by the way, am Neely Quinn, one of the founders of TrainingBeta. My bio is here. If you’ve been following the podcast or my blog posts, you’ll know by my incessant whining that my shoulder pain kept me from climbing since early May of this year, which sucked.

Why Am I Telling You This?

The reason I’m writing this is, first of all, because I wasn’t able to find the kind of information I wanted from climbers about shoulder injuries when I was researching it. I know a ton of us have had shoulder injuries and surgery, but I couldn’t find details about the kind of pain people feel, what warrants surgery, what people have recovered from without surgery, what surgery is really like, what kinds of different surgeries there are, and what the recovery process is like.

I wanted photos and videos and first hand accounts from my community, and it was lacking, so this is my contribution. I’ve also gotten a ton of questions from readers and podcast listeners who want answers to their own shoulder problems, so this is for you guys, too.

The Back Story

When I first started experiencing the pain, I thought it was just a tweak like so many others I’ve had over the years, and that it would go away. I sought out my normal practitioners for help: rolfers, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and chiropractors. They can usually fix me up.

Dry needling by my chiropractor, Brent Apgar, took away a lot of the pain that was shooting down my triceps, biceps and up my neck, so that was cool. Rolfing, acupuncture, and massage seemed to do nothing, unfortunately.

Description of the Pain

From the very beginning, what I felt was an instability in my shoulder. There was a big “catch” when I tried to lift my arm up from my side. So much so that I’d have to move my arm around it to get it above my head, and sometimes I couldn’t get it above my head.

There were other motions that would cause the catch, too, like bringing my arm back toward my body after it was out in front of me, or moving it to the outside of my body, as if to toss your keys on the counter in a quick motion (I learned that the hard way). Climbing was hard because I couldn’t fully weight it without intense pain, and any sort of lock-off was pretty much impossible because of pain and instability.

It kept “subluxating”, too, which means it was continually falling subtly out of the joint capsule, which caused a lot of pain and more instability.

How I Did It

Perplexingly, I didn’t “injure” my shoulder in the typical sense. I wasn’t climbing one day and felt a tweak. We’d been living on the road climbing 3-4 days a week for the past 9 months happily without injury. I was working on a 5.13c with shouldery cruxes (The Cross at the Wailing Wall in Nevada) with no problem. Then I took a 3 week break from climbing and sat on our couch doing a work project (in the Paleo nutrition world) on my laptop.It was an extremely stressful time, and I was working about 100 hours a week (sometimes not sleeping at all for days). My posture was terrible. When I went back to climbing, it hurt and never stopped. That’s it.

Moral of the story? I stand while I work now, I take lots of breaks, and I try not to get so stressed out. I’m more aware of my posture all the time, and I do shoulder exercises (rotator cuff strengthening and general shoulder exercises) with my other shoulder. I’ll continue to do these for the rest of my life. I hope you do, too.

Road To Surgery

After 3 months of seeing all of my alternative practitioners, I finally went to see an orthopedic doctor – a PA actually – for further testing. I wish I’d gone a lot sooner.

After doing her manual tests (press down this way, push up this way, does that hurt?, etc.), she didn’t think there was anything very wrong with me. She thought it was just a little bit of biceps tendonitis and impingement – that it would go away.

I wasn’t convinced, and I’m stubborn, so I insisted on an MRI. She compromised at an x-ray, which showed that my shoulder was sitting higher in the capsule than normal, which could mean something was torn. The x-ray also suggested a slight hint of the beginnings of a bone spur, but nothing to worry about, she said. She agreed to the MRI.

The MRI showed that my labrum was torn and they suggested surgery. I was absolutely terrified of surgery, so I got a second opinion from one of the best shoulder surgeons in the country (world?), Dr. Tom Hackett at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, CO. He thought I could do without surgery, but after 6 weeks of PT that he prescribed (with no pain relief), he gave me a cortisone shot in the shoulder capsule.

That made the pain go away a little bit – enough so that I could climb up to 5.10 on good days, but not without pain. So after 5 weeks of that, I got surgery.

Surgery

They can’t tell you exactly what procedures you’re going to end up needing until they’re actually inside your shoulder. I ended up getting a subpectoral biceps tenodesis and a subacromial decompression with partial acromioplasty (bone spur). I didn’t know any of those words until after my surgery, either. Here’s what it means.

Biceps Tenodesis

If your surgeon is willing and able to do a biceps tenodesis, that is fantastic news. It means you have a knowledgable doctor who doesn’t fall back on repairing all labral tears, which often doesn’t take care of the pain and inflammation. The recovery time is about 5-10 times longer, too. Meaning 8-10 months instead of 6 weeks (like mine).

This right here is one of the MAIN reasons I’m writing this whole boring thing out for you. If you’re going to get shoulder surgery, ask your surgeon if he/she is going to consider tenodesis, or if they will only repair the labrum with anchors. If they say yes to the latter, get a different doctor. Or go to Tom Hackett, even if it means you have to fly to Vail to see him and have him do the surgery.

Here’s what tenodesis means. And just for the record, I am by no means a doctor. If I mis-speak here, please let me know in the comments and I’ll correct it. I’m not trying to be a know-it-all at all – just trying to warn my fellow climbers 🙂

Ok, so if you have a torn labrum, it’s often caused by your biceps tendon. Your labrum is like a golf tee for your shoulder. It’s a bunch of cartilage that gently cups your shoulder to keep it all in place. The labrum is connected to the biceps tendon, and since we use that tendon a lot as climbers, it gets pulled and inflamed and can tear holes in the labrum – or tear it right in half.

So some doctors will go in and just tack the hole back together with anchors and hope it doesn’t tear again. My doctor (and according to my doctor, all good shoulder surgeons) will at least consider biceps tenodesis, which is removing your biceps tendon from your labrum altogether and attaching it to your arm bone.

That’s what mine did.

Tenodesis removes the possibility that you’ll ever have impingement (of your biceps tendon going under your shoulder) again, or that your biceps tendon will tear your labrum further. So they drilled a hole in my arm bone, threaded my newly cut tendon through the hole, and anchored it with some sort of rod on the back side of my bone and a plastic plug inside the bone (I think).

GROSS.

But I don’t have to wait for anchors to affix themselves to my labrum, and I didn’t have to be in a sling for 5 weeks, and I’ll be climbing 6 weeks after my surgery, and I feel incredibly fortunate.

Now, if my labrum had been more severely torn, he would’ve put anchors in it – not sure if he would’ve also done the tenodesis. Anyway…

Bone Spur

Subacromial decompression with partial acromioplasty is apparently the fancy name for removing a bone spur. I had a level 3 bone spur in my shoulder (the biggest kind), which was basically making it impossible to NOT impinge my biceps tendon and cause all kinds of other pain every time I moved the wrong way. It also damaged a section of my biceps tendon. Good thing they tore that sucker off…

They just go in with a shaver tool, shave off all the fascia on the bone spur and then shave down the spur and call it good.

So my doc thinks most of my pain was coming from the bone spur, which, if you recall, my orthopedic PA said had maybe a possibility of existing when she looked at the X-ray.

Here are some before and after photos they took during the surgery. See that thing that looks like the moon in the top picture? That’s my bone spur and the little black area below it is the minimal space my tendon and everything had to move around. Below it Dr. Hackett drew a little line showing the space that now exists because of the bone spur removal.

bone spur

The Actual Surgery Process

To be honest, I have always been absolutely terrified of general anesthesia. I assumed I would die if I underwent this kind of procedure (I’m a glass half-empty kind of girl sometimes), and dying was the only possible downside of the surgery that consumed my thoughts leading up to it.

So if you have a similar fear, here’s what I experienced in the hospital.

I arrived at 10:30am. They quickly ushered me into a room where I got into my robe and put me in compression socks to avoid blood clots (I had to wear them for 2 weeks afterward, too). They took my vitals, talked to me about what was going to happen, the risks I was taking, the fact that MOST people don’t die due to anesthesia, and asked me about 100 times which shoulder I was having worked on.

Then they shot my neck area with the nerve block, which numbs your arm down to your hand and makes it so that you have to have less anesthesia and less narcotics afterward. Then he gave me valium, which made me very happy. I liked that.

Then they started wheeling me into the surgery theater while I was talking to my old climbing friend, Dave, who also happened to be my anesthesiologist, about how amazing my husband is at climbing… and I don’t remember one thing after that until I woke up.

Post Surgery

I woke up a couple hours later to Seth (my husband) sitting next to me, at which point I apparently repeated the same 4 sentences 10 times (“What time is it?”, “I’m so glad you’re here”, “I can’t feel my arm”, “Did you get something to eat?”). Then I ate a sandwich (they make sure you can eat and go to the bathroom before you can leave), got dressed, and walked down to our car.

The nerve block wore off that night, unfortunately, and that’s when I discovered my love of narcotic drugs. I haven’t done drugs since I was 17 years old, and I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with them, so I was scared to take anything. I told them I didn’t need a heavy narcotic, so they just gave me Vicodin.

BAD IDEA!!

