Dislocation and Fracture

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At the end of May, I dislocated and fractured my shoulder. I am 46 years old. It was an anterior dislocation and displaced fracture of the greater tuberosity. The doc managed to put the shoulder and fracture back into place with a closed reduction. I had to keep it immobilized for 7 weeks to make sure the fracture knitted in place, or else it would be surgery. I got through all of that and started physio in the latter half of July. My physiotherapist is fantastic and she said I've made good progress. I have especially made use of the pool to help mobilize and strengthen the shoulder.

An ongoing problem is the swelling with fluid pooling right down to the hand and all the way up the arm. I started massage therapy to try to get the fluid moving. It isn't doing much. When I overdo the exercises, the arm just blows up like a balloon. As I'm doing my exercises, there is pain, but I always use the physio's recommendation that at this point it is ok to push it and it will hurt. But, is the pain doesn't stop when I release the exercise, then it is too much.

I thought I was doing well with this advice and I want to get stronger and get all my ROM back, but the arm is so reactive with the swelling and nerve tingling. I did my pool work on Sunday and did lots at physio on Monday and it felt ok. On Tuesday, I felt absolutely sick from the swelling and discomfort. The fatigue is horrible too.

It is hard not to get disappointed and frustrated, but it is terrible and I thought it would be better by now.

I guess I need to know if others have had similar experiences and when they came out of this awful situation.

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  • Posted


    I remember reading that fluid build up is the body's reaction to protect. Has a doctor told you the cause of the fluid build up?

    It seems to me if the exercise and everything else you have been doing is not causing further harm or injury that it is part of the natural healing process. Eventually the fluid may decrease and stop...or at least, I'm hoping that's what your doctor tells you.

    What does the doctor tell you when you complain about the fluid, pain, etc.? Does he give you hope? Does he tell you there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that this will diminish and go away and how long does he tell you it will take before you are back to normal.

    These are things the doctor should address with you I think.

    It's the best I can honestly offer as a rotator cuff patient who has been through a lot and knows how patience is tried when you go through injury, surgery, rehab and are waiting to get back to normal. It's very difficult and it plays with your head when you are doing everything you are supposed to be doing and it seems like things aren't healing fast enough. This is where a good physical therapist and doctor should help you and assure you that all is ok. My therapist said that it takes time and that I was proceding on course. It helped but still my patience was tried. So I know what you are going through.

    My head therapist said it's a sawtooth progression with ups and downs. You want the downs to be short so that it doesn't impede or stop your progress. In your case, how long does it take to recover from the swelling and pain so you can resume your exercises? It's something that should be monitored by your doctor and therapist so you don't overdo it. You'll know you're making progress when the recovery time starts to shorten and you can do more with less negative reaction.

    Like I said it's the best I can offer and you need a close relationship with your doctor and therapist they need to give you a lot of moral support.

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    • Posted

      Thanks for the reassurance. My physio said the swelling is more than it should be about a month ago, so that is why she suggested massage therapy to push the fluid up. My family doctor agreed and gave me the script for massage.

      My physio gives me great moral support and has said that it is an 8-9 month recovery period.

      I do go to physio twice a week and massage once a week.

      I know it will be up and down, but it is so delicate in what it can tolerate. Getting the happy medium of working to strengthen it , while not over doing it is a challenge.

      It definitely affects my mental well-being. I just keep telling myself it could have been worse .

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    • Posted

      I do go to physio twice a week and massage once a week.

      It sounds like you have a plan and are following it. Keep careful track if the recovery time after exercise diminishes...that's when you know you're making real progress. Also, perhaps massage more than 1x a week might be helpful.

      Yes, it all plays with your mind. That's why support is so important. When you go to physical therapy talk to other patients, perhaps ask the pt if there other patients you might speak to who have similar condition as yours. Or even ask your doctor.

      It helps when other can give you advice because they've been through the same thing as you.

      You'll get there! Keep up the good work.

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