T Nation

Recovery From Shoulder Surgery


Hi Guys and Gals,
I do not think, i have posted on the Over 35 forum before so, i will just give you a brief introduction and then get to the point.
I am 57 years old at 75kg and compete in powerlifting. Two weeks ago i had my last comp,lifting in the British Open qualifiers for 2008.

Right getting to the point:-
I am having (minor) shoulder surgery next week. Something to do with my A-C joint and at the same time removal of a small bone impingement on the acromion.
I have been a slow healer now for several years. If i cut myself or get a scrape say from deadlifting, it can take weeks before it goes.
Is there anything i can take, supps or such, that will aid my recovery? I still need to qualify in the benchpress.
I was not able to bench at the qualifiers for obvious reasons, so need to be up to par very quickly to get a lift in at a bench only meet.
many thanks


I'm not sure there is anything specific you should take other than the normal stuff.

Eat clean (maybe up the fish oil), get plenty of rest, respect your recover period, etc

I just had a shoulder surgery (yours with an extra minor tear) myself. My surgery was five weeks ago. There is no way I would be able to bench heavy rigth now. But I am in the gym and workng the shoulder with ligher weights (20 reps min). My suggestion is to you is to go to Physical Therapy. Your PT will help you get back on track as soon as possible. I figure I have at least 2 months before I go heavy. The good news is that my shoulder felt better within days after the surgery than right before the surgery. What a relief! You'll probably feel the same way.

Good luck.

That's my two cents,


Oh, almost didn't want to respond, this question hurts. Still recovering from my second shoulder surgery, and despite ten months I'm still hurting.
However, I recovered 100% from the first surgery ten years ago, and that one was more severe, an open repair with lots of sewing involved, etc.
What have I learned? That you really need a PT who knows what they are doing with strength athletes. The first time, I ditched my first PT after three months for someone who really knew what they were doing, and that second one took me all the way to pain free, full flexibility recovery.
This second time, I thought I could do it myself, after all, I knew the exercises. Plus, I thought with a home e-stim machine I could mimick what they gave at the PT center.
I was wrong. FIND a PT who has rehabbed strong athletes, period. Yeah, you can take tons of fish oil, glucosamine, topical creams, NSAIDS, sports massage, and other stuff too, but all that won't get you to benching heavy again. In many cases muscle imbalances which contributed to the shoulder problem in the first place have to be corrected in rehab, and that's tricky.
Good luck, it's certainly do-able, and I am inspired at your activities at 57. Doc


I had a surgery that sounds similar to yours (removal of bone spur, removal of inflammed bursa tissue, but no ligament repair) at the end of June.

My PT lifts and is a former competitive powerlifter.

Essentially the Doc and PT said it is about a 3 to 4 month recovery.

I was cleared to do some upper body work in month two. But light weight, esp on pushing exercises. At this point I am about @ 50% of what I could do a pushing exercises. (Pulling is better)

PT says I should be able to lift as much weight as I want at 6 month mark.

Unfortunately these things take time, and you pretty much need to do what the doc says --




That is pretty close to what I've been told and I've read.

I'm 5 weeks out from the surgery and the PT says I have 2 months to go. I'm in the gym but I'm very careful. I don't expect to be able to max for a while after that.

Right now I'm going super light - 20 reps minimum

I'm planning of gradually increasing the weight:

@ 3 months - 12 reps minimum
@ 4 months - 10 reps minimum
@ 5 months - 8 reps minimum

The important thing is to pay attention to your shoulder and if it's hurting to back off. I'm may accererate or delay based on how my shoulder feels.

The other thing is to figure out the root cause of the original condition. In my case it's probably an an imbalance and so I've been working on that too.



Don't forget Range Of Motion. Everyone tends to focus on regaining strength and pain free movement, but regaining full ROM is crucial too. And my good PT's all told me getting that last 5-10% ROM often takes some serious effort. Doc


ok guys,
Had the surgery yesterday and came home today (Thurs). Physio came before i left and put me through my paces. I have full range of movement although the pain is masked by the meds.I have had two procedures at the same time. One is an open wound with 5 sutures and three holes from the keyhole stuff with a stitch in each.

I have a range of exercises to perform 4 times a day and i have been cleared to return to work tomorrow so long as i can control the pain and only do light duties.I will continue this thread for a while to show my progress if you guys are interested. I have to see the physio again on Monday.

Also forgot to say that the doc advised me to stop taking the cod liver oil and BCAA's for 6 weeks, but to carry on with the ZMA to aid healing. Any thoughts on this?


Yeah, fuck the recommedation to stop taking BCAA's and fish oil. You need 'em now more than ever. And keep the thread going. Doc


Just a quick update. It is two weeks since my surgery and everything is fine. I was in and out in a day on the Wednesday and back at work on the Friday, albeit with my arm in a sling. The only pain i had was from the meds,they upset my stomach really badly. I had vertually full range of motion when i left the hospital!

Yesterday (Wed 31st ) i saw the physio for the first time and then had my sutures out and then met with the specialist who signed me off. He treats all sorts of shoulder problems and sees lots of sports injuries. He advised me to only do multiple reps at low weight for 6 weeks and then start to go heavy after that.

I am so releived that it was not as bad as i thought it might be and it certainly isn't as bad as some of you guys have had.
I have worked out a 6 week plan for myself and will start tomorrow.

