Shoulder Rotator Cuff Problems

Ok, though I’m no doctor and haven’t seen one about it yet, I’m beginning to think I may have damaged my left shoulder. Went out for a high paced paddle with a buddy on a very cold night with a few stops along the way. Probably did not get warmed up enough after the breaks before I started hammering. Anyway, I awoke a few days later with a dull pain in my muscles around the outside face of my left shoulder and it has not gone away after a few weeks. I’ve stopped paddling (I am gonna go crazy now!) and am waiting to see the Doc but have researched Rotator Cuffs on the web and fear I’ve done the damage. Has anyone out there been here (Rotator issues) and gone through rehab or surgery for it? How much time are we talking for a comeback on average (still hopefull) or am I gonna have a problem for good? Paddling is the one thing that has kept me sane and I DO NOT WANT TO LOSE IT (the paddling, that is!). Any words of advice besides seeing a Doc soon? Damn… and the winds have been blowing hard for days, I’m missing it already.

Called Frozen or Locked Shoulder
Greetings, Yes I was there and it was caused by my entry into the world of sea kayaking. Also left shoulder. It took me away from paddling for six months. My doctor said yep ! - rotator cuff and sent me to physical therepy…no perceived help there. To make a long story much shorter, - I went for acupuncture and found an amazingly quick turn for the better. Acupuncture stimulates the body to heal itself. It worked for me.

I belief you will be back in the (kayak) saddle again as I am but it will take time. Make Cortizone injections or surgery your last options.

I just recovered from rotator cuff surgery. Even if it goes that far, it does not mean you will have to stop paddling.

Mine was caused from genetic predisposition, not-so-perfect posture (shoulders roll forward) age, and wear-and tear. There was no specific injury. My shoulders and elbows would be sore after paddling, but it got to its worst in winter a year ago when I STOPPED paddling and sat around at the computer too much. I thought it was from so much mousing, so I switched mouse hands and did all kinds of ergonomic adjustments, but with no result. Physical therapy did not help, and I could not lay down without pain. I wasn’t sleeping and really had to do something. This was my right shoulder.

My AC joint space was narrowed, and there was a small amount of calcium deposits, and it was shredding my rotator cuff tendon. It was pretty much hamburger. They reamed out the joint space, cut away the shredded part of the rotator cuff ligament and reattached it. I had my surgery in July and was released to start paddling in October. I can now paddle for two hours and am building up strength pretty well. I use a greenland paddle now - it feels much better on the joints. The operated shoulder is much more efficient and pain-free than my other shoulder, which may someday also have to be repaired. I hope that it won’t get as bad as the first, and I’m going to try prolotherapy and all other alternatives before surgery on that one though, since it’s not as far gone.

I would do the surgery again on my right shoulder though - I was truly miserable for a long time. It’s a big deal though - I’m no wimp, and have had several surgeries before, but a shoulder repair is very painful and recovery is no fun. I was in a sling with a big foam pillow under it, and had to stay in it for six weeks. Sleeping with that thing was awful.

Exhaust all your alternatives before surgery, and be sure you want to do it, but when you are ready, don’t hesitate. Find yourself the best shoulder guy, and go for it. I don’t regret it. just got back from an awesome trip yesterday, at Lake Ozette, Washington. We paddled 3.5 miles across the lake to a trailhead that goes 2.2 miles through old growth cedar and hemlock to the Pacific coast. Had lunch, hiked and paddled back, and it was awesome! Not another soul was on the lake, save a few ducks and one bald eagle.

Been there, done that…
…actually I’m in rehab right now for my 3rd shoulder surgery. Only one was a rotator


This latest felt EXACTLY like a rotator cuff.

It wasn’t. It was a shredded labruma nd some

scar tissue on my rotator cuff from my shoulder


Get thee to a dr and find out what you are dealing with.

Now, I won’t lie to you. remember I said I had

3 shoulder surgeries? I’ve had 7 ortho surgeries

total, and the rotator cuff was by far the worst.

I missed a year’s worth of paddling.

My experience does not seem to be the norm, most

were back in 6 months. My rotator cuff was

apparently really chewed.

Myt advice would be to worry later. Right now find out for sure what the problem is. It’s not a life threatening injury–despite what we may

think about not paddling!–and you have time to

decided on a course of treatment.

Any questions? Shoot me a line.

Bonne chance.

