Re: Shoulder Impingement & Surgery

I am looking for feedback from paddlers that have had arthroscopy surgery for shoulder impingement. How successful was it?

Can you still paddle or perform other athletic endeavors with no pain?

If you want to know why I am even considering surgery, please read on. Otherwise skip to the bottom of my note. Here’s a summary:

I suffered a partial tear of my rotator cuff the first week in August 2004 when I improperly attempted to roll my boat. No one’s fault, but mine. BTW, I did not know I had torn the rotator at the time, but I immediately knew I had done some damage.

For nearly six months I performed normally activities including kayaking and rowing, hoping my shoulder would heal on its own. The shoulder never got worse, but it never got any better.

I finally went to a orthopedic doctor in January.

According to what I have read on-line, the Dr. followed the proscribed treatment for a shoulder injury. That included X-rays, rest, elimination of certain activities. I did not get better so he followed that with PT, more rest and a Cortisone injection. Nope. No better. I was then sent for an MRI. That indicated a partial tear of my rotator cuff, but I also have rather hooked Acromion, which apparently exaggerates the situation (e.g. impingement).

Ironically I can usually perform many activities without too much discomfort including XC skate skiing, rowing, paddling (yes, including rolling). I do occasionally note some discomfort with a strong high brace.

My main problem has been everyday activities. I will occasionally perform some low impact move. Like turning off my clock radio in the morning or reaching down into the ice maker in our frig. I’ll suddenly get hit with blinding shoulder pain. I also feel “tingles” or discomfort in certain postures, such as driving my car or setting at my desk.

The last time I spoke to the Dr. he was not pushing surgery. More of a wait and see. My next appointment is later this week. I now suspect that due to the lack of improvement surgery may be the only option.

Have any readers undergone this surgery. If so what were your results. Supposedly the success rate is close to 90% according to one on-line medical source. Even if the Dr. recommends surgery I will probably seek a second opinion, but based on my research and experience of the last 8+ months my options seem to be limited (e.g put up with it, verses go with the surgery to relieve the discomfort).

Thanks is advance.

Safe paddling,


i had an acromeoplasty - - -
which was for impingement syndrome and it helped tremendously. after a 4 month rehab period the shoulder was as good as new … better than new and has given me no trouoble ever since.

shoulder surgery
I had similar shoulder problems caused by some arthritis in AC joint but rather due to overuse than accident. Nothing was wrong with a rotator cup though. I could paddle, but loading boat to the car or any activity with extended shoulder was a problem. Cortizone shots didn’t work for very long. Physical therapy didn’t work (it had some benefits - stronger shoulder and faster recovery after surgery).

So, I did some research, got some encouraging responses from paddlers/racers and decided for a surgery: distal clavical resection, i.e., removing the last 1 cm or so of the colar bone.

I had my surgery in November 2002. In January 2003 I started to paddle again but a full recovery took a longer while. In March 2003 I paddled a part of the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge (not enough recovery and training for a long expedition race). June 2003 - Texas Water Safari finished with time better than the previous year. This March the WaterTribe again, but finished. Right now, training for the safari. So, a full recovery and no more shoulder problem so far.

I’m sitting in your boat.
Return on Monday for results of X-ray. Don’t expect they’ll show anything then on to an MRI. Left shoulder. Holding elbow at side with forarm bent at 90’ as in holding a glass of water. I cannot move my hand to the left due to pain. Torn rotator cuff probably. Hope not!

If it is a torn rotator,
don’t wait thinking that it will get better.

About five years ago, my wife crashed on her bike, and hurt her shoulder.

She waited for several weeks thinking that her shoulder would get better. She finally went to a doctor, and they did all the tests and it was determined that she had a slight tear. the doctor said that she could live with it or have it operated on. She opted to live with it, and for a year and a half, her paddling, swimming, and even sleeping really suffered…

She finally got it operated on, and within no time after the initial healing and strengthening it she was back to normal.

She now is a happy paddler.



In 2001 I had dislocated my right shoulder, tore my labrum, and suffered a full tear of the rotator cuff. After surgery, it took a about 2 months, to where I could gingerly paddle. Now, I can paddle fine, and also work out in the gym without any discomfort, as well as play golf. Due to the nature of the surgery, my shoulder ended up being semi locked up, so that is doesn’t have full range of motion. Partially due to lack of movement during the first 4 weeks after the surgery. Make sure you get a good dr. with references, and insure he has a plan for therapy, and stick to it. It was very painful, but is necessary for recovery.