The pain was excruciating. I asked them for oxycodone, and after 14 hours of the most nauseating, life-altering pain I’ve ever experienced, it finally started to work and the next week is a faint memory – lots of sleeping.

Rehab

On day 2, I was told to swing my arm around passively, dangling it below me. Or have Seth move it for me. I cried every time he moved it for the first week. It was rough. I also had really bad nerve pain in my hand and arm on my surgical side, which I’ve since learned can happen to people with neck injuries (I have 2 bulging disks in my neck), so I had to stay on the drugs for longer than I would’ve otherwise. I got off of them on day 6.

During week 2, things started to rapidly improve. I started to cry less during PT, I could almost lift my hand to my head, Seth didn’t have to do everything for me, walking wasn’t so treacherous.

Week 3 I could do my own hair, wash my hair with both hands, drive less dangerously, my range of motion started coming back quite a bit, I was okayed to start working with bands, and I started thinking about working again.

This week (Week 4), I have a lot of range of motion back, but still a lot of pain with certain movements. I can straighten my arm out to my side and bring it all the way up to my head, like this…

 

4 Weeks Post Shoulder Surgery

4 Weeks Post Shoulder Surgery

 

But I can’t get it as far back as I’d like…

Sorry for the awful pictures!

Sorry for the awful pictures and the mess!

That’ll come. It’s just stiff and sore for now.

Using my biceps has been the most challenging part, since the bone is still recovering from having a hole drilled through it and the tendon was cut off of its home of the past 36 years. So no biceps curls for me for another week or so, but I can lift things now. I can even lift my 40-lb dog out of the car (she’s gimpy right now, too).

Mostly I just stretch my arm and shoulder, work with the bands, do range of motion drills passively or actively (using a pulley system, a wall, my hand, a stick, or my muscles). I look like an idiot in the gym just lying on a mat with a stick for an hour, but whatever.

I can do some yoga, I could run (if I wanted to, that is), and I’m looking forward to getting the ok to climb before Christmas. We’re going back to Vegas in January (on the road again – woohoo!!), and I’m psyched to do tons of moderates that I’ve never taken the time to do before.

My Physical Therapist

If you’re in the Boulder, CO area, I HIGHLY recommend Seneca Webb for any physical therapy needs you have. She’s at North Boulder Physical Therapy, and after having gone to 2 other physical therapists before I could get back in with her, I can hands down say that she is the best, smartest, most compassionate and skilled physical therapist I have ever seen.

Moving Forward

The prognosis for my shoulder is that I should be climbing 6-8 weeks after the surgery, and potentially be climbing at my peak 3 to 5 months out. That’s typical for this surgery, according to other climbers I’ve talked to and my surgeon. I was previously looking at not really climbing at all until 6-8 months post surgery before I knew about the tenodesis, which was really depressing to me. I have a lot of respect for those of you who’ve gone through that and kept your spirits high.

My muscle mass has decreased a LOT – I lost about 10 pounds through all of this – all of my muscle is gone. So I’m looking forward to not looking like a child-sized weakling anymore.

BEFORE

big-muscles

 

AFTER

small muscles neely quinn

 

Pretty scrawny.

Anyway, I just hope that this post gives those of you with impending shoulder surgery some info and perspective.

All in all, it’s been a surprisingly quick and relatively easy experience. My shoulder has come a long way in a short amount of time.

If you’re interested, I’ll update you again in a couple months. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comment section – I’m happy to answer them! And thank you so much to everyone who’s emailed or FB’ed with support and encouragement through this. It means a lot!

Top Photo Credit

Photo by Brian Suntay of me on Vision Thing in Rifle. I hope to be back to my old self there this summer!

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By | 2017-09-18T06:47:49+00:00 December 11th, 2014|96 Comments

96 Comments

  1. Ryan November 8, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Wow I just read your story and can say that I totally relate to the first night…I’ve been through hand surgery with screws and plates, back surgery (laminectomy with dissectomy) and now bicep tenodosis with a torn labrum which also detached from the bone. I have a great doctor and have 60% of my ROM back 8 days post surgery. I’m anxious to get back at it myself and reading your story gave me hope that it will be sooner than later. Hopefully all is well now and no more injuries for you. I too struggle with losing muscle so I’m doing lower body work and one arm lifts.

  2. Chris September 8, 2017 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing. I am a 46 year old male enjoying CrossFit and Olympic lifting. I had a torn labrum that resulted in a bicep tenodesis, 3 anchor labrum repair and subacromial decompression.
    My surgeon told me to take sling off in 3 days so I wouldn’t seize upknowing I wanted to compete in a masters lifting event in 10 months. 6 weeks later Ive been cleared for light bicep work, overhead squats with just bar, light rowing and strict barbell press! All I can stress is that you have to talk to your surgeon and therapists! Yell them your goals!

  3. Tina August 18, 2017 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Thanks for the info. I am 59 and had the same procedure along with bone spurs. I bruised quite a bit after the operation but i think this was from age and lots of over counter pain meds. I am 9 days post op and started PT on day 2. My doc told me to take the sling off on day 2 but use it as needed. I put my shirt on backwards today….dam…i can’t tell you how hard that was to correct! i have been walking my hands up the wall and get them over my head. Not an easy task but i can raise my hand over my head. I’m going to slow it down a bit as not to hurt myself. I am limited to lifting 1lb. I am just hoping to get full rang of motion by 6 weeks. I was thinking i would be fully recovered in a few weeks but your post is making me realize that the small steps will get me there and not to rush it. You have recovered very nicely. I want the same.

  4. Chris Monroe June 29, 2017 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Just had the exact same surgery 10 days ago. Had my follow up appt today. My Doc says no lifting and he might consider letting me go back to work in another month. But he was leaning towards more like 3 months. I’m a firefighter and that’s not gonna work for me. I’ve never been one to just sit around. I was advised to keep my arm in the sling for one more week and then start lifting no more than 5 lbs. This is probably the most challenging injury I’ve ever had to deal with. I start PT next week and well see if I can him to help push things along. He was an army doc for a long time and I was in the army as well so he understands the need to return to duty. I’ll update as I go.

    • Fred October 27, 2017 at 4:58 pm - Reply

      I am a firefighter too and on November 16th I go in for labral tear repair, tenodesis and distal clavicle resection. I am curious how long you were off. I was told 3 months with a best case scenario being 10 weeks. I am pretty active and am going in with most of my strength and range of motion. Not looking forward to being shut down and hoping for a quick full recovery.

  5. Michele Howard June 21, 2017 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Just curious if anyone has experienced extreme difficulty moving their arm up the back after shoulder surgery? I am 14 weeks out from Labrum repair, decompression, and my bursa being cleaned out. I have been doing PT since day 2. If you have experienced this, how long did it take to regain that motion? I’m starting to get discouraged and fear it will never get better.

    • Neely Quinn June 29, 2017 at 2:31 pm - Reply

      Michele – Have you gotten deep tissue body work done? If not, I can not stress how much that helped my recovery and range of motion. Find someone who will go very deep and make it hurt. Dry needling and acupuncture can also be extremely helpful.

  6. […] searching around for information on the surgery and recovery I came across Neely Quinn’s experiences at TrainingBeta.com. I thought I would go ahead and share mine as well because […]

  7. Daniel V. Simmons February 15, 2017 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Hey my name is Danny and I had the same exact surgery almost two months ago. My surgeon (Dr. Widmer @ TOSH in SLC), was the one who pushed for the full repair of my bicep with the biceps tenodesis procedure. I’m grateful he did, and everything seems to have gone great. At this point I have pretty good use of my surgical (left) arm, and I’m happy with the range of motion that I have back already, but there is still pain if sleep on that side for too long. And I’m still not lifting more than a few pounds with that arm, as recommended by my PT Isaac at TOSH. My surgeon had me in a sling for 5 weeks, which seems excessive after reading about your experience. There was so much going on when this was done I don’t feel like I kept myself as informed of what other repairs might have been necessary as I could have. And boy can I relate to your experience with pain meds! I’m so happy to be done with that! My main reason for reading about your road to recovery was to see how getting back into some yoga might help at this point. I don’t want to do anything to reinsure the shoulder but I’ve had fantastic experience with asana in the past. Your blog came up on a google search on the subject and after reading I feel much better about the idea, and plan to get a class in today. Thanks so much for sharing! ps; I also just ordered full transcripts & photos of my procedure to help me have the kind of clarity in regards to my particular shoulder repair as you demonstrated here. I feel much more empowered in knowing whats going on with my body, and thats really important in all ways. I must have just temporarily forgotten 🙂

  8. Greg January 30, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you. Going in for the procedure this week and I’m happy I found your post. Here’s to a quick and successful healing process.