I would like to thank you for your comments on the run up to my op and will not be updating again as this injury would only seem to have been a minor one compared to those who have had major shoulder surgery.
 Lift hard.


That's great news. Please keep us updated. I'm interested and I bet you that others are too.

I'm 7 weeks out of surgery and there is no way I can go heavy just yet. For example, push ups still cause pain in the shoulder. And bench still hurst - even really light weight.

I've started doing these reverse push ups with a smith machine. You lay on the floor with your feet on a bench and pull yourself up on the bar. Seems like it should be easy. I can touch my chest on the first 5 reps but after that I can't.

As I mentioned earlier I've been working on sets of 20 reps. It's pretty frustrating but it's better than not going to the gym.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

I'm especialy interested in your progress at 6 weeks.

Take care,


Good to hear Nobby.

Several years I had surgery on my AC joint. The cartilage was gone and the bones were rough and contacting each other. It got so bad that just by rolling over on to that shoulder while asleep it would immediately wake me up.

In the surgery the doc went in and basically smoothed down the collar bone so that the bones would not irritate each other. I found the recovery slow. I was trying to do full range work and I just didn't make any progress until I made a range of motion switch. As soon as I started to do board presses I found I could use heavier weight on the end range without pain. Soon I began increasing the range of motion by removing one board at a time every couple weeks.

It seemed like the strength I developed in a short range was carrying over to a longer range and by gradually increasing range I could do full range with relatively heavy weight again. In my case I don't think I would have progressed as quickly by sticking with only full range of motion work.


hi guys,
Thanks for the replies. Hey,Seattle_Lifter the range of motion thing was the first thought on my mind.lol.
Today was my first day back in the gym and i followed my plan at the start but the ego gets in the way don't it?

I did 2 sets with the bar only at full range for 12 reps.
Then went to a 2 board for 50kg x 5 x 2 and then i was done for the day.

Or so i had planned! But i just wanted to see if i could still squat and deadlift. I could do this before so wanted to give it a go.

 I can get under the bar ok but the weight bears down on my shoulder and causes pain so i could only manage reps with the bar only.
 The deadlift was great. I can still do that and worked up to 130kgs for a double. Not a max but nice after a layoff.

I am going to revise my plan now to incorporate the squat and deadlift while maintaining muscle mass for the bench.I think i will board press for the most part working between 1 board for light weight, high reps and 3 board for 3 rep maxes and see how i go.Triceps work will be in the form of dumbell close presses.


Just had surgery on Wednesday.
Pain is severe! They put me on zombie meds!

They are really pushing the physio on me but I can barely move my arm without collapsing on the floor.

Any advice for me from those who have gone through the physio?

I think it will be a very long time before I see ANY gym again.



The pain goes away pretty fast. I was on some really powerful stuff too. I got off it after 2 days because it was way too strong.

I'm at 2.5 months post surgery and still don't have full range of motion.

I've been working heavy legs and moderate upper body. I still have even attempted pull ups. I'm able to bench but not heavy. I'm keeping my reps to a minimum of 12 for now. I'll gradually start to lower the reps. I have been doing a fair amount of push ups and back work.

Nobby - how's your recovery going?



Well its now day 3 and I can move my arm now.
The day after the surgery it felt like someone tied a chain to my arm and drove off quickly!

Under my arm (near my armpit) is all purple and inflamed quite a bit. I am starting to (at least try) to do the physiotherapy.

I hope I will be able to recover enough to start lifting within 3 - 4 months.

I would appreciate any advice from those who have gone through the same thing. It's always good to hear from those with experience.


There is a lot of information on this thread and others. Read them.

My advice:

  1. Start PT as soon as possible. And stick with it.

  2. Start lifting as soon as possible but make sure it's light weight. Talk with your PT to make sure you're doing the right things. I'm 2.5 months out and I'm lifting a minimum of 12 reps right now. I can't remember exactly when I started but I started with 20 reps min.

  3. Eat right and get plenty of rest.

  4. Don't push it too hard, let your body heal.



Thanks for the advice.
The drugs ONLY keep me happy, but they don't eliminate the pain. They also keep me pretty constipated, so I am trying to eat as much fiber as I can. As far as my diet goes, I never eat junk food anyways so that won't be a problem.

I guess I will have to be patient. I hope to at least do some cardio in a week or so, and maybe even some leg workouts. I highly doubt that I will be bench pressing any time soon!

Thanks again for the advice,


I think it's amazing that you guys are/have recovered so fast. I'm a rugby player and i had surgery last week to repair a torn labrum, torn glenohumeral ligament and remove a bone chhip. I'm in a sling for 6 weeks with no PT and in some pain. anybody have a similar previous injury and know the real recovery time to lift as heavy I want? doc said 6 months but at this pace I feel I'll never lift/play again


ctownsend - I think you should get off the drugs as soon as you can handle it.

doders - of course not all shoulder surgeries are the same. You had a torn labrum. That's a lot more severe than others here, including myself. The reason you have a sling for 6 weeks is that you probably have a screw attaching your ligaments to your shoulder. I'd be surprised if you're back to full strength at 6 months but anything is possible. Factors such as age play a big factor. Good luck. Stay focused and let us know your progress.



will do. 3 screws in your shoulder and 6 weeks in a brace without any working out and I'm about ready to flip out