I wanted to see if I could get some expert opinions and input on my shoulder/rotator cuff situation, and how best to get back to 100% from here. I’ll start with an explanation of my situation.
Around June of 2002 I started developing pretty severe impingement in my right shoulder, something I had had on and off in years past, but was always cured by my ART practioner (who is a certified ART instructor). I should note that right before the injury I was able to flat bench 330 for 8, incline bench 290 for 8, do standing military presses with 185 for 8, lateral raises (both hands simultaneously) with 40-lb dumbells for 10, reverse-grip bent-over rows (Dorian style) with 335 for 8. ALL of these were done with excellent form and no help from spotters – these were NOT bullshit reps.
I went to the ART guy for many, many weeks, and he just wasn’t able to make a dent in the problem. (I had stopped benching or doing any direct shoulder work in June of 2002, and started doing the routine for rehab of an external rotor injury found in “The 7-Minute Rotator Cuff Solution”). He sent me to get an MRI, which showed a partial tear of the supraspinatus tendon, which seemed odd to him, since when he tested me in certain movements that would test the supraspinatus, I seemed to test strong. He referred me to a couple of the best shoulder surgeons in New York City, and I finally went to see one of them in January 2003. The surgeon looked at the MRI and took an X-ray of my shoulder (which found a bone spur on the acromium). He explained what the surgery would entail: that it would certainly involve shaving off the spur, which was not that big a deal, but he wouldn’t know whether or not the cuff tear warranted repairing until he was in there (if he did end up having to repair the cuff tear itself, the rehab period would be pretty major).
So I kept the surgery idea in the back of my mind, but decided to see if lots of time off from direct chest/shoulder work, combined with the rotator cuff exercises, would help. (I also looked into prolotherapy, as was suggested by someone on the forums here, but the only MD doing it in NYC, who I had one consultation with, seemed like a TOTAL quack, and the other guy in the City doing it is only a DC, which I would have concerns about). Well, taking over a year off has definately helped; it no longer hurts when I sleep on my right side for extended periods of time. I started easing my way back into benching a few weeks ago. My shoulder feels about 98% fine while benching (occasionally there’s a TINY bit of inflamation in the AC joint while doing it, but it’s very minor, and there is no feeling of impingement). I’m depressed, of course, by how much chest size/strength I’ve lost, although I’m not a complete wuss, I guess: I can now do 285 for 6 (compared to 330 for 8 pre-injury). I’m still doing the rotator cuff exercises, but have also begun doing Arnold pressed (I can do 7 or 8 reps with 85-lb dumbells with zero pain). I have continued, all along, doing the Dorian rows, as they never bothered me, and probably helped to balance things out. I also (about 3 weeks ago) started taking a glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM supplement, and I continue to take Omega-3 capsules.
I am wondering whether it is best to continue my benching with relatively low reps (5-6) so as to get used to what heavy weights feel like again, or if I should lower the weight and go with higher reps. I’m also wondering if I should try regular dumbell military presses (as opposed to Arnold pressed, since I have zero pain with those), since I would like to get my delts back (or if that would just be suicidal). The funny thing is, I have a feeling that the most direct cause of the tear was probably – and it’s just a guess – the dumbell lateral raises I was doing. I had never spent much time doing them in years past, but in the months leading up to June of 2002 I decided to really give them a shot, and they seemed to really add a decent cap to my delts. Unfortunately, they are probably the one exercise that most directly uses the supraspinatus.
Any other suggestions on things to do (or not to do) in order to get my strength and physique back to where they were? Thanks for listening – I know it’s been lengthy.