    • Tara Moser February 15, 2017 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      How is the recovery going? My daughter goes in for this surgery in 2 weeks. Trying to see what we have infor us

  9. Tara January 20, 2017 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    I must say I am so happy to read the success!!!! My 14 year old daughter will be having this procedure next month. This will be her 2nd shoulder surgery in 1 year. She is a high level swimmer and a softball player. She has been heartbroken and in pain for 1 year! This truly gives me hope that not only she can be pain free but she maybe able to return to her sports. Thank you

  10. Neil Craver January 14, 2017 at 10:09 am - Reply

    Thank you for your post, it helped me go ahead with my decision on Bicep Tenodesis surgery. I’m an American Ninja Warrior contestant from NC and you may know some of my rock climbing ninja friends in the Wolf Pack that also live in CO. I’m two days post-op and researching more about tips on speedy recovery, when I should start PT and movement, what different exercises I should be doing, etc.. My doctor practices yoga with me and knows about my goals for the next 6 months but he suggests I keep it in a sling for 2 weeks and I don’t meet with him again for another week. I’m worried that’s too long in a sling, risking scar tissue and limiting full range of movement. Any advice?

    • Neely Quinn January 23, 2017 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      Neil – I don’t know exactly what you had done. Was it just the tenodesis? If so, I can only speak from my own experience and what my surgeon and PT told me, but that seems totally unnecessary. I’d make sure to find out exactly what they did to you during surgery and then seek the advice of a PT. I was in PT literally the day after surgery, and I’m glad we got it moving. If you don’t get it moving, that’s when your chances of frozen shoulder go up. I used my sling for a couple of days when I was out in public just to keep people away from me, but other than that, the only time I’ve heard of people using slings for extended periods is when they have anchors placed to actually repair tears in their labrum or elsewhere. Best wishes to you!

    • Justin Deason February 3, 2017 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Hi, I’m 12 weeks post-op. I had the exact same surgery as Neely, though my bone spur wasn’t quite as big. My doctor wanted me to get it moving pretty quickly. I stayed in the sling for a couple of weeks but didn’t really wear it at home. I started PT 2 days post-op and regained about 90% ROM by week 4-5. I couldn’t actively lift my arm above shoulder height until week 6, which got very discouraging. Once I was able to actively move it, everything has progressed fairly quickly. I’m an avid weightlifter and my strength is pretty close to where I was pre-surgery. Pulling movements light pull-ups, curls, etc. are pretty much pain free. Pressing movements like bench press and overhead press are a little tougher but are getting easier by the week. My best advice would be to keep on top of your PT and don’t get discouraged! Best of luck to you!

  11. Terri Kendall December 8, 2016 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Hi, I am not sure if you still check this as it is an older article. I am a 49 year old aerial performer and about to undergo bicep tenodesis for a SLAP repair. I have been super nervous about my career possibly ending. So far I have continued to perform and teacher and minimally train (as I was way more intense before), but I’ve had enough of the pain, so I am mentally ready for the surgery. Your article gave me hope, so thank you for taking the time to write it. My PA swears I will start back on the equipment by week 8, but to get back to my level will take a bit longer. I am not happy about losing all my muscle, but hope it comes back quickly.

    • Neely Quinn December 12, 2016 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Terri – Your muscle and strength will come back! Just make sure to do your PT and get regular bodywork done to work out the kinks. Find a good sports massage therapist, dry needler, rolfer, or something else besides just a feel-good massage therapist (no offense to those massage therapists – this recovery just requires a little bit more pain than that), and make sure you go every week if possible. Best wishes to you!

  12. louise November 12, 2016 at 9:43 am - Reply

    So glad I found this blog!! Dr. Hackett will be doing my surgery 3 days. You further increased my confidence in his expertise; I have heard wonderful things about him; fortunate to have him as my surgeon! Your shoulder sounds a lot like mine. I hope for the same recovery success, but I, too, lost some muscle mass last month, bummer.. But I know I can get it back, just a bit more work. Thanks again!

  13. Sam November 5, 2016 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Neely – I’ve just had (5 weeks ago) a Biceps Tenodesis performed on my left shoulder, this is the third and hopefully the last OP, I’ve had on my shoulder in last 18 months. It’s been a while since your operation and I’m wondering if you’re back to full strength and if both of your arms look the same, can you see a slight difference in the bicep position? I’ve heard that after the OP your arm looks different…is this true?
    I would be grateful to hear what you think on this…thanks.

    • Neely Quinn November 7, 2016 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      Hi Sam – I just flexed in front of 3 of my friends and they said my right and left biceps look about the same 😉 I’m back to full strength, yes, and my shoulder is good. It usually only looks noticeably different if they don’t tack your tendon back down into your arm bone (or somewhere else). Otherwise, they can just cut it and leave it and your biceps muscle falls down toward your elbow. If they tacked it back down, you should be fine. I hope you’re back to full strength soon!

      • Glen Fowler November 24, 2016 at 3:20 pm - Reply

        Oh Neely, thanks for the info! Hi from Liverpool UK
        Ill be having both the labral repair and tenodesis soon so I know now what kinda nonsense I can look forward to
        You star ! thanks again
        Glen

      • Anonymous March 5, 2017 at 7:34 am - Reply

        Thank you.

  14. Diane October 27, 2016 at 9:25 am - Reply

    I am not a climber, I’m a tennis player, but I had a major SLAP tear and my surgeon did a bicep tenodesis 5 weeks ago. My PT has me lifting a 1 lb weight and if I lift more than that my arm swells near the re-attachment. I wish I was doing as well as you did and could think about playing tennis at 6 weeks, but I think it will be more like 10 – 12 weeks before I can do that. I’m also a bit older than you, I’m 53.

    I’ve been continuing to go to the gym and do leg work and recumbant bike work just to try to keep in shape. Thanks for all the comments, it is good to see how others are handling the procedure.

  15. Amy October 7, 2016 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this post! I was looking for info just like this in the summer of 2014, and like you, I didn’t really find any. Looks like you posted this just a few months later. My surgeon was recommending a biceps tenodesis instead of labral repair and I couldn’t tell if he was on the fringe of the future or was out of line with the standard (every climber I knew with a labral tear within the past 6 years had a labral repair, not a biceps tenodesis, although I know it depends on the type of tear). (I was especially worried because my surgeon said stupid things like “climbing is not that hard on your shoulders—you should see what kayaking does”. From the limited information I was able to find, it sounded like labral repairs would still be performed on “serious” “young” athletes with their whole careers ahead of them, while biceps tenodesis was recommended for older people. While I’ll never be a pro climber, I didn’t want to write off all my hopes and dreams for climbing hard after age 35.). Anyway, I had my surgery in October 2014 and recovered OK. I did develop a strange new click in my surgeried-shoulder that bugs me, but it doesn’t hurt and I am able to work around it. Unlike some people who’ve had a biceps tenodesis I never say, “my surgery shoulder is now the stronger one!”—it isn’t—but I’m not sure if that’s psychological or not. So while I can’t say for sure if the biceps tenodesis was the right choice over a labral repair, it probably was, and it’s nice to hear other climbers write about their experiences.

  16. Debbie Manzanal September 9, 2016 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    Hi I just had my surgery on Aug 3,2016 and I begged for this surgery after 9 years of pain. My problem was the same as yours but no one wanted to do the surgery until we got to fort carson. The dr was amazing from bedside to after surgery, he explained everything point by point but i already did my research I was just happy he did it for me. My experience was slightly different than yours. The hospital let me go with out eating but i made my husband go get me a whooper because I was starving, then I passed out. Even though I didn’t feel anything my husband had me taking the pain meds every 4 hours because come morning he knew I was gonna be in a world of hurt. The day after surgery I was in rehab yeah not fun and I cried the first day but after that I trucked on with the pain and loved the ice pack after. Week 2 I hardly wore the sling unless I was going some where and week 3 I started College so that was the only time I wore the sling. I am on week 5 I don’t wear the sling and I still have minimual pain but I take Iborprofen when it hurts. In 5 months I will be having the same surgery on the other arm so I hope this one is fully healed or better. I didn’t lose muscle mass because they had me in therapy straight away and not a few weeks later. I think that is a bad idea that dr’s have to wait till the swelling goes down. The army say’s that they have a higher success rate of healing when it is right after surgery and its true. My friend had the same surgery and she waited 2 weeks for rehab and she is 2 weeks ahead of me and she is suffering with muscle loss. So to any one getting this surgery make sure you go straight into rehab the next day. It may hurt but not for long the sooner you get your arm moving the better the range of motion is and that arthritis doesn’t set in.
    Good luck and thanks for sharing your story
    Debbie

  17. jake September 8, 2016 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Hi Neely,

    I’m having a similar procedure next Friday for my labrum tear in my non-dominant arm. Most likely it is a partial tear, but as you stated, they won’t truly know until they get in and operate.

    I’m having the surgery on Friday, the 16th and am planning to “work from home” the following week. I have a desk job that can be done from home, whether sitting in a chair at a desk or lounging with a laptop on my lap. I’m curious what your thoughts are on being able to do this 3-5 days following surgery?

    Appreciate any thoughts/advice!

    Thanks!
    Jake

    • Neely Quinn September 12, 2016 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      Hey Jake – Good luck with the surgery! I hope it fixes you up. I was definitely on my computer within a couple days after my surgery. I was on lots of drugs, so it was a new experience for me to work all messed up, but it was fine. Seth was working within a couple days as well. You should be fine.