Good Luck.

I consider myself really lucky!
After 2 surgeries on my collarbone I have quite good range of motion-I feel that it’s due to my pushing myself even when I had horrible pain that I am able to do so many things today! While my collarbone was broken the sports doc(I called him Dr. Torture BTW!) made me stretch my arms above my head while laying down thus keeping my shoulder from freezing up. I stretch with 5 pound weights to keep my shoulders going and helps my spine too! I had to do the whole grueling process again after each operation! I would look into a sports medicine doctor if I were you. Sometimes doctors will tell you to rice-rest and ice and sometimes we need to work those muscles and joints. Rice is good but ya got to use it or lose it!

for what its worth…
I started to have discomfort in my shoulder about 4 yrs ago and never really paid much attention to it. I had the same symptoms as you describe, some days were worse than others, and some days I never had any pain. I assumed it was just achy joints from weight lifting and kayaking all the time.

I visited my family doc for the first couple years, and received several cortizone injections which temporarily relieved the pain, but it would always come back.

Finally about a year ago, I was at the gym doing a bench press…I lifted the bar of the rack, and almost instantly I felt a shot of pain in my shoulder so severe that my arm just gave out. Luckily I had a spotter, or things would have been much worse. It was then that I realized that this was serious and I need to do somehting about it.

I made an appt. with a orthopedic doc where I had some xrays and some MRI’s taken. Sure enough, the rotator was torn and my Acromion was shaped like a banana. Years of ignoring the problem had torn my ligaments to shreds and caused all sorts of inflimation.

I started by going to PT 3 times a week to see if the problem could be worked out without surgery, as recommended by my orthopedic surgeon. I was not allowed to paddle or weight train during that period. Months went by with no apparant improvement. Simple things like reaching across the table were almost unbearable, sleeping through the night was a luxury that I was not afforded often.

Surgery seemed like the only option for me. I had a long discussion with my orthopedic doc in regards to this. He basically told me that he would inject one more dose of cortizone, and if the pain subsided, then he would recommend that I get the surgery. Bottom line, the surgery might not help, but it certainly wouldnt make things worse. Sure enough, the pain went away again and we decided to schedule the operation.

I had the operation in late december of 2003. It was out-patient surgery, check-in in the morning, home by late afternoon. I was laid up for about a week on a cocktail of morphine and codeine for the pain, after which I could resume using my shoulder for LIGHT activities.

Every day things improved. I finally had full range of motion back in my shoulder :slight_smile:

The doc mentioned to me that the recovery process can take several months for the inflimation to disappear, depending on how much I stress the joints. For the most part I took it easy, I started light lifting and working out again within 4 weeks after the op.

So here we are 4 months later. Was my surgery a success? I think so, I don’t have near the pain I used to. Can I do all the things I could do before? For the most part; I paddle almost 3 times a week and I’m back at the gym. My shoulder is still weak and I still cannot bench nearly what I could before the surgery, but I can move my arm across my chest without any stabbing pains in the joints. I think in a few more months I’ll be back to 100%, and I am looking forward to that.

My advice to you: Get the surgery. I’m pretty sure you will see an improvement. Don’t expect a miracle right after the surgery, take it easy for a while, and in time things should be back to normal.

Good luck!


I’ve had both shoulders done. Each time
was a bear.

I missed the entire 2002 paddling season because

of my rotator cuff surgery.

That having been said, it was a good thing to get

done. I’m a much better paddler now than I was before.

I thank you all for your comments!
Ironically, I seem to be able to control the discomfort during athletic endeavors. However, just doing certain simple activities around the house can really tweak the shoulder. Just yesterday a my wife and I had a “little contest” to see who could reach a piece of paper that has fallen off our kitchen table onto a bench. In my “rush” to get my hand there first I forget about my shoulder. Darn! Ten seconds of debilitating pain.

We will then see what the Dr. has to say on Tuesday, but I’m beginning to convince myself that surgery maybe the only option.

Safe Paddling.


