When it comes to any kind of labral repair surgery, recovery is typically longer than many patients anticipate. The details of hip labral repair surgery are different than those relating to shoulder labral repair. Going in armed with knowledge and realistic expectations is probably the best way to truly set yourself up for success.
Labrum Repair Basics
Your shoulder labrum is basically a fibrous (or rigid) cartilage that’s found around the attachment of the socket. It functions to provide added stability by deepening the socket as well as to provide an attachment site for structural tissues surrounding the shoulder joint. Tearing typically results from one of two situations. First, it can result from repetitive actions or over-use that causes damage to the shoulder’s attaching ligaments. Second, it can result from trauma-induced anterior or posterior dislocation or subluxation of the shoulder.
Recovery Process Overview
While the nature of the trauma will inform the recovery process, so it bears consideration. The location of the lesion, along with the severity of the injury and quality of surgical repair will all come into play when it comes to managing expectations regarding recovery. According to the Johns Hopkins Orthopedic Surgery department, post-surgical recovery involves a period of at least 4-6 weeks for the labrum to re-attach to the rim of the bone, and then another 4-6 weeks to regain strength.
Since re-injury is a constant threat, it’s important to exercise caution in the amount of motion and strengthening exercises during the recovery period. Returning to normal activities, including sports, is certainly possible, but only after full recovery. While the Johns Hopkins site generalizes about the recovery process, it’s certainly different for every individual, and many find that full recovery takes longer than expected.
Three Stages of Recovery
The first stage of recovery can be described as “The Acute Pain Stage.” During this period, you can expect difficulty when sleeping. It usually does take about 4-6 weeks, during which time formal physical therapy is encouraged.
The second stage could be classified as “The Strengthening Stage.” Both stretching and strengthening exercises will bring mild discomfort. Many patients report that they still feel as if dislocation is imminent, and often they hear cracking in their shoulders. The reason for those issues is that the surgery probably tightened the joint, causing minor unfamiliar pressure on the repaired tissues; that feeling will continually lessen, as time goes on.
Ranging from 12-16 weeks, this stage opens the door to “The Transitional Stage.” During that third stage, which can range from 6-12 weeks, most patients report that they feel “normal” again. If it takes you almost an entire year to truly feel that way, that’s within the range of “normal,” too.
As you recover from shoulder labral repair surgery, frustration can easily accompany you on the journey. But as you become educated and achieve realistic expectations, you will be more apt to take your time, inching slowly but steadily toward full recovery.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.