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6/23/2018 2:38 am  #1

A milestone in injury recovery. Sort of.

Sorry this is so long, but....

Actually two milestones.  One, tonight was the first time I have gotten a canoe in the water since last year.  On March 13th, I fell and injured my left rotator cuff.  Started physical therapy the 2nd week of April, and that pretty much ended a few weeks ago (now I play the home game of exercises).  The other milestone was the maiden voyage for our new Nova Craft Pal.  We traded in my beloved Merrimack in April, and got a Nova Craft Pal with the Tuff Stuff Layup and wood trim.

For those who don't know, the rotator cuff is the series of tendons around your shoulder that allow it to have the motion it does.  My injury was not bad enough to require surgery.  The thing is, you'd think the pain would be only in your shoulder, but it isn't.  You get pain there, but you also get pain in your upper arm generally.  For me, along the tricep and along the bicep - where tendons run.  The physical therapist told me sometimes damage is in one place but pain is in another.  Go figure.  I also had some pain on the back of the shoulder blade.  PT can help because tendons respond to high repetition, low load exercises.  It increases blood flow, and that's what the tendon(s) need to heal.  It also keeps the joint doesn't become stiff.  So that's all you never wanted to know about rotator cuff injuries, except that they take forever to heal and it will probably still be nagging at times even a year from now.

Throughout every PT session, I daydreamed about getting a boat in the water.  It was my focus thing - it kept me from cheating any of the exercises or stretches by going too fast, or pushing too hard, or skipping a session, or blowing off the home exercises, etc.  The other thing that drove me was a fear of losing our late August canoe trip and/or my solo October trip over it.  It is so easy to re-dinger it, which means setback, which means time.  I had a setback when too much weight was added too early in the process.  It felt ok at the time, but for the next week, no.  And we're not talking big weight here either, we're talking about going from a half pound to a pound or from nothing to a half pound depending on the exercise.  

Anyway, I've been able to slowly reintroduce things.  Weeding, digging holes with the shovel - initially I had to do that with one hand, which is not fun if you've never tried it, now I can use both.  Pitching a golf ball around the back yard.  Cutting the lawn - to date I have only used my right arm, which is anti-fun, and I will probably reintroduce the left arm a little bit next time.  I've gone through the all-time tire failure nightmare with the car this spring - five tires replaced since May, three were blowouts.  The first one I changed using one arm. 

With canoeing, you just can't simulate it.  When we tried out the Pal in April, I paddled on the right side 99% of the time, and was very gentle at that.  But for the past few weeks, the arm has felt pretty good, and I've just been saying "nope, one more week" to myself for getting in the canoe to avoid pushing it.

So, how'd it go tonight?  Well, honestly, I was a little disappointed.  I can load, unload, carry, and get it off the ground ok.  That's pretty big.  I absent-mindedly forgot that a lifejacket is still a jacket.  The poking straight out motion can get me and it did a little.   Fortunately, that motion is unique to putting on jackets.  Paddling was ok.  I could feel it, in the top of the shoulder in the bicep, and in the tricep - all the wrong places.  It wasn't bad, but even seven hours later the tricep is still bugging me just a little bit - but never more than a "1".   Paddled a lot on the left and a little on the right.  Overall it went ok.  I was hoping to feel almost nothing, that's what disappointed me, but I'm not sure that was realistic, or will be realistic.  Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish pain from fatigue.  Fatigue is ok, pain is not.  That's why I'm disappointed in the tricep.

Here's a photo of me giving a thumbs up and pointing at the shoulder.  My smile conceals the concerns, and I kind of like it that it looks less like a thumbs up and more like trying to shoot my shoulder off.

I think if I reintroduce it gradually, don't push it, that it will be akin to the other high repetition low load exercises, and I'll be ok.  the load of drawing a paddle....I don't know how much that is, but too much and I'll wish I had gone easier.  So I need to stay off of windy days with those more demanding conditions for now.

