T Nation

Torn Labrum... Now What?

Hey guys,

I’ve been training off and on for about 15 years, mainly for athletic purposes but in the last year or so I decided to focus more on ‘bodybuilding’ I guess you could say. I successfully completed the V-Diet in January of 09 and then spent the better part of this year trying to gain some muscle & improve my overall strength. I’m 6’2, 220lbs 34 years old and managed to get my bench up to a respectable 350lbs. I haven’t had my bodyfat tested but I’m probably around the 12-15% mark.

Anyway, I woke up one morning with rather severe shoulder pain and haven’t been able to push much weight since. After every test possible, it turns out I have a severe labral tear that will require arthroscopic surgery hopefully sooner than later. Recovery is about a full 6 months from what I’ve been told so far.

My questions to you is what can I do to minimize my losses in both muscle mass and strength? My arm will be in a sling for 3-4 weeks and who knows how it’ll feel after that. I’m sure I can start on some leg stuff fairly soon, but I’m not 19 anymore and the last thing I want to do is end up in this position again. I use Metabolic Drive and Surge Recovery daily in addition to the staple supplements like EFA oil and other vitamins, but surely there’s stuff here that you guys would recommend that may speed recovery a bit?

Hope this wasn’t too long winded…your advice is appreciated. Thx

I didn’t know men had a labrum.

Otherwise I got nuthin’

I had arthroscopic surgery on my shoulder in December 08 and had a full recovery about 6-8 months later. To be clear I had fraying on my labrum and rotator cuff and not actually a full tear as it appears you have. I was out of my sling within a week and had 80% of my mobility back within a month after that. I was 30 when I got my surgery so the whole young and able to bounce back thing wasn’t my situation either.

The short of it is there’s not going to be a whole lot you can do as far as strength loss is concerned. Muscle loss can be reduced by supplementing with leucine in addition to whatever limited exercise you can perform. The upside is that the strength gains will come back very quickly, it took me about 2-3 months to get them back after I was able to go heavy again.

I would use this phase as a time for fat-loss and/or cardio or endurance work. Figure out your weaknesses and focus on those as well as on things like mobility and core strength. Look up all of Eric Creesey’s shoulder saver and mobility articles and employ all of that in as your recovering shoulder will allow. Seriously, do it now. If you’re adament about not being in this position again, you’ll learn everything you can from those Creesey articles!

When you start rehabbing the shoulder your PT should tell you something about good pain and bad pain. As you get back into lifting you’ll know exactly what this means (hell, you’ll know it well when you start working on getting the range of motion back in the shoulder). Work the shoulder hard, but as soon as you feel the bad pain stop that exercise, or reduce the weight. You can and need to push the shoulder to recover, but you can’t force it into happening.

Paying attention to the recovering shoulder is the biggest thing. Your PT is going to be able to give you answers that are meant to fit everyone. But everyone recovers differently. As soon as my range of motion would allow me to get my arms around the barbell to squat I was asking my PT if I could. His answer: Try it, if it hurts stop, if it doesn’t you can do it. Just be gradual about it. Same thing for deadlifts and then chin ups, and then pushing movements.

The Docs said I was probably done with overhead pressing for good. A couple months ago I had my best push press on the 5/3/1 program. On the other hand the docs said I was probably done with dips for good. On a static dip bar it hurts for me to do one body weight dip - I used to do dips for reps with 90+ pounds.

As far as I know you can’t take supplements that are going to help your ligaments and tendons recover quickly. Leucine will help with reducing muscle loss, Fish-oils and vitamins can help in other areas as well. But lots of rest and gradual active therapy is the best thing.

Good luck!


Just stumbled on this post.

There is some evidence to support the idea that if one limb is injured you should continue to train the other. The neural crossover effect will spare strength on the untrained limb and muscle mass will recover more quickly when you resume training it.

Hope that helps,


Thanks for the great info Greg.

I haven’t met with my surgeon yet so I don’t know the full extent of what lies ahead for surgery & recovery, but I’m definitely going to change up my routine and try to get focused on other areas of training. My core could use some good solid work and hopefully I can do some sort of leg training as well.

I’ll check out Eric Cressey’s stuff and incorporate as much as I can into my rehab program. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a serious injury like this, so the biggest obstacle is getting through all the negative feelings and attitude towards the things I won’t be able to do for awhile. I train by myself and I really don’t have any friends that train in any capacity so my support system is pretty weak.

I did start doing some research on supplements that will aid my recovery and there’s certainly a fair amount of stuff out there that will reduce inflammation and also aid in tissue repair. I’m planning on eating super clean during my recovery and who knows, maybe I can shed a few extra pounds too!

Thanks again for your assistance, I feel much better knowing that my goals of getting stronger may still be attainable at some point down the road.

Glad I could help a little. I remember how down I was pre-surgery as well…

Don’t know if you read Thib’s forum but a question just like yours was asked. Thibs hasn’t responded yet but hopefully he’ll be able to offer some great advice as well. One of the posters there recommended Curcumin for post surgery recovery. I don’t have any experience with this but based on what it claims to do that seems like a good suggestion.

I know exactly how you feel in regards to the negative feelings, my thoughts were in the exact same place leading up to my surgery. Best thing I can say is don’t sweat it too much. There’s no reason to suspect you won’t recover fully. Use this time to learn about all the reasons the injury occurred in the first place and then implement that into your training, when you get back into it there’s no reason you can’t get stronger than before.