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My shoulder update – deja-vu – rotator cuff re-torn (yet again!)

Rotator Cuff tear

As I mentioned in my previous shoulder update, I had surgery on my right shoulder on January 5, 2017 to fix a tear in the rotator cuff. If you recall, I had the same kind of surgery on the same shoulder in 2013. However, the cuff got torn again only a few months after the surgery. At that point I had decided to live with the torn rotator cuff as my pain was minimal. Moreover, I developed enough of the adjoining muscles to be able to do more than 65-70% of my yoga moves.

It was toward the end of 2016 that I suddenly developed a sharp and fairly persistent pain in my right shoulder. That pain, for a reason that I cannot explain, gradually began to increase and became quite intolerable. That is when I decided to again search for a surgeon who can help me in the situation. Finally I talked to a surgeon at Duke who said that she would be able to use a fairly recent treatment option that could fix the shoulder. So, I decided to have another surgery, which would be the third on the same shoulder.

After the surgery on January 5, things were looking pretty good for the first few weeks. I was reasonably pain free and was making progress in terms of building mobility in the shoulder. It was six weeks after the surgery that I started experiencing a sharp pain in my shoulder again. From my experience with multiple surgeries in the past I was quite certain that the rotator cuff was torn again. When I saw the surgeon during my monthly meetings with her, I mentioned about the sharp pain and suggested getting another MRI to find out what was going on. However, my doctor recommended that I wait a couple of more months as in her opinion the pain was caused by muscle inflammation which could be caused by some of the movements that I was working on. She started me on medication to reduce the inflammation.

When the medication for inflammation did not provide any effect, she ordered an MRI. The MRI results confirmed my suspicion about the re-tear of the cuff muscles. According to the doctor, because of previous surgeries on the same shoulder, the tendons have become very weak. The tear may have resulted from some sudden movement possibly done during the physical therapy session.

At this point there doesn’t seem to be any option except to live with the situation. As I had experienced after the previous surgery, with my regular yoga practice I may be able to develop enough strength in the adjoining muscles that will help me do most of the yoga moves without pain. I may never get enough strength to do a full push up or a hand stand etc. However, I feel fairly confident that over time I should get back to most of my regular yoga routine.

On a side note, as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Since I am not able to do any moves that involve the arms and shoulders, I am actually able to spend more time working with the lower part of the body – core, hips, thighs, legs, knees, ankles etc. As a result I have gained more strength and flexibility in most of these areas. I am also able to spend more time on my meditation practice.

As most of you are aware, I am able to maintain my full schedule of classes that I teach on a weekly basis as well as the special early morning classes. I am fortunate to have experienced students who are willing to step up to the front of the class and serve as demonstrators for the class to follow.

8 comments to My shoulder update – deja-vu – rotator cuff re-torn (yet again!)

  • Shailaja

    Sorry to hear about this Subhashji. I understand this from the perspective as a caretaker since my husband had shoulder surgery done on both his shoulders. I wish you speedy recovery and applaud your spirits and wisdom to continue with your practice. Thanks for being such a great role model!

    • Thanks, Shailaja, for your kind words and good wishes. Hope Srinivas’s shoulders are doing OK. How long ago was his surgery?

  • Om Shanti my special friend! We almost never get to connect but I try to keep up with your wonderful newsletters your expert techniques and all the wonderful news you bring us through your newsletter. Still hoping to be able to get to one of your retreats! I am so deeply sorry for all the pain and surgeries and trouble you have been through, but I knew you would work around it you are so amazing! Sending lots of love, prayers and special energy for healing. Do you know someone who is really really expert with Traditional Chinese Medicine? Some of their herba and accupuncture might be helpful. I just recently met a healing priest from the Shalin (misspelled) tradition. I dont know if someone like that could help. Love and Light, Judy Jagajjanani Blankenship (from our first basic training)

    • It is so nice to hear from you, Judy. Hope things are going great with you. Thanks a lot for your good wishes for my shoulder. Actually, the pain has reduced to a fairly tolerable level. With my regular yoga practice I am hoping that I will be able to strengthen the adjoining muscles enough to get back to some basic functionality – like doing the up/down dog positions. Because it is a physical tear, I am not sure if traditional Chinese medicine will help. Overall I am feeling quite well and am continuing with my full teaching schedule.
      Talking of retreats, I have planned a yoga retreat in Mebane, August 3-6. You may have seen the basic information in my newsletter. I will be visiting the ashram in a couple of weeks. After that, I will be sending more details about the program. Hope you can join us!
      Do send me an email updating me with all your yoga related activities.
      Let us stay in touch …

  • Murthy Manchikanti

    Sorry to hear that it is torn again. I appreciate your determination, upbeat spirit, looking positive side of the situation, and consistency in sending the email newsletter. I am sure your increased meditation will lead you to explore new ways of performing yoga to circumvent the injured area. I am a strong believer that breathing into the injured area plus visualization therapy can bring miracles over time complemented with traditional allopathic methods.

    I wish you a speedy recovery & great strength.

    • Thanks, Murthy, for your good wishes. Indeed,I have already modified my yoga practice so as not to put unnecessary strain on my right shoulder and yet be able to practice most of my asana and pranayama practices.

  • Marianne

    I am so very sorry to hear of your experience and how frustrating this must be. As you say however the silver lining is in the meditation practice to which you can use to develop a way to accept and move to a higher place than just the physical expression of yourself is so beneficial!

    All my best,

    • Hi Marianne,
      No, I don’t feel any sense of frustration in my experience. I have already found effective ways to circumvent the use of my right shoulder to practice most of the asanas and pranayama routines. Thanks a lot for your good wishes.