Don’t let anyone kid you, recovering from shoulder surgery is no
picnic. According to both orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists,
the shoulder is the most difficult joint in the body to rehabilitate,
as it encompasses the greatest range of motion.
The surgeon (who, by the way, did
a very nice job on my shoulder) kept saying before the surgery that
recovery from shoulder surgery is usually about 12 weeks. It was only
after the 12 weeks had elapsed that I found out that this means that it
takes 12 weeks for the incision and the sewn-up tendon and the
shaved-off clavicle to heal. Recovering full range of motion and
strength takes 5-6 months of difficult, painful, repetitive stretches and exercises with the physical therapist and again at home twice a day.
I didn’t post here since the week after my surgery because my
initial elation at being able to get my hand to the top of the steering
wheel was quickly followed by frustration that learning too move my arm
higher than that was painful and slow.
But I have been compulsive about faithfully doing the
above-mentioned exercises–since January, I have only skipped doing the
exercises twice. I I have also wheedled Laurie (she has been SO patient
with me!) into letting me try some water exercises, which I do 5 days a
week). And now that it’s been several weeks, I am finally able to step
back and see a lot of improvement. My reward for sticking with it is
that I now have nearly full-range of motion, and the strenghthening of
the muscles is FINALLY starting to happen!
So this week, my PT "homework" (in addition to the weights,
stretches, and water exercises) has been to start playing my violin
again. Not my daughter’s weeny little 1/10th size, but my very own
beloved full-size–for 15 whole minutes a day! I am so happy to
finally play it again!
BUT it does get tricky here. I fully expected my shoulder to hurt
(and oh, it does!), but I was totally shocked to find that every muscle
from my shoulder to my elbow hurts when I put the violin into playing
position. The standard PT exercises don’t prepare you for
the kind of lifting and twisting a violinist has to do.
My hands and wrist are aching, too–like the rest of my arm, they
haven’t had to do anything violinistic since January 20th, and they are
all protesting loudly, but Laurie came to the rescue with a set of
stretches for wrist and fingers, which really help.
I am now racking my brains to figure out what would be the best
things for me to practice for those 15 minutes? Next week, I go up to
two sets of 15 minutes, and then 20 minutes.I expect to keep building
up my strength and endurance. In the meantime, I have emailed a couple
of colleagues and a former teacher to ask their advice. Right now, I
feel like a kid in a candy store–I want to play everything at once!