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RVL 09-11-2009 01:36 AM

I had rotator cuff surgery
Seven years ago I took up swimming because my knees are shot. I`m a 57 year old male who has been swimming 3 times a week for 7 years. In May, I attended a TI workshop in Coronado California and have been slowly getting "it" together. I have been in a masters program, as well as a member of the La Jolla Swim Club. I love open water swimming. My longest ow swim has been 5 miles. I`ve done Alcatraz and every one mile Ocean swim event in California that I can find. Swimming around every pier on the coast is a goal. Over the past year I have been experiencing pain in my left shoulder. Two weeks ago I had rotator cuff surgery. The doc. placed an insert into the humerous and re-attached everything. It was not a complete tear,.but pretty bad. I`ll be wearing a sling for 3 months. Tomorrow I begin therapy.

I`ve been back in the pool,.with a sling and strap that keeps my left arm against my core, and I have been mainly kicking from one and to the other,..wearing a snorkel. Now, knees are sore.

What should I be doing in the pool at this time??? I was just getting the knack of the 2 beat kick and core rotation,..things were beginning to click. August 2 I did a 5 mile ow swim and came in last,..but was fresh,..had lots of energy left...but was slow due to limited shoulder movement.

Thanks for listening..

RonLockman....%%%%%%% ><>

aturco125 09-11-2009 04:09 AM

I feel your pain

I too had rotator cuff surgery. A bone spur was the culprit in my case and was putting a lot of pressure on my rotator tendon. It did a lot of fraying of the tendon, which was cleaned up during surgery along with the spur being removed. I had the same dilemma as you as I enjoyed a daily swim routine and triathlon training until the pain sidelined me and surgery became inevitable. I was bummed.
As I am sure you know and have been told- slow easy therapy is best. Trust me. To much too soon will put you three steps back in a blink of an eye, and in the water it is very, very easy to push something too far and not realize it. The cool water while very therapeutic can also be a mask to your healing shoulders comfort zone.

After about 2 months post surgery I got in the pool and started my rotator cuff exercises that you would normally do using a band or light weight. These exercises work perfect using the waters resistance instead of using the bands, and it got me in the pool. Working slowly through these exercises actually gave me a new feel for the waters resistance and feel. When strong enough I started to add basic TI drills. Sweet spot for hours and hours. Eventually I developed a balance drill where I would swim lap after lap never using my arms at all. With my arms at my side and comfortably torpedo like I would start on my back and slowly rotate to sweet spot, than rotate to my belly and back to sweet spot on my other side and back to flat back aging. A full 360. I actually swam this drill for about 45 minutes every day and it did wonders for me. I cork screwed my way up and down the pool gaining new sense of body rotation and balance.

Eventually when my shoulder got stronger and my mobility came back I incorporated an easy under switch to this twisting drill. Not only did it do wonders for my sense of core rotation, the easy under switch really help my shoulder recovery. My doctor was absolutely amazed of the mobility I had just after 3 months post surgery. In time I was slowly and gently adding my first strokes back into the drills.

Take this opportunity to get back to basics. It will do wonders in the long run. The down time and consistent slow practice of the basic drills again actually made me a better, more efficient swimmer. 9 months after surgery and I have comfortably and easily shaved 4 strokes off my laps and have more ease and understanding of true balance than ever.

Besides eliminating the pain, having shoulder surgery was the best thing that ever happened to my swimming. Be patient and take it slow and enjoy a healthy recovery. Anthony

RVL 09-15-2009 12:02 AM


Thanks for your words of wisdom and encouragement. I started therapy Friday and will be seeing the therapist 2 times a week. I`m going to see an acupuncturist on Wednesday.

Thanks again


madvet 09-15-2009 04:46 PM

You can look at a thread I started called "hand entry and shoulder strain". The point was to avoid impingement of the rotator cuff by avoiding internal rotation when the arm is extended. I exaggerated this somewhat in order to learn this. Good luck with your shoulder.

RVL 09-19-2009 02:37 PM

Thanks John,..I read your thread!

I had acupuncture on Wednesday and spent a peaceful night. My physical therapist is all in favor of it,..she is curious to see how my recovery goes compaired to the norm ( if there is such a thing ).

I miss the Ocean..........I registered for the Sharkfest Alcatraz Swim in June!

Ron %%%%%%%%%%%%%% ><>

RVL 10-11-2009 11:36 PM

I`m out of the sling and into "active" therapy. OUCH!!!

toadfish 10-12-2009 08:18 PM

shoulder joint replacement
I had total shoulder joint replacement (twice, thanks to an idiot surgeon who messed up the first try, but that's not my point) and after five years do not have (and will never have) full motion or strength. Nevertheless, water exercise has helped me recover further than the second surgeon believed possible. My physical therapist gave me a short (10 minutes or so) set of resistance exercises using hand paddles in the water to develop and maintain strength. I do these three times a week in addition to five to seven days per week of doing ti drills and "swimming" as best I can (think bird with broken wing). As you recover from your surgery you might ask your physical therapist to recommend something similar, or maybe consult with a physical therapist who specializes in water exercise (I worked with such a person who was extremely helpful). And hang in there! It's awful but will get better.

RVL 11-09-2009 08:55 PM

It`s been 73 days since surgery and my therapist is allowing me to take easy strokes in the pool.

davidprice 11-24-2009 07:20 PM

Hi Ron!
I wish you the best in your recovery. I am presently in physical therapy for a strained shoulder due to a non-swimming accident. But, I think they also found some accumulated limitation in range-of-motion from a full summer of swimming.

I think as a result of my present experience I will spend more time warming up my shoulders than I have in the past. As you know personally that TI drills can be a good way to get in the water and ease into a fullstroke workout. Try telling that to the average group of Masters swimmers tight for time in their schedules :).

I would be very interested to hear from you about any exercises or warm-up routine that you develop in the near future. Also, if there were any fine details related to technique you think contributed to rotator cuff wear that would be interesting too. I am particularly interested in the comment you made about keeping your "elbow close to your body" during freestyle swimming. I have been picking away at my technique seriously for the last year with the help of a TI freestyle workshop last spring. I also think you are very right about the elbow close to the body. I think you get more leverage late in the stroke, and would thereby reduce unneeded stress on the shoulder. But I am not sure what that looks like or how to blend that with TI technique.

After years of running, a little bit of Tri in '80's, and struggling in the water I came to TI in 2003 after I got back into Tri. I love the idea that I can do a Sprint and not feel any fall-out the next day compared to the pain I felt from running. But, at 53 I only do 1-2 Tri's per year but do cross train regularly.
Thank you for sharing your experience.

Dave Price :)
Weare, NH

RVL 11-26-2009 02:40 AM


I warm up in the gym. I do a 40 lb. lat. pull-down, "lawn-mover pull" on another machine, lots of stretching, walk the wall with my fingers, neck stretches, 3lb dumbell lifts, pass a ball behind my back,..anything that works on my range of motion.

The reason I kept my arm married to my core was becasue the doctor said....."ABSOLUTELY NO RAISING THE ARM FROM THE SIDE", I strapped it there and did balance drills till I was blue in the face.

The balance drills have been a blessing now that Iam actually swimming, I swam 100 yards and am beginning to feel like I`m being embrace by the water rather than fighting with the water. Hopefully, I will build endurance,,,,,,,Sunday, I`m planning on a trip to the 1/4 mile buoy off the La Jolla Cove. What will really happen is that I will do drills to the buoy,..float on my back,..meditate, and some gentle swimming. June 6,..Alcatraz,..sans wetsuit!

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