I had an MRI done on my left shoulder last week and it turns out, to my surprise, that I have a full-thickness supraspinatus tear.
Quick story on me: I'm 41, male, 5'11", 205. Always been natural. For most of my life I trained with bodybuilding-style workouts 4 or 5 days per week. LOTS of heavy benching, etc. over the years, but not really in recent year, as my shoulders got cranky. I've had some degree of shoulder impingement, etc. in one shoulder or the other at various times (though never this badly injured) over the years, though mostly in the right shoulder.
For the past three years I've been doing muay thai training 3-4 days per week (hitting pads and sparring), and lifting only twice a week, and haven't even been doing heavy chest/shoulder work in recent years because my shoulders are generally cranky to some degree, but I can go heavy on rows, deadlifts, weighted pullups, and (until recently) weighted dips, etc.
In March of this year (5 months ago) I was doing weighted dips with 120 pounds, which I'd done many times before with no problem. At the bottom of one rep I felt a pretty clear pop in the left shoulder. Not major pain, but felt a pop. That night it started hurting like hell (and did for the next few days), and I saw a very good (non-surgeon) orthopedist the very next day.
The doctor did an X-ray, did a bunch of mobility and range of motion tests, and said it doesn't seem like I tore anything but I just "pissed off" the biceps tendon and the bursa, so things are inflamed. He prescribed an anti-inflammatory, physical therapy and ice, and once things calmed down to try to gradually get back to my activities. Quote "You be you!"
The severe pain went away after a few days (anti-inflammatory probably helped a lot), and things got about 20 or 30 percent better, but I still had nagging pain in the front of the shoulder (biceps tendon area). I did about 4 rehab sessions and then took the PT's lesson plan and applied that for a few more weeks. I got back to doing muay thai (though would limit things like throwing hard left hooks or hard clinching work), but that pain was still annoying, especially at night.
A few weeks after the first doctor's visit I returned for a cortisone shot. He did the injection using ultrasound and even showed me the tendon on the screen as he did it. He said ultrasound is "like a poor man's MRI," and that the supraspinatus looked intact. The cortisone shot really only helped for about a week -- then, back to the plateaued point I had been at.
For a long time I mulled getting PRP injections, which my doc offers, but they're $1,000 / shot, so I held off.
4 weeks ago I was doing some light clinching work in muay thai, the other guy trapped my arm too hard, and I felt some pain. I was able to continue training a minute later, but that night it hurt quite a bit, and has been set back two steps pain-wise ever since. Definitely frequently bothers me at night now. I've laid off muay thai for the past few weeks, and only recently started doing a few pushups as far as upper body strength work (along with now very diligently doing rehab work on my own, i.e. external rotation, scapula work, etc).
A week ago I saw a different orthopedist for a second opinion. He ordered an MRI. (He initially suspected a labral tear, after doing some mobility tests). Turns out there's a full-thickness tear of my supraspinatus. Balls! He said that, especially at my young age and activity level, surgery is probably what I should do. (Arthroscopic surgery.)
Just today I saw a THIRD doc for another opinion -- a very highly regarded guy at the Hospital for Special Surgery here in NYC, who has done 800 to 1,000 RC surgeries. He did some mobility drills, said things seemed reasonably strong, but then looked at the MRI and the X-ray and confirmed the full-thickness tear. He said that surgery is probably the ideal way to go, as I'm so active and young, and that it could get worse over time (the muscle could atrophy, the tendon could retract, etc). He said I don't need to do it right away or anything, and I can try doing some rehab for a while and see if I can work with it. He said as far as muay thai, lifting, etc. to do what doesn't hurt and let pain be my guide. He said it's hard to predict who can just live with it without surgery and who can't, but that the tear of course won't fully heal on its own (without surgery).
It annoys me at night, and there is certainly impingement in certain more extreme angles of arm movement, but given the scary-sounding diagnosis, I'm not in any extreme pain, or constant pain or anything. I'm fine when I'm just going about my day and such and not doing anything really physical/exerting with it. (But the nighttime pain is annoying.) But I also certainly can't do much upper body pressing of any kind, and can't really go all-out in muay thai training without having to worry about it.
So I'm initially going to try committing myself like all hell to rehab, getting some regular ART work done, icing it frequently when needed, using anti-inflammatories on occasion if needed, and he said maybe get an MRI in 6 months and see if the tear has at least not worsened.
QUESTION: Has anyone here had a full-thickness suprasinatus tear and NOT gotten surgery, and been ok, i.e. gotten back to a pretty high level of physical activity? Can I somehow avoid the surgery? Recovery/rehab from the surgery is a BITCH.
Thanks in advance!