Haven't tried a backpack yet.  Don't feel like loading one to find out, but I'll need to make sure I'm good there as well at some point.  It is scary.  I don't want to do things too early and cause a setback, but I need to see where I am, need to get in canoe shape, and need to reintroduce the full use of the arm.  There's a point where you kind of have to stop being afraid of it; stop babying it, and that's pretty much where I am.  Use it, but don't kill it.  As I write, I just don't know if I'll be able to handle the rigors of a trip in August, but I give it 75-80% I'll be able to.

How'd the boat do in its' maiden voyage?  We have a small pond/park very near the house, that's where I took it. 

The Nova Craft unloaded is a pretty tippy little solo boat.  I rocked it a bit just to get a feel for it and just about took it over.  I think it will be fine with a load, and my wife and I did paddle one (not this specific one) in early April and it was very stable with just she and I in it.  (I was babying the shoulder big time that day, paddling on the right side was difficult, on the left, it was out of the question.)

I found the boat to be very fast.  I can't comment on tracking, etc., my mind was much more on how the shoulder felt.  It is the first canoe I've ever had without a keel, and that sure allowed it to rock easily.  It will take some getting used to.  I kind of miss the Merrimack and its' stability - but it weighed 68 pounds.  The Nova Craft weighs....54 or 55 or something like that, and the difference is noticeable.  I'm 53, and weight is starting to mean something to me. 



6/23/2018 4:44 pm  #2

Re: A milestone in injury recovery. Sort of.

I wish you luck. My dad (a physician) told just takes a damn long time for rotator cuff injuries to heal. Even a very mild injury can set you back six-eight months. Now from reading your post I see what a more serious injury requires in the way of treatment. Thanks for the post.


7/09/2018 4:38 pm  #3

Re: A milestone in injury recovery. Sort of.

It has been about a month since I posted about the injury.  So this is now four months post fall-down-and-hurt-myself.  Since I last wrote, I've had both canoes out a few times, and I feel like I'm doing better with it.  Carrying, loading on the car, getting them on my head (one at a time!) is fine.  I have to be smart about it, avoiding herky-jerky motions that would suddenly put a load on the shoulder, by which I mean not just tugging the boat off the top of the car, but easing it off. a different situation.  I can always feel it a little bit, whether paddling left or right side.  I think I will for some time to come.  Some people tell me it can take a full year, some have told me they've never gotten all the way past it.  I feel like I'll continue to improve little by little, buy if it never improves I'm ok where it is today.  I find I have to be more conscientious about switching sides, and my wife has been great about accommodating that.  Kind of like short shifts in the third period.  Going too long on either side isn't going to work, it feels kind of knotted up if I do that, especially if extended continuous paddling on the left.  I haven't paddled in wind yet, which sometimes dictates your paddling, but I've managed the other stuff, I'll manage that too.  We were out paddling for a good hour and a half this weekend, and it did well.  I've been using a lighter, narrower-bladed paddle than I have used for decades, but it feels much better.  Less weight, less load, more endurance.  Thing is somebody else will need that particular paddle on our trip this summer, so I'll be buying a new paddle soon.

Still haven't put a loaded backpack on, we'll see how that goes.  On the upcoming trip in August I'll be carrying the boats anyway, but in October I'm on my own - so I need to carry a pack sooner or later. 

This is probably boring material to read, I get that, I'm just kind of chronicling my progress a bit for anybody else who may do bad things to their rotator cuff.  I'm so grateful this did not require surgery, but I sure wish I hadn't fallen to begin with.  That's the way it goes though.  The hand is dealt, you play.  If you ever have to recover from an injury like this, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to pace it.  Do the exercises and stretches, but don't overdo, and don't push the range of motion for sure.  Re-introduce activities gradually, nothing in haste.  It takes time to add weight to exercises, to extend the range of motion - not days, to some extent not even weeks, but several weeks.  Months even.  Patience is very much a virtue here.  It took me two months to be able to put a windbreaker on pain-free, and even now I do it slowly and differently than I used to - that particular shoulder motion has a sweet-spot.  I haven't paddled on back-to-back days yet, but I am ready to do that now.  I'm feeling much better about the trip in August.

We'll see how it feels in rainy weather and cold the Fall.


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Board footera

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