  18. Eva September 5, 2016 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    Hi, I’m so glad I came across your blog!! I’m having shoulder surgery in 3 days and have been debating on whether or not to cancel it. I have severe anxiety and am terrified of getting a blood clot. I had an MRI and it didn’t show any tears but I tried PT for 6 weeks, trigger point injections and I haven’t worked for 5 1/2 months (I’m a NeuroMuscular/ Massage therapist) My shoulder hurts when I wash my hair or do similar movements to that. I’m afraid that since there was no tear in the MRI that surgery might make it worse. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Neely Quinn September 7, 2016 at 11:39 am - Reply

      Hey Eva – Honestly, I had severe anxiety before my surgery, too. I was terrified of dying from the anaesthesia… Anyway, I really can’t say whether or not I think you should have the surgery because I have no idea what is going on with your shoulder. It might be that your biceps tendon is being impinged by a bone spur like mine was, which can cause a lot of pain. In that case, I’d say that surgery was super helpful for that, but only if you have a shoulder specialist who will do a biceps tenodesis. So I’d ask about that. Your surgeon should be able to tell you why he/she thinks surgery will help you. If he/she can’t do that, then I’d find another surgeon.

    • Debbie Manzanal September 10, 2016 at 12:04 am - Reply

      I have had MRI after MRI and no one wanted to touch the bicep tendon even thought the results said it was inflammed really bad I lived with injections and meds for 9 years. I went to civilian dr’s for years, the dr’s at my husbands post in fort bliss wanted to do more injections and if it didn’t get better then it was surgery. We ended up moving to fort carson and I had an episode where my tendon got stuck under my shoulder blade and I couldn’t move my arm for a week finally they got me into seeing a ortho dr and he was like I see the history and not getting better so yep lets do this. I love my dr so much so he is doing my other arm come january. His collegues thought he was nuts because i also suffer with fibromyalgia and he told them that if i am hurting and there is something wrong he will do his best to fix it. So my advise to you to make sure you have a dr that will listen to your pain and not the insurance companies because ultimatly if he doesnt let them know that you need this they wont pay an you will suffer. and make sure if you have the surgery to do rehab right after if you wait the 2 weeks that most ortho dr do you will not only lose muscle mass but you will lose recovery time too. I am post op 5 weeks and i can almost do every thing i did before. I do have some residual pain but my bone is still healing that will be like that for months. good luck

  19. Arthur August 15, 2016 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Tomorrow I will be 3 weeks post opp. for two minor tendon rotator cuff tears and a biceps tenodesis on my Left shoulder / arm. This is my 3rd shoulder surgery. My back story; I’m 45, 5’7” and weigh 175 lbs, stocky build with broad shoulders. Weight lifting in high school but college to current day no real heavy stuff; general weight training and cardio. I stay in pretty decent shape. Avid DIY’er so I’m always working on things above my head, under cars etc. etc. After awhile it didn’t take much for my Right shoulder to be exhausted / done. Don’t know how else to describe that feeling; just totally worn out tired and inflamed. Got to where I just couldn’t throw a ball for the dog for long before my arm was toast. When it started to keep me up and night and taking several weeks to subside I decided I was ready for something to try to fix the problem. In 2008 after several Orthopedic visits, a couple cortisone shots and an MRI I had surgery on my Right shoulder. You get to learn a lot about shoulder anatomy over the years. I suffer from Type II and Type III Acromion bones for the most part so the “space” for the complete shoulder process is limited and already compressed even without any inflammation. Any bones spurs or sharp anomalies will over time saw tendons down. In this first surgery I had sub subacromial decompression with acromioplasty (bone spur removal) and one suture anchor was put in place to repair a partial tear in one of my rotor cuff tendons. Recovery and PT were pretty quick and for the most part I was very satisfied. In 2013 after my Left shoulder started acting up with the same symptoms I had surgery on the Left. Same Orthopedic Surgeon who tried cortisone a couple of times before going with surgery on the Left shoulder. No tears of tendons on my Left shoulder so the procedure was just decompression and acromioplasty. Same story with recovery and PT. Felt great. In 2015 (two years) after Left shoulder surgery I started suffering from instability and “scapular winging” in my Left shoulder. More PT and yep more cortisone and things got back to somewhat normal but by the end of 2015 I started experiencing more of the similar symptoms I knew all too well. Mainly in the Left shoulder but also in the Right. At one point they both were killing me at the same time! Had MRI’s done on both shoulders as my calendar year deductable wrapped up. Orthopedic Surgeon just kept on with Cortisone shots which I wasn’t really crazy about continuing. Cortisone is not a solution. I dealt with the pain until about February of this year (2016) when I started having numbing in my fingers on my left hand. I went to a chiropractor who looked over the MRI and MRI reports and started working on the Teres Minor muscle which was in a knot (one of the 4 muscles that make up the rotor cuff complex). He suspected Labrum and tendon tears and suggested I seek a second opinion as he didn’t see the Cortisone as a solution either. Half a dozen chiropractor visits to work the knot out with very deep painful massage. Working that muscle literally took my breath away! Time for a second Orthopedic opinion. After handful of referrals I settled on a new surgeon. New Orthopedic took a look at the MRI’s and the MRI reports and suggested biceps tenodesis on my Left most problematic shoulder. He suspected more tears that could need repair but wouldn’t know until he got inside to see. By now you probably have learned the long head biceps tendon is anchored in the labrum where it constantly pulls on and tears the labrum away from the bone. Relocating the biceps tendon to the arm alleviates pulling on the labrum and it also removes that tendon from the mix of tendons, muscles, ligaments etc. etc. in the shoulder complex. So I’m 3 weeks out from the biceps tenodesis surgery and outside of discomfort for the first 3 or so days recovery is just wearing the sling. No PT yet but I’ve been getting my cardio via a recumbent bike. Exercises from my Ortopedic and PA are shoulder shrugs, squeezing my shoulder blades back and pendulum swings. I’ve added some very light stretching. As many have said before the sling really helps to keep you out of trouble. I’ll probably be in the sling for longer than I did when I had only rotator cuff repairs as the fear of rupturing the biceps tendon is my main concern. PT will be starting in next couple of weeks and will likely be longer with the tenodesis recovery. If all goes well in next couple of months I will have the same procedure done on my Right shoulder and pray this is my last shoulder surgery. That will be procedure #4…. Hope my story helps someone and if anyone has anything to add from their own experience that could help me I’ll take it!

  20. Jesse August 10, 2016 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Hey guys. I am not a climber, but I ran across this post online. I recently had surgery and am 2 weeks post op. I actually had 4 procedures done at once, Biceps Tenodesis, Subacromial decompression, Distal Clavicle Excision (they shaved some bone off the AC Joint, and joint debridement. I am an avid weightlifter and after a year of working around pain, I decided to do something about it. I was very nervous about surgery, because ive never had it done. I know pain tolerance varies by person, but for me the pain was not as bad as I thought it would be. Dont get me wrong, it hurts like a b*tch, but I only took 2 painkillers thus far, and that was on day 1 and 2. I try to avoid them at all costs. I am making awesome progress so far and am looking forward to getting back in the gym, though it probably will be another 5-6 months before that is allowed. I just wanted to share this information with anyone who is maybe on the fence on whether or not to perform surgery. Its really not that bad, and for me, the worst part is staying home from work not being able to do anything (cabin fever). Thanks guys!

  21. Doug July 28, 2016 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    Neely, or anyone else that received bicep tenodesis surgery –
    Was the procedure of ‘bicep tenotomy’ ever considered?
    My Ortho is giving me both options – just cut the tendon and leave it, or, reattach it to the humerus.
    His story is that major athletes have had both types with no loss of performance. I’m no major athlete but do stay active with skiing, biking and golf.
    Just curious to what you heard for fixing your shoulder.
    Thanks, Doug

    • Neely Quinn July 28, 2016 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Hey Doug – Yes, our surgeon talked about the tenotomy, and his take on it is that it doesn’t make any difference functionally whether or not you reattach it to anything, but it does leave your bicep a little deformed if you don’t. So he always reattaches it to the humerus. Honestly, the reattachment point was by far the most painful part of my healing process. I’m not sure what it would’ve been like if he hadn’t reattached it, but if you don’t really care that much about how it looks then maybe just have him cut it off. But I don’t know! That’s just what he told us. Good luck with it!

      • Chris July 29, 2016 at 12:27 am - Reply

        I feel all my pain now is coming from the anchor on the outside of my arm, Its also isuper painful at physical therapy when he tries to stretch it, almost like they cut it too short.
        I just hope all this passes and I get my range of motion back to somewhat normal. Almost going on 3 months

        • Paula January 12, 2017 at 12:12 am - Reply

          I am 9 weeks post op rotator cuff tear and bicep tendon repair and my elbow has been locked since coming out of the sling 3 weeks post op. Hand swollen & fingers not bending to make a fist.Was told by my surgeon that I have arthritis and or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). I’M curious if anyone else has had this or know someone who has. I’m feeling depressed . This is my dominant hand and it’s taking forever to get answers and heal. My PT says my rotator cuff is healing fine but not sure about this elbow and hand issue. I was put into a Dynasplint with tension today. Any advice.. I

          • william February 18, 2017 at 2:23 am

            Hey Paula, I am 13 weeks post-op myself, and I also developed CRPS. Are you able to move your hand now, and what type of pain are you experiencing?