Look into AT or Physio
Doctors are often useful. However, with joint injuries, a physiotherapist or athletic therapist can often be more helpful, since they are specialists. I don’t know the standards where you are, but in Canada, physiotherapists are always very highly trained, and Athletic therapists can be amazing, but do not have quite the level of minimum standards. Try a teaching university or college, where you might get seen by a serious student, under the supervision of a world-class athletic therapist. I thought I needed surgery since I was unable to lift my arm past my shoulder, or throw a ball more than ten feet. After 3 visits to the AT, a month of exercises, and $105 (covered by my blue-cross), I was feeling great!

Your doctor might even refer you to a good therapist.

Best of luck (Oh, and do something about it now - it may only get worse if untreated, and sometimes it takes time to remedy these problems, so you want to start well before the peak paddling season.)

Injured Mine in a Bike Crash
Not torn but badly bruised. A cortizone injection took care of it.

Good luck with that

– Last Updated: Jan-22-06 3:34 PM EST –

If the problem is in the rotator cuff (it could be a dozen other things), you probably have a partial tear which can be repaired by arthroscopic means (very small incisions, quick recovery.) I had an acute tear which had to be repaired the traditional way. I was unable to paddle for 12 weeks, arm in sling, very painful at night, lotsa percocet and vicodin (almost as good as class III whitewater.)

Rotator cuff issues are more common in the 50+ age group and are the result of long-term impingement. I was 39 and in good shape, but my complete tear occured while paddling whitewater (using poor form).

The best thing to do is get to an Orthopedist asap and see what the problem is. Until then, anti-inflammatory drugs should help (Ibuprofen, Naproxen Sodium.)

My shoulder was 100% after 5-6 months, though it felt good enough to paddle after 3. I sometimes get a little pain if I slack off on working out.

Been working on my right shoulder
for over a year now. Very slow progress but it is much better than the start when I was having problems sleeping and experiencing excruciating stabbing pains with some sudden movements. My problem was diagnosed via MRI and examination by an orthopedic surgeon as tendinopathy, rotator cuff syndrome and frozen shoulder. I started physical therapy last May and did that for about 4 weeks with little success other than some increased range of motion. Then I had a cortizone injection in June that ended the stabbing pains, improved the night time pains, and helped me get through my heavy work season. I had regained much of my range of motion but still had some pain in December. I went back in for another cortizone shot and 3 weeks of therapy to try to stabilize the shoulder blade.

I have recently begun a Yoga class and I am very optimistic that this will help me to fully recover. Much of my problem seems to be related to how tight some of my muscles, including the pecs, had become. The yoga seems to help me loosen up more than any other stretching exercises I had tried. I am also working on the strengthening exercises learned from the therapist.

My left shoulder is now starting to feel similar to how the pain started in my right shoulder. I am hopeful that I can work on the stretching and strengthening to prevent it from becoming as severe as my right shoulder.

I do think that paddling, in addition to some of my manual labor, contributed to the problem. I was continuing to paddle pretty heavily while the problem got worse. I laid off of it for a few months but began again last fall. I became more aware of my paddling technique. I bought a shorter, carbon fiber, bent shaft paddle that does seem to help a lot. I take shorter strokes and concentrate on an even push w/upper hand and pull w/lower hand. I don’t try to keep my paddle as vertical as I used to think I needed to keep the boat going straight. I find that stretching, including shoulder crunches while paddling also seems to help ward off the development of pain.

There really needs to be much more of an effort made by the general paddling community to help paddlers prevent these injuries which happen with too much frequency. These problems tend to get worse with age due in part to decreased blood flow in the shoulder joint, rounded shoulder posture, etc. A search of the archives on this site reveal many similar posts. One last discomforting thought – cadaver studies on older people reveal that the majority of them had rotator cuff tears. Since I have had this problem I am much more aware of many others who are suffering with messed up shoulders. It ain’t fun.

Wish you the best!

Shoulder injury
Shoulder injuries are not something to self-diagnose. Find yourself a reputable sports-medicine oriented orthopedist who does lots of shoulder surgeries and find out what’s going on. If the doctor is really good he won’t urge surgery without exhausting physical therapy and other options first. If you should eventually need surgery a good dose of physical therapy in advance will speed your recovery.

I’m presently recovering from my third shoulder surgery(torn labrum and partial rotator cuff tear). The discomfort and length of recovery from shoulder surgery will vary considerably depending on the individual and the specific nature of the damage. I’ve been lucky in that I never needed more than a few days of pain meds after the surgeries (two of which involved open as well as arthroscopic techniques). The most frustrating aspect for me was just the time it took before I could do much with the repaired arm. Living with only one functioning arm puts a lot of stress on the other arm.

Whatever course of treatment you might lean toward, be sure to get a competent medical diagnosis first. Shoulder injuries are notorious for not healing properly on their own.

