Rotator Cuff Surfing Injury, Part 2 of 2: Post-Op Healing Regimen

You can find the story of my injury here: Rotator Cuff Surfing Injury, Part 1 of 2: The Injury.

I wish to preface what follows by saying “regimen”, as in an assigned or decided upon method of treatment, not “regiment” as in a military group or unit. Grammar rant complete.

Also, here’s the disclaimer for all you first world, trigger-happy lawsuit sons-of-bitches, and furthermore for all you bloodsucking, zombie-eyed attorneys, hot in the biscuit to generate a low budget commercial and an 888 number (or 444 or 999 or whatever the hell): I’m not a doctor, and you should always consult a doctor before starting any treatment plan (even if that doctor hasn’t updated his medical practice in forty years, as far as those aforementioned attorneys are concerned, ). Blabbady bloopady blippity fucking blah. If you want your own protocol for a variety of ailments, we live in a time where most of this information, including evidence-based journal entries from various medical research teams, is at the layperson’s fingertips.

I actually started this post shortly after my shoulder surgery, prior to writing the background story, so I wrote damn near this entire fucking thing using godforsaken voice-to-text by Siri, because at the time I couldn’t move my left arm, and henpecking with my right hand drove me batshit crazy. I suppose I could say the same about Siri’s dictation. Yes, that manipulative minx and I got into quite a few heated domestic disputes during that frustrating time. One of the major life lessons I’ve taken away from this whole experience is losing my resistance to reality, and fully accepting the healing process, a lesson which I don’t mind telling you this stubborn ox still hasn’t completely mastered.

Now I’m not crazy about being unconscious while ANYONE moves, manipulates, sews, staples, pokes, prods, drives, drills, cuts, cracks, or cauterizes me. However, to be honest, that was the least of my worries. My biggest reluctances involved the recovery period. You see, we live in a culture that very much believes in quick fixes. The vast majority of patients that I’ve seen in over 10 years as a registered nurse seek the magic treatment that fixes all of their problems. Most are under the false impression that the surgery or the pill is the final solution, when, in fact, it’s only the beginning. Few understand what it actually takes for a swift and effective recovery, or for a permanent shift in your health, which accounts for so many repeat medical visits, surgeries and procedures.

For example, in my personal case with rotator cuff surgery, recovering swiftly and effectively typically requires the sacrifice and significant altering of your lifestyle for 6 to 12 weeks, with a few of those alterations extending 3 to 6 months after surgery, and sometimes beyond. Surgery is only the beginning. And THIS was the part that I was least thrilled about.

I’ll keep this list brief. You can dive into your own research on any of the following points; otherwise we’ll be here all week. If you have a solid contention with any of the items below, let’s hear it, because I believe if you’re serious about learning and growth, you should always be willing to question your own belief systems. So with all that said, here is my personal daily protocol after surgery, with reassessment at the 6-week mark.

  • Ice Bath
    • Why? Cold exposure therapy has been shown to decrease inflammation, improve circulation, boost immunity, release adrenaline, and subsequently increase dopamine throughout the remainder of the day.
  • Super Shake
    • Why? I use 50 grams of easily digestible protein for post-surgical healing and repair; blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for their vitamin C boost and antioxidant properties; and spinach for red blood cell formation.
  • Sunlight Exposure
    • Why? Sunlight provides vitamin D, which has been shown to support nerve and muscle repair, resistance to infection and overall mood boost.
  • Daily Cyclic Hyperventilation
    • Why? Among other things, cyclic hyperventilation has been shown to briefly alkalinize the blood, making it a poor environment for bacteria and inflammation. It also has a similar effect to ice baths with regard to adrenaline and dopamine release. The breath holds are also super meditative. I mostly use the Wim Hof method, but there are several similar methods out there.
  • Sleep
    • Why? Seven hours MINIMUM nightly for bodily repair. And if your body asks for more, oblige. When your body talks, listen. Post-op discomfort, mostly when sleeping/lying down (see rotator cuff injury symptoms) admittedly kept me from sleeping through most nights, so I opted to add afternoon naps to compensate. I like to wake up and get shit done, so adding extra sleep as my body requested was definitely a mental challenge for me.
  • Substance Restriction
    • Why? Both caffeine and alcohol have been shown to have meditative and healing properties in moderation, AND both have also been shown to significantly stunt the healing process in excess. So my post-op rule was no more than a single cup of coffee in the morning for caffeine, and no more than a single glass of wine in the evening. AND ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NO NICOTINE OF ANY KIND. There is a shit ton of evidence that nicotine, even in moderate doses, increases inflammation, suppresses immune system functionality, and alters sleep patterns (among many others).
  • Glucosamine Chondroitin
    • Why? A few small studies have supported potential benefits. This supplement is admittedly anecdotal, with mixed conclusions about joint health. I added a daily dose as an experimental variant.
  • Healing Visualization
    • Why? Now this may be a far stretch for you practicals, but I attribute much of my ulcerative colitis remission to this meditation and overall state of mind. In a nutshell, it involves dropping the victim mentality about your particular malady, bringing the mind into a meditative state, and visualizing the healing of said malady, in much the same way that Dr. Joe Dispenza miraculously healed his own spinal injury as reported in the documentary “Heal.” Incidentally I give mass credit to dropping the victim mentality in life in general, as a means to obtaining general happiness and peace of mind.

With any protocol, I do believe in the importance of cheat days, so that I do not attach myself so harshly to a self-disciplined regimen that I forget to relax once in a while. I allowed myself one cheat day per week for this protocol.


Attorney meme:

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