    • Debbie Manzanal September 10, 2016 at 12:08 am - Reply

      My dr gave me the same option the difference is one the bicep just sits in your arm or two attach it to the humerous an I choose 2, the healing time is longer becasuer the bone has to heal but thats it

  22. Raelene July 25, 2016 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    It’s been 4 weeks since my surgery. Long head bicep tendonisis , slap tear repair, glenhumeral joint cleaned up. Then also had ulna nerve decompression in the elbow. I had a lot of pain in the shoulder and when I would raise my arm it popped and it would really hurt after that. Thru the year it only got worse, to the point where if I could raise my arm up I wasn’t able to rotate my hand over, it felt like it was tryingto dislocate. When it got to the point I couldn’t work any longer I decided I had enough, threw in the towel and said go for it, whatever needs to be done, please do it. So after Wc approved it, about 5 weeks later. We did the surgery, I have been in a arm cradle with a bumper on my side, I take it off only to shower and 4 times a day to lean forward and let it hang and go in circles 30 clockwise, 30 counterclockwise. I had been sleeping in a recliner because I couldn’t lay flat on my back until last week, and I can only sleep for 2 hrs at a time. I fell almost a yr and a half ago, we tried shots and therapy this was the last stop. I’m a very active 54 yr old, also work for a package delivery company that requires you to be able to lift and carry up to 150 lbs. My fear is I won’t be able to lift that by August 17th, that will be my 45 day out from work, if my dr doesn’t release me they will put my route up for bid. Also when I fell I fractured L1 in my lumbar spine, I was hoping while I was off work that back pain would settle down, but it hasn’t , so not sure what will come of this injury. Do you remember about what your weight limit was around 45 days after your surgery? Thanks and best of luck to you and your husbands recovery

    • Neely Quinn July 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      Raelene – Sounds rough – sorry to hear about your situation. Honestly, this is more similar to my husband’s first surgery because he was in a sling for a while with that one, too. I wasn’t in a sling for more than 2 days with mine, but I could definitely not lift 150 pounds after 45 days. Actually, I couldn’t lift 150 pounds now, so I don’t know how helpful that is. I could probably not have curled more than like 15 pounds without some pain… My husband was in a similar situation after his first surgery. He was doing curls with like 10 pounds at that point I think. Sorry for the bad news.

  23. Chris bolin July 21, 2016 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Wow I can believe you were able to start using that shoulder that soon! I had a small rotater cuff tear and bicep relocation May 5th, post surgery most days I didn’t need pain killers unless it was a PT day, finally after two months my shoulder dosnt throb at night. I used to wake up with tons of pain but would go away 5 min after getting up an moving around. My range of motion was about 90% last month but has since went down to 70% lots of pain coming form the biceps anchor. I am hopeful I will regain range of motion and pain will subside in another month.

    • April August 2, 2016 at 11:31 pm - Reply

      I had my surgery June 21. I get throbbing at night and move it and feels better. I’m on week 7. I had moderate tear in supra. And bicep tendesis. I hope my and her doesn’t give me any problems like you discribed!

  24. Areli E July 3, 2016 at 9:02 am - Reply

    Good info thanks for sharing

  25. Deano June 30, 2016 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Neely, Thanks very much for writing such an informative review on your experiences.
    Im 41 yrs male from Australia (not a climber or athlete) but love working out at the gym.
    I was in the Gym 5 months ago using Seated Cable Row machine, I did 1 set and moved to another machine to do some leg work. I had a quick chat to someone next to me and when I moved back to the Seated Cable Row machine someone had changed the weight from 60kg to 140kg. I didn’t even think and just jumped on, my right arm let go to stop me running into the machine and being the person I am I didn’t want the machine to slam down so my left arm took all the force and bomb – tear. It took another 5 months to really feel it was never going away. I’m not in any pain and I can sleep just fine, but I can’t lift 1kg weight above my shoulder without it hurting now and even stretching out to turn a light switch on hurts but apart from that it’s fine. Putting cloths on the washing line is not possible and getting a box down from a high shelf is also not do able anymore.

    My only fear now is the op itself. About a year ago I was in hospital for a hernia op and I experienced what they call “surgery awareness”, it lasted about 8 minutes and I could not talk or move but I could see (eyes never blinked or moved), hear and feel everything. It’s a horror watching someone you trust cut your chest open with a sharp knife and watch all the blood come out but could not scream – I was screaming but no one could hear me. I just hope I don’t experience that again. It’s like 1 in 100,000 chance it could happen. I just got the 1.

    I have seen my shoulder specialist and the MRI says I have a SLAP tear. My surgery will be Arthroscopic Biceps Tenodesis (left shoulder). I still have 28 days before surgery but i’m super scared.

    Your information has put me as ease that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for this operation.

    Thank you
    Deano

    • Neely Quinn July 1, 2016 at 12:35 pm - Reply

      Deano – That sounds like the most horrifying experience ever. Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that. I guess I’d just look into whether or not the reason it happened is because you have a certain genetic/physiologic response to the anesthetic they gave you. Does this happen over and over to the same person, or is it possible to have multiple surgeries with the same anesthetic and NOT have it happen over and over? Know what I mean? That would terrify me. But yes, in terms of the shoulder stuff, I had a lot of the same pains doing the same things, and I’m a year and a half out and I don’t have those pains in my surgical shoulder (the other shoulder is a different story – ha!). Definitely get a good surgeon, though! I did a podcast episode with my surgeon recently and he talks about how to find a good shoulder specialist surgeon.

      • Deano July 1, 2016 at 6:40 pm - Reply

        Neely, it’s only happened once to me and that was enough. I have had 3 hernia operations before and only 1 was bad. It’s quite rare for this to happen twice. Normally it’s when the anaesthetist don’t get your brain activity down far enough so you can hear and feel everything but you can’t tell anyone. I have a lot of PTSD from this, lots of uncontrollable crying, nightmares of being cut up on an autopsy table – it’s pretty bad stuff.
        I am a soap maker so I need both arms to pour at the same time, normally it’s only 2kg each arm but at the moment thats not possible, I can only use my right arm and cant make my special fragrance patterns.
        Can I ask, as what stage (weeks/month) would you have been ok to lift 2kg with your surgical shoulder?
        Thanks.

        • Neely Quinn July 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm - Reply

          Wow – that sounds so awful… Ugh. Lifting 2kg with my surgical shoulder happened at about week 3 or 4.

          • Deano July 13, 2016 at 5:53 am

            I’m having second thoughts now about this operation. Just because of my surgery awareness issues.
            If it wasn’t for that I would have no issues with the op.
            Thanks for your feedback Neely 🙂

          • Deano July 18, 2016 at 5:56 pm

            Just an update. I now have the flue and they can’t operate. Surgery cancelled.
            I saw the Dr at the pre-admin clinic and she seems to think the surgery awareness issue I had was my fault, so not really keen on seeing this Dr that is not going to look after me – specially as a Anaesthetist who controls my heart and breathing.

            So surgery is put on hold permanently. Maybe when I find the right surgeon and Anaesthetist I will try again.

          • Neely Quinn July 19, 2016 at 12:22 pm

            Deano – Your FAULT? How is that even possible? Ugh. Well, my surgeon and anaesthesiologist were good if you want to fly to Vail, CO for your surgery! Good luck with it all. Maybe it’s better you got the flu after all.

  26. Marcia May 22, 2016 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Great story. I’m 5 days post op from subacromial decompression and Tenodesis. So far so good. I’m thinking I made the right decision bc the post op pain has actually been about as much as my pain was pre operation. I did a good amount of prehab before surgery though. It’s good to know that I can get back to my 100% though.

  27. Tina desjardins May 22, 2016 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    What is bicep tendesis is it the same as tendinopathy? Got 2 torn rotator cuffs one partial one 6 mm at insertion got temdinopathy, labrum fraying,subscapular interstitinail focal tear. Shoulder joint froze have adhaesive capsilitis getting some movement now. Sunscapular tendon cuses the most pain but doc sAys it partial tear. Eveything aches fter a whole yaer now hand burns unbelievably doc says he thinks i have crps. Hand is discolored forearm aches nerve pain but no crazy swelling can anyone relate?

    • Paula January 12, 2017 at 12:24 am - Reply

      Same here and that’s what I was told. CRPS-complex regional pain syndrome. Baloney in my case.9weeks post op rotator cuff tear & bicep tendon repair. Locked elbow since sling removal 3 was posted op

  28. Tina Brazil May 10, 2016 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Neely!

    Thank you for this info. I’m now going on five years since I was able to climb happily and strong (for me). I did have shoulder surgery in 2013 and promptly retore the labrum and biceps tendon climbing at the Creek later that year and have basically climbed on and off and had constant pain for almost three years since tear number two. The first surgery was a complete nightmare with a bad surgeon and terrible pt back on the east coast. I now live in Denver and am psyched to have access to more forward thinking orthos. I am starting to think about a tenodesis procedure because life has been a bummer without climbing regularly.