Still recovering
I have had shoulder pain for most of my adult life. Especially when doing overhead work or playing softball. Went through the usual treatments(X-rays, P.T., and Nsaids) for quite a few years and with no improvement I finally had enough and dicided to get it fixed. Had the surgery early Sept.03(Subacromial decompression and Distal clavical resection). This was done arthroscopic(4 Holes). The doctor found a small tear in the rot. cuff and he repaired that also. Recovery has been slow despite PT and daily stretching and working my butt off to strength the shoulder. It has been 7 1/2 months and I am still only about 85%. Just starting to do longer paddles without pain. So the jury is still out on whether the surgery was worth it but I do feel confident that I will be better off than before. My advice is find the best shoulder surgeon that you can and plan on a full year to get back to 100%

What worked for me…
Two years ago I completely severed the rotator cuff and it was not discovered for almost 4 months…by then it had retracted 3 cm. The surgery was in Jan 01 and my goal was “unrestricted paddling” by May 01. I made my goal. I did everything the therapist and Dr said and also ran across a neat rehab/exercise device (used by baseball pitchers and quarterbacks) called a Body Blade.(the Body Blade helps reinforce the supra spinatis so everything heals from the inside out.) I bought it and used it (and still do) religiously. My strength and mobility is better than before the injury. I don’t bench press now but do incline press. I have almost no pain but I also have a 50 mile work commute and carry the elastic bands in truck and do the full rotation exercises “when no traffic is coming” - it is worth it. (oh and by the way - don’t let a “non athlete” Dr or therapist treat you!!!)Good luck.

oops - bad math
it was 3 years ago…paddling and having fun and lost track of time I guess

well tvcrider…
…your condition sounds a lot like mine. I can do most things without pain, but at some point, nearly every day, I do something that my shoulder violently objects to. Like I can paddle for hours with no problem but then nearly pass out from pain after using my arm to “hoist” myself out of the boat. I t happened at a toll booth handing my dollar out the window. And it happens most often reaching up, with or without weight.

Mine is more of a bone spur & inflamed bursa sack. Only slight rotator cuff damage.

Dr. is in no hurry to operate, but cortisone shots & PT did no good. Like you, the doc wants ME to decide when I don’t want to deal with it anymore. I have heard mostly positive reports from patients who have had the surgery, but recovery times vary a lot, depending on your exact diagnosis/prognosis. Good luck to you.

Yes, recovery times vary.

I agree. Not only do the recovery times reported here vary from 3 to 12 months or more, but they appear to conflict with my Doctor’s numbers. I have to use the word “appear” carefully due to how the doctor stated length of recovery time to me. If I undergo arthroscopy and depending on exactly what they find, I could start to “return to normal athletic activities” (i.e. paddling) in three to 6 weeks. They cannot commit to when your will be pain free. That varies by individual, obviously. Rehab would commence the day after surgery and as stated by at least one person the surgery is done on an out patient basis.

I just visited the Doctor again yesterday. We are now definitely edging toward surgery. He would like to do another MRI only this time they will inject the shoulder with dye. The first MRI indicates an area of damage that they believe is a partial RC tear, but it tells them nothing more. The X-rays show a type 2 Acromion (rather hooked). The two taken together suggest impingement, but they want a better picture, now that surgery looks that the final option.

Safe and joint free paddling,


Sounds like your surgery will allow you to begin rehab right away. With mine, I had to keep it immobile for four weeks. It took many painful weeks of rehab, professional and on my own, to recover. After a year, I felt like it was back to normal somewhat, except for the lack of 100% range of motion. (by product of being immobile). The sooner you can get it moving, the better.

Shoulder Issues
I have had shoulder surgery with great success. Unfortunately my symptoms have now returned (12 years later) and I’m heading back to the ortho. Very concerning. Like you all paddling means a lot to me and for the first time I am beginning to wonder if I am going to be able to continue at the level I enjoy.

Recover Time
My recovery time from an open procedure was 3 to 4 months to a decent level of activity but almost a full year to 100 percent. It was worth it though. I had 10 to 12 years with almost no pain and only slight range of motion deficet. Recovery if you have open procedure is longer than closed procedures (arthroscopic) because they have to cut a lot of muscle to get into the joint.

Shoulder surgery

I had a second procedure on the same shoulder 12 years later after 12 wonderful years of almost zero pain and full activity. This second problem was different. I developed arthritis in the ac joint. The procedure was much less involved. As I understand it they remove the very end portion of the clavicle to open up the joint. Anyway, my result, now more than a year post surgery, is excellent. Full activity almost zero pain.