When you are healed, be sure to get a set of shoulder excercises from a competent physical therapist and stick with them the rest of your life.

Someone else mentioned cadaver studies. My surgeon recently told me of a dramatic finding resulting from cadaver studies: by the age of 80, 80 per cent of all men have at least one complete rotator cuff tear.

Len T

My injury…
was diagnosed as frozen shoulder, and on the advice of someone on this board (I couldn’t remember who suggested it, but have blessed that person countless times)I went through nine months of qi gong (Chinese) massage therapy. If your diagnosis is frozen shoulder (not rotator cuff tear) you might want to consider it. It truely saved my shoulder.

I suggested the chi Kung

– Last Updated: Jan-23-06 7:17 PM EST –

or qi gong. Paddling has helped me heal my shoulders immensely. but form is important. Got to maintain that elbow in front of the torso midline expecially in rolling.

ON the chi kung front I have both recieved external and practiced both internal and external chi kung and allied arts since about 1980with varying focus since They work!

Shoulder problem…
Last May I came down with serious pain in my left shoulder. Had trouble sleeping and generally was painfull. Went to the doctor and he said go easy on it, (no paddling)! Listened to him and took it easy, but did paddle several times, just not hard.

He prescribed Motrin for me. 600 mg every four hours. Took it religiously. Kept the pain at bay. About a month ago I stopped with the Motrin (AKA Ibuprofen) Pain is almost completely gone.

I think I had an inflamed tendon that just needed some healing time.


My chiropractor is the best…

– Last Updated: Jan-22-06 8:14 PM EST –

...diagnostician I have known, and is well-trained in physical therapy as well. My RC problem was painful but not disabling, and he taught me 5 simple exercise, 4 of which can be done with a doorway's assistance, that made all the difference. They don't just study backs.

elbows in
Get Doug VanDoren’s greenland kayak video. Get a smaller bladeded paddle (does not have to be a greenland paddle). In the video you will see a very low stroke using body rotation with elbows very close to the torso and hands just above the deck. This stroke is MUCH easier on shoulders, and more efficient as well. Though not too good for racing.

incredible experiences from all, but…
we don’t know what’s wrong with your shoulder. please see a sports doctor and a physio at least if not others. you may have any number of conditions, hopefully mild. there is some intense and serious conditions expounded upon here (holy cow!) but you don’t want to jump to any conclusions. as far as surgery goes, you have a long path ahead of you (let’s hope!) before that kind of diagnosis. you may have bursitis, or tendonitis, or some kind of itis (which is short for swelling and friction and other barely diagnosiable issues that only go away with rest and time…) or it may be something like a tear, but let’s not assume the worst. start simple by resting, seeing a couple of physicians/para medicals and going from there. it is quite possible that a strengthening/stretching regime with some technique modification and rest may be all that you need to be back to 100%. we’re all pulling for you, best wishes.

Prevent Temporary from becoming Chronic
Not a doc, but I am a 25 year experienced kayak instructor, been there seen it done it, and I am a Wilderness EMT.

I DO know the feeling of not letting any doc get near your shoulder for fear, sometimes merited that they will tell you don’t kayak or worse operate when that is not the best option.

That said, GO IMMEDIATELY to a specialist who is a sports doc. Do not wait! Shoulder problems like this will get worse with time and can become chronic if not diagnosed properly and treated. YOU most likely can PREVENT this and the treatment may not be all that much if you act NOW.

Good luck here. I have been through this personally, and am fine, no surgery, and with many students, many no surgery. We all learned how to paddle much more safely too!


Eternal thanks, Peter!

Uncertain how many variations

– Last Updated: Jan-23-06 10:20 AM EST –

there are with this injury but mine was diagnosed as two badly torn tendons and another impinged.
3 ortho surgeons looked at the dye/mri and all pretty much said "It'd be a long long recovery with no guarentees"
Sence the torn tendons don't seem to be affected by my other passion..cycling, I've reduced my paddle time and increased my pedal time.
btw. like you, my pain became noticible over a very short time frame . Obviously, the damage had been there before the pain began.
If you suspect damage, ask your doc for a mri and go from there.

tore mine up
I tore mine up skiing and had to have surgery. You want to get a X-ray where they shoot in a dye first and they also did a MRI on my shoulder also. Rehab is about 6 months for most people and about a year before it is 100% so I wouldn’t delay on getting it checked out. It’s a real pain but part of the cost of having fun.

General Information
This is probably too late for most of the contributors to this thread, but you might find this article interesting anyway.