    On that note, do you have any recommendations for good shoulder pt in Denver? Thanks!

    • Neely Quinn May 16, 2016 at 11:01 am - Reply

      Hi Tina – No, I’m really sorry. I wish I did, but I’ve had a hard time finding a super helpful PT in Boulder or Denver. I wish there were PT’s who didn’t have to see 100 patients a day. I think it really restricts what they can do to actually help people. Good luck finding one, though! I’m sure if you ask around the gym people will have good suggestions. Or your surgeon should have a good one he/she refers people to.

  29. Nadine April 29, 2016 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Dear Neely

    I’ve just read your report about your tenodesis! Thank you! Have been searching for a long time to get a useful report!

    I am fighting with similar problems as you did! The MRI scan (did it in January 16) says I’ve got a Slap-lesion Type II (hole in the labrum)! I can still do all motions and I still have strenght but after climbing (high level 7b/c) I feel always pain the day after! I went to see two shoulder surgeons and both said it’s up to me if I want a surgery or not! Both of them would recommend a tenodesis!
    Actualley, I am in a dilemma! Climbing works but always with pain the day after! To be honest, that sucks! I don’t know if it’s really “time” to do surgery!
    I am afraid that surgery could go wrong and it would be worse than it is now!

    How is your shoulder stability?
    I have a body shape like you had on picture “before” in your report! I am really not keen on losing muscles!
    The surgeons say the rehab would take six month and I couldn’t climb for the next 3-6 month! 🙁

    How does your shoulder feel today? Any problems!

    Thanks for replying!

    Greetings from the Swiss Alpes

    Nadine

    Von meinem iPhone gesendet

    • Neely Quinn May 2, 2016 at 2:37 pm - Reply

      Hi Nadine,

      That’s what my surgeon said, too: it was my decision about whether or not to do surgery. After dealing with the pain for over 6 months and not being able to climb even remotely as hard as I did before the injury, I took the chance and had the surgery. It’s been a year and a half and my surgical shoulder is awesome. I still need to strengthen it (who doesn’t?), but I rarely have pain, it hasn’t subluxated since before surgery, and it’s stable. I would do it over again if I had to. As for losing muscle mass, I lost a lot because I waited for so long before having surgery. My husband had surgery on both of his and he was climbing hard the day before each of his surgeries, so he lost very little muscle mass. What both of us did lose has come back quite a bit. It’ll take time, but you’ll get it back with some diligence. There’s always the chance that it could go wrong, of course. I urge you VERY STRONGLY to find the best surgeon in your area, whether that means you have to drive hours to see them or not. We drove 2 hours to see our surgeon every time, and it was totally worth it. Your rehab time will completely depend on what surgery you end up having. They often can’t tell what they’re working with until they’re actually in there. Best of luck with this big decision!

      • SERGIO December 6, 2016 at 3:37 pm - Reply

        Hi Neely, Does your husband has tenodesis in both shoulders? My story: I started having problems with my shoulders when I was 20 in the year 2000, wakeboarding, they both started subluxating, I think I subluxated them like 10 to 15 times each before surgery, so I had surgery on the left in 2005, and on the right in 2010, labrum repair in both, anchors. Both took like 5 months to be back 95-100% . 2015 after 7 months of surfing every day my right shoulder started to hurt(bicep tendon), and I had an accident that dislocated the left again, so another surgery on the left jan 2015, 5 anchors, It got limited now but It’s still strong, the right one I’m having problems when I surf, the bicep tendon is hurting bad, and some times it blocks when I do the arm stroke/paddle in the foambowl, I have to wait for 5 secs and loosen it, but being in the water is not comfortable at all. I have Slap VIII and tenodesis is being recommend. I’m more scared f this procedure than the previous ones I don’t know why.

        • Neely Quinn December 12, 2016 at 3:20 pm - Reply

          Hi Sergio – Yes, my husband (and I) both had tenodesis procedures done on all 3 surgeries between us. It sounds like a tenodesis would be a good way for you to go, since the biceps tendon is clearly causing your issues (at least in part). SLAP tears come from the biceps tendon pulling on the labrum, and the dislocation can be caused by that. My husband still has pain, but his shoulders are not as “loose” as they were before and they don’t subluxate now. Just make sure you have a shoulder specialist as your surgeon! Best wishes to you, and let us know how it goes!

  30. Tiffany April 28, 2016 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Neely,

    Thanks for the positive post on your experience. Just what I needed to see!

    I’m on day 8 recovering from subacromial decompression, partial infraspinatus tear, severe anterior and posterior labrum fraying and removal of extensive synovitis in the entire joint due to the adhesive capsulitis that I got as a result of an ortho dismissing my severe and growing pain, subluxing, and instability. All in all, it was 15 months of hell. At the time of surgery, the only movement I could make was elbow flexion.

    I finally found an excellent surgeon. Originally a tenodesis was on the list but I didn’t need it after getting inside.

    Already I can move my arm in ways I couldn’t before surgery. Granted, I have a long way to go in rehab as my muscles have wasted away but I am extremely hopeful. I haven’t started PT yet but know it will be painful. I don’t think it can be worse than the 17 weeks of PT before surgery to try and break the adhesions and pop my shoulder back into the joint very week. For me, the stabbing pain with movement was not as bad as the severe trap and scapular spasms that happened with relocating the slipped joint.

    This is the first post I have seen that hasn’t been negative and I appreciate it immensely! It seems the people that have excellent outcomes don’t post and the ones who don’t do so many many thanks!

    Tiffany

  31. Danica April 28, 2016 at 1:32 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m 4 weeks post from my shoulder decompression and feeling defeated some days. I was an avid crossfitter before surgery and can’t start back at the gym for a few weeks still….I’m allowed to only start running in two weeks. My muscle feels like their wasting and my arm mobility is much worse then before surgery. I’m glad to know this is normal afterwards.

    Glad your backing climbing!!!

  32. Kelly April 27, 2016 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for this Neely.

    Can you tell me how you’re doing now (full recovery, limitations you have, etc)? And do you mind me asking how old you are?

    My surgeon is considering this surgery for me but is hesitant because I’m only 30 and they generally only do the biceps tenodesis surgery on older patients (45+) who might not need as full use of their shoulder as someone younger would and his team is unsure about long term use in the next 40-50 years.

    Now, I’m not a climber or athlete in any way but I do use my arms quite a bit as I sew (which is quite movement intensive throughout the entire process) and don’t want this to affect my livelihood in any way. I’m pretty on the fence about the surgery (as is my surgeon) so any input about your experience is great.

    • Neely Quinn April 27, 2016 at 12:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Kelly – No problem. I’m 37 years old, but I’ve never heard of an age limit on tenodesis surgeries. My husband has had 2 done – one when he was 29 and one when he was 30, so that seems weird to me (but what do I know?). As far as my recovery goes, I had it done about a year and a half ago and I honestly don’t really notice a difference in my shoulder now compared to before my injury. I mean, there are times when I’m climbing when I know that it’s a little bit weaker than it was, but I know that it’ll get stronger. And I’m talking really minimal differences. And there are very rare times when it hurts, but so does my other shoulder as a climber, so I’m assuming that’s normal. I have better range of motion on my surgical shoulder than my other shoulder, and it’s probably as good or better than it was pre-injury. I’m only a year and a half out, so I don’t know about long-term issues, but that’s been my experience so far. If I hadn’t gotten it done, I wouldn’t be climbing like I am now – of that I’m almost positive. I wish you the best with this – good luck!

  33. Ryan Neidick April 20, 2016 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Sorry if I am posting this late after your recovery but was wondering if you had pain a month or 2 after surgery? I had a partial rotator repair, Subacromial Decompression, and they had to grind a bone spur as well. Recovery is going well but I have pain in my hand when I use it. Perfect example is when I clap my hand I have pain inside my hand. Not sure if that is from the surgery or the nerve block they used and do you k ow if this is normal. I have had 2 other major surgeries in my life and this was by far the worse.

    • Neely Quinn April 26, 2016 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      Ryan – Yes, I had nerve pain and tingling in my hand for a while after my shoulder surgery. It was really awful for the first month and then started to subside. Now I feel twinges sometimes when I’m lying on my shoulder weird or have it in a strange position, but it used to be really often. I think nerve damage just takes time to heal. I don’t know if it was from the surgery itself or the nerve block – hard to say. My doc thinks it was from the nerve block. Just give it some time!

