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      Paddling after shoulder replacement?     
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distinguished member(1726)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/09/2019 03:47PM  
Just curious if anyone has successfully returned to paddling/portaging after shoulder replacement surgery. My left shoulder is bone-on-bone and the rotator cuff is torn. Surgery is scheduled for 1/8/20, so there's plenty of time for healing and rehab before summer. --Goose
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12/09/2019 05:15PM  
Never had a shoulder replacement. But I did have rotator cuff repair and removal of some arthritic bone spurs back in March of 2000. We went on a 9-day canoe trip in mid-July. I made sure I had a pack that didn't ride too heavy on my shoulders (it happened to be an external frame backpack with a hip belt), and we didn't push extremely hard. My husband helped put my pack on and off my back, but then he often did that anyway. Sleeping on the ground was the hardest part and I did take a few pain pills, but overall it wasn't a terribly painful trip.

I worked very hard on my rehab after the surgery. I told my PT, "I am going on a wilderness canoe trip in July" and he replied, "No, you're not." And I said, "Oh, yes, I am!" I explained to him that my surgeon was a fisherman who went to the Quetico, and that he had said if I worked like hell I would be fine. "And if I didn't do anything STUPID." So I worked like hell, and I was careful not to do "anything STUPID."

Never regretted taking that trip. It was a good one.
distinguished member(1432)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/10/2019 06:10AM  
I have had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders. My left shoulder was operated on a week before Christmas last year. I made my annual trip five months later in May. I did have some issues with getting the canoe up and down for a couple of portages. There was no problem at all with paddling.

My advice is to make sure you do the strengthening part of rehab. I did all the stretching relentlessly but shirked the strengthening and paid for it.
Arkansas Man
12/10/2019 12:56PM  
My wife has had a shoulder replacement and she is very capable of doing whatever she wants to do, paddling, portaging, and etc... the thing is to start back slow and build up. She started with a fractured scapula from a bicycle wreck, and then had to have a replacement. She traveled from entry point 14 to Snow Bay via Beatty Portage with me. I did not push her and told her often to rest, but she has done it. Again, Therapy, and slow buildup is the ticket. It really took her two years to get back to almost normal!

distinguished member(1726)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/10/2019 06:24PM  
Thanks, Bruce!
12/10/2019 08:06PM  
Hi Goose.
I'm an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the upper extremity. I'm happy to offer advice, but preface by saying you should always listen to the advice of your treating orthopedic provider over a guy on the internet you have never met.

What's been said already is true, stressing that the rehab portion of the recovery is incredibly important. It's also a very long process and you won't be close to your final result even at three months post op.

I will say that just undergoing a rotator cuff repair is going to be a very different experience. If you have a deficient rotator cuff and arthritis, you may be undergoing what is known as a reverse shoulder replacement (the ball becomes the cup and vise versa). The main issue here is that your primary power with overhead motion is going to come from your deltoid versus your rotator cuff. In my experience, weakness with overhead use is going to be more of an issue with reverse replacements versus a primary or traditional shoulder replacement. That said, I have seen numerous patients get back to healthy active lifestyles including paddling.

I think one motion you will likely struggle with is hoisting the canoe above your head for portaging. Actually having the canoe resting on the shoulder I wouldn't see as much of an issue, but getting it up overhead I would anticipate would be challenging.

One big takeaway is that everyone is different, both in healing times and general health. A professional athlete is going to see better results than the average Joe for the exact same surgery simply because he was better equipped to recover from the start. For most of my patients, I tell them if you can't do the things you enjoy with the shoulder the way it is, push forward and see how far you can take it.

Good luck.
distinguished member(1726)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/10/2019 08:54PM  
PatrickE, thanks for replying. Yes, I have rotator cuff damage, spurring, etc. and will be getting a "reverse" replacement. My surgeon seems hesitant to give an opinion on my canoeing future. I plan on rehabbing hard and doing all I can to be able to continue pursuing my passion. If I can't, so be it, there's always hiking. It was good of you to weigh in. Thanks again!
12/12/2019 03:04PM  
my 70 year old father inlaw had both his shoulders replaced within 6 months of each other, he is so happy with them no more pain, although he doesn't canoe he is quite active and said he would have done it sooner if he would have known the results would be so positive

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