  34. Catherine felix March 10, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    thank you for sharing your story! I recently had the misfortune of having to under a pretty intense surgical procedure. I had to undergo some reconstructive surgery in order to correct a severe trauma. The whole process leading up to the surgery was traumatic for obvious reasons. I don’t want to go into too much detail but during my surgery, my team used a FAW blanket and it helped so much with my post surgical recovery. I credit my super quick recovery to the blanket. Here are some facts about the system http://www.truthaboutbairhugger.com

    • Joan Andersen March 20, 2016 at 7:54 am - Reply

      I also had tendesis done on r shoulder but because a fall happened. 1 yr prior i fell and landed on my shoulder. It took 1 yr for dr to do surgery, which i am.grateful but….. i had it done on 2/23/16, yes pain but.more referred pain. Anyone have this? I had a torn labrum and quite a bit of arthritus removed. I still have pain… i go to pt twice a week. Oh, i am 54…. any helpful ideas?

  35. Dee March 9, 2016 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Hi, Thanks for sharing…similar experience in many ways, unfortunately I have now scar tissue that is preventing full range of motion, I can’t lift the arm. Doctor has indicated 2nd surgery is required which will be significantly less invasive than the first. I am still going to PT but I’d like to know it I should continue if I have to have surgery anyway…any thoughts?

  36. Heidi January 23, 2016 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Hi Neely,
    Thank you for this. I’m looking at similar surgery in a couple of days and was wondering if I should proceed. I’m not much of an athlete but I do need strength just for the things that are part of my life and I don’t get help. So it was really reassuring to me to hear that I could expect to recover that. Best of luck in your ongoing recovery.
    Heidi

  37. Eddy January 11, 2016 at 11:11 am - Reply

    I’ve been researching this surgery for weeks after it was first presented to me as an option by one ortho – the second ortho (the one who will do the surgery, if necessary) also spoke highly of it for my sport (olympic weightlifting). This was the best anecdote I have read about it – thank you so much for writing it!

  38. Jill January 1, 2016 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Hi, I basically had the same surgery. My Dr re-attached my bicep to my humerus (upper arm) bone with 3 anchors. Apparently they disolve in three years on their own and my bicep will be attached naturally. I am not a great consistant athlete so I am not sure if that had anything to do with technique. However, I am finally cleared to lift after 8 weeks. My surgery was 9 mos ago and I still suffer pain, clicking/popping in my shoulder when I raise it above my head. Wondering if any one else has these symptoms.

    • Jill January 1, 2016 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      One more thing- if any of you need shoulder surgery, make sure you demand a pain pump which is in place during surgery. This medicine numbs your shoudler for 3 days, giving you enough time to start oral pain meds to prevent the horrible pain you experienced after surgery. I had no pain if my arm was stationary. I did have to get a cortizone shot 4 weeks after surgery bc I started to get a frozen shoulder. It helped immediately, but that shot was not fun!!!
      I feel the bicep re-secction was a piece of cake, absolutely no pain in my bicep or the bone they placed anchors in, the bone spur removal has been the true pain!!!!! FYI

      • Lynn March 25, 2016 at 7:16 pm - Reply

        Jill you should have never had a pain pump put on after surgery. I had that in 2006 for a torn labrum. It was shoulder surgery. The medicine inside the pain pump fried my cartilage in my right shoulder it was inserted to for 48 hours. I had the cracking, popping, grinding and pain after just like you asked! It is from the pain pump. It was a Styker pain pump and the 2nd surgery was a pain pump called Don Joy . I had 2 put on my right shoulder . But I did not know that is why my shoulder was messed up! I had a doctor tell me , that the pain pump the last surgeon used was not suppose to be used. The doctors were told in 2006 not to use these on patients cause could cause deteriorate the cartilage in the shoulder . well my doctor did it anyway . I am 47 years old . I have been in chronic pain for 10 years now because of this happening . I have had seven surgery’s on the right shoulder. The seventh one was on February 19,2016 ,just 5 weeks ago . I had a Reverse Shoulder Replacement., the last option and I’m in alot of pain typing this left handed. I am right handed . you need to talk to your doctor or get your operatives notes to see what was used for the pain pump! I’m not kidding. Go to Pain Pump you have a lawyer.com. I thought they stopped using these for surgery’s. I had the same symptoms you are having after my surgery’s with the pain pump! And now I am on SSDI because of this product a doctor was told not to use on patients. Dear Lord I wish you all the best and good health with your shoulder .

  39. Edward Albe December 15, 2015 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Hi Neely,
    I’m glad I found your post as I had almost the exact same procedure performed by Dr. Eric McCarty (Boulder Sports Medicine) on 11/17/2015; exactly 4 weeks ago.
    All the other stuff I was reading was too depressing in terms of length of time to activity.
    BTW – You don’t have to go to Vail; he’s one of the best.
    Plus, he “gets it” as an ex-CU football player.
    Anyway, VERY informative – although I have only gotten more aggressive with my PT in the past week…they were really fixated on the 4 week recovery time although my ROM is off the charts; especially for my age…that’s what 36 years of Boulder exercise lifestyle will do for you 🙂
    I had struggled through pain – stubbornly stoic athlete syndrome – and decreased ROM for ~5 years and wish I had done my tenodesis a few years ago; although my GP was extremely conservative and we did too much of the typical cortisone, theraband PT, yadda, yadda.
    So, in the end, I encourage anyone to consider bicep tenodesis if all else is failing to bring you back to where you need to be to stay active and fit.
    Thanks again!

  40. Allison Jones October 2, 2015 at 1:04 am - Reply

    Hello!

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing with us your experience. It does make it easier to deal knowing what to expect for the most part. I’m nervous about surgery but I’m just a worrier. I had cat scratch fever when I was five (I’m a crazy cat lady) but that was the last surgery (and only) that I’ve had ( I’m 28 now). Anyways, thanks again for that.

    Ali

  41. Kenny September 10, 2015 at 5:32 am - Reply

    hi
    I had shoulder surgery 6 weeks ago, I’m now doing physio, your post about surgery and recovery is a good read and helped me be more determined with my physio as it’s easy to get disheartened from time to time. Thanks for your comments

  42. Alex June 5, 2015 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Hi!! How are you feeling whit your Tenodesis now that more time has passed? I have to get it done, I had a slap repair but it has failed, I am now Im very high level pain, cant even raised up And constant pain also when I do nothing.
    Reading your post give me hope this work for me And pain goes away after Tenodesis.
    So after 2 months you where pain free in the bíceps And front shlulder?
    Hope everything goes ok!!
    Regards

    • Neely Quinn June 8, 2015 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      Hi Alex – Yes, I’m in SO much less pain now! It’s been 7 months, and I don’t really think about my shoulder much anymore. It was a success so far (who knows if I’ll have a higher likelihood of arthritis later or something?). I think you’ll be psyched after you have it done! I mean, the first 2 months were pretty brutal, but it got better and better. Good luck!

      • Paul Johnson April 22, 2016 at 4:05 pm - Reply

        I just had a SLAP tear repair with a tenodesis, and I’m feeling pain where they reattached the tendon 14 weeks later. Is that normal? (I feel like you must be in the top 1% of good recoveries from shoulder surgery.)

        • Neely Quinn April 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm - Reply

          Hi Paul – No, I definitely still had pain at the insertion site in my arm after that much time. I still have a little bit of pain very seldom there, even after a year and a half. My husband is 4 months out from his tenodesis and that’s where most of his pain is, as well. I just sort of pushed through it and as I pushed harder and harder, the pain decreased. I also had a really great body worker who worked on that site (it was EXTREMELY PAINFUL every time, but totally worth it). I don’t think I’d be where I am now without that body work.

  43. Hazel April 2, 2015 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this Neely! Just about to go under the knife myself. Similar story, mine not as bad as yours but rather long term. This anchoring versus tenodesis is a bit worrying. Awesome that you climbing after 5.5 weeks though! That makes me feel hopeful. Were you doing anything to stay fit during the first month – bike machine? Squats? Good luck with the rest of your recovery
    Hazel

  44. adam d January 31, 2015 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Hey Neely,

    Thanks for sharing this it was a great read before I went for my sugery!
    Fortunately My turned out to be not as server, But still bad enough with to SLAP tears and some other damage.

    Just wondering if you could post an update on how things are going and how you have found your recovery process.

    Any way hope all is going well.
    Cheers
    Adam

  45. Peter B December 23, 2014 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Neely,
    First thank you for sharing this information.
    I am currently recovering from surgery to my shoulder for sub acromion decompression, and adhesive capsulitis ( frozen shoulder). Quick history I originally injured my shoulder many years ago tearing a ligament bricklaying.
    The specalist recommended I persue another line of work, after a few stubborn attempts to go back to bricklaying, the devastating reallity hit me and I bought myself a computer and statrted learning , today I am a succesful CIO (computer information systems and programming) of a company. I did not have any surgery back then and my shoulder improved. Now this is where we have something in common Neely, and thank you for paying attention to details what caused your injury. This helped me identify what caused my severe pain. I was put in charge of new computer system implementation and as you I was also spending over a 100 of bad postured, dehydrated, sleep deprived hours per week at the computer screen. I notice the same pain in left shoulder getting worse. I could not identify one single event which would have caused this injury and I had a good look at what my posture was during this time and noticed I was supporting my upper body with my elbow on desk for hours and putting a strain on left shoulder. I agree with you and I will be working standing up more often and exercising and respecting my shoulders more.

    Thanks Neely !
    Happy holidays from Australia
    Regards Peter

  46. Yogy December 17, 2014 at 8:10 am - Reply

    Hi Neely,

    thank you for your open and fact-based first hand account. Actually I am looking for something similar concerning a small issue I have with my wrists.

    One comment towards a possible cure to not get the same issues again: When looking at your “strong” aka “before” protrait, I observe that you may have had a pretty forward-rounded upper back with shoulders going forwards. This is typical for strong climbers. It potentially leads to a lot of postural deformities. To prevent this, “opponent muscle” training as it is i.e. described in http://gimmekraft.com/ is essential.

    Wishing you all the best for your recovery and greetings from the German sports climbing Mecca “Frankenjura”,

    Yogy

    PS: Thank you for your website, I am following you and all the links you are posting.

    • Neely Quinn December 19, 2014 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      Yogy – Thanks so much for the observation and suggestion for improving it. I attribute my entire injury to my posture and unbalanced muscle structure, actually. I’m taking measures now to correct it as much as I can. Turns out it’s easier said than done, but I’ll get there 🙂 Thanks again!

  47. Teresa December 15, 2014 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Neely – I had shoulder surgery a year and a half ago. I’m an occupational therapist (OTR/L) by profession and prior to having my surgery I set out to learn about every type of possible injury I could have sustained. I was determined not to have surgery. After suffering for 2 years, I suspected I was subluxing out of socket and would often hold my hand on my hip due to feeling like something was hanging in my arm pit. I was fearful I had a labral tear and knew I displayed weakness in my bicep. So, I finally sought out an orthopedic surgeon. He took an X-ray followed, by an arthrogram (they inject dye with a needle into your joint capsule to illuminate any possible injury). I was relieved to hear there was no tear, but I knew something still was dreadfully wrong. I finally got to the point where I had to have my husband “pop” my humeral head back into socket.
    As I sat in the orthopedic’s office, he proceeded to tell me that all looked well and that the only way to know for sure was to go into surgery. When I told him I was pretty sure I was subluxing both anteriorly and inferiorly, his reply was, “There’s no way you are subluxing.” To which I replied, “Well, I guess surgery is the only way to know.” I pushed, because I knew something was wrong.
    Going into surgery, I knew they would find something, I just underestimated, once again, my body’s own intuitiveness. Upon waking, the surgeon told me he performed a capsulorraphy. What is that you ask, and what does it fix? Well, of course it was to fix the fact that as soon as he raised my arm I subluxed both anteriorly and inferiorly (exactly what I felt).
    This is where I want to make my point, which is similar to yours. YOU KNOW YOUR BODY! Don’t stop until you find a surgeon, or diagnosing practitioner that you like. If you hear, “You’re ok.”, and you know your not, don’t listen, keep pushing! Also, you don’t have to agree to the first recommendation. Research your options.
    Keep up your hard work Neely….your range of motion looks great! You’ll be climbing before you know it!
    P.S. My PT made me cry too 🙂

    • Neely Quinn December 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      Teresa – Thanks so much for sharing this story! This is exactly what I was hoping this post would prompt: a good discussion with lots of people’s own experiences and wisdom, so keep it coming, everyone!

  48. ABack December 15, 2014 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Neely, Great write up. I am three months out of bicep surgery (bicep tenodesis and a removal of a bone spur in my AC joint) the rest of my shoulder is fine. Except for how weak the back of my rotor cuff is (working on strengthening it in PT). I was in PT four days after surgery and started light climbing last week (3months post surgery). I read a great blog about “cheating a little” to keep finger strong even thought you can’t climb, which means “hanging” from a hang board with your feet on the ground only lightly weighting your hands (https://roconista.wordpress.com/tag/torn-biceps/). I went completely pain free after 7 weeks post surgery, that is when I started cheating/light “hanging”. Now 3 months later I am doing light bouldering and easy routes for now. I can do full body weight hang on the hangboard. Not that I am suggesting that everyone ‘cheats” a little to get to back to full form faster, but I noticed very little lost of hand strength and overall body/core strength (PT took care of that) when I started climbing again. What I felt was important to me about “cheating” a little was that my body went through surgery, but my mind wanted to climb. By ‘cheating” it help keep me in check and when it was time to return my body was ready and my body was not a system shocked. According to my doctor I am right on track to be able to push hard again by mid-march. Good luck and hope you recover strong.

    ABack

    • Neely Quinn December 15, 2014 at 1:50 pm - Reply

      ABack – Great suggestion! I’ll try hanging without actually hanging 🙂 Hope you start crushing it soon!

  49. Chandler December 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Neely,

    Thanks for your article, and for all your work on training beta- this website is AWESOME. Also best wishes for a speedy recovery! I too just had shoulder surgery (Nov. 6) for a torn labrum and had the same frustrating experience beforehand trying to find accounts/information from other climbers as I was freaking out and trying to decide what to do. I will be interested to read further updates as you post them. The one aspect of your article that I take issue with is your claim that all doctors should look first to bicep tenodesis as the first and best option, and that if this is not the case you should “look for another doctor,” especially when it sounds like even your doctor made what turned out to be an incorrect assertion at first (that you would be fine without surgery). In your article, you make very specific treatment recommendations, but do not mention where your labrum was torn or to what degree. It would probably be better for your audience (many of whom may be working through their own injuries and related emotions) to avoid generalizations that could be inappropriate advice for someone suffering from a very different type of labrum tear with any variety of combinations of other rotator cuff/ bicep/ bone spur issues. I had an inferior, posterior and anterior tear of my labrum (basically clockwise from 2 o’clock to 10 o’clock if the labrum was a clock), but my rotator cuff, bicep tendon and the part of my labrum where it attaches were all “pristine.” In this case, I absolutely had to have my labrum re-anchored, and bicep tenodesis was not appropriate since that part of my labrum was healthy and the rest of my shoulder would have still been hosed if that was all I had done. In any case, I guess all I am trying to say is that it would be helpful if you could provide more information on the exact nature of your labrum tear so that it is clear when a procedure such as the one you had is the correct one. Again, I really appreciate the article and am super glad you wrote it, but recommend caution making very specific recommendations for treatment without the supporting specifics on the nature of your injury.

    Thanks!
    Chandler

    • Neely Quinn December 15, 2014 at 1:59 pm - Reply

      Hey Chandler –

      This is great feedback! I updated my article to include more info on my labral tear (it was a small SLAP tear) with no fraying or other damage to it. Sorry for that! And as for my assertions about getting another doctor, I needed to explain myself further, so I tried to in the article. Basically what I was trying (and failing) to say was that a lot of surgeons don’t know how to do tenodesis. They only do repairs, even when a tenodesis would be more than enough – when the tear isn’t super big. My surgeon said that shoulder specialists only do repairs a small percentage of the time (I think it was like 17%), whereas general orthopedic surgeons do it almost 100% of the time. What I was trying to say was that people should go to a surgeon who knows how to do the tenodesis, in case it’s an option when they finally find out what’s truly going on with their shoulder during surgery. I hope that makes sense. I’d just suggest that when you’re talking to your surgeon that you say, “Is tenodesis an option here?” and if they say they don’t do those, I’d get a different doc. Do you agree with that? Thanks again for your feedback!

      Neely

      • ABack December 15, 2014 at 7:52 pm - Reply

        I agree about getting the right surgeon, I went to two different surgeons before I chose the one to do the tenodesis. I recommend asking your PT doctor for who they recommend.

        Neely, I am curious if your surgeon used one or two anchors to re-attach the long head of your bicep tendon to your arm? I went to a sports orthopedic surgeon and we talk a lot about how the arm/bicep is effected/used while climbing and he decided to put two anchors in my arm, one is the norm.
        Also, after surgery make sure your PT doctor understands that your not looking for the “normal” recovery protocol and to rehab you more like a professional athlete.

        Lastly Neely, thanks for putting this together.

        • Neely Quinn December 19, 2014 at 12:47 pm - Reply

          ABack – I waited to answer this question until I saw my surgeon again because I didn’t know the answer 😉 So here’s the long answer to what they did. They sutured the end of the tendon after they removed it from the labrum and put a “button” at the end of the sutures. Then they made a small hole through the entire arm bone and bored out the hole a little more at the front end of it (closer to my armpit). They they dragged the sutures and button through the small hole and placed the button flush with my bone to keep it in place. Then they put a screw in the bored out part to wedge the tendon in. Hope that makes sense. Also, my PT is a climber and well aware of my type A nature, so she’s okayed me climbing now after 5.5 weeks 🙂

  50. Chris W December 13, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Very nice post Neely; thank you for sharing. I, for one, would be interested to hear about your progress in the future. Best of luck to you.

  51. Dawn December 12, 2014 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Neely – We met you in Rifle and The Red. Thanks so much for sharing your story! It’s helpful to have a blow-by-blow account. Good luck rehabbing. And BTW I heard your Sean Croxton interview and loved it. Thanks for sharing there too! I missed hearing the summit but wanted to… Anyway good luck to you.

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