How I Recovered From a Rotator Cuff Injury Without Surgery

In December, I injured my left rotator cuff after working out in the Palazzo hotel gym (it’s mediocre btw). My workout included 225 lbs on bench and dips (for tricep and chest) and somewhere along the way, I deceptively hurt my left shoulder pretty bad. By deceptively, I mean I felt discomfort and pain but nothing I couldn’t work through.

That night, when I went out with some new friends, I kept holding and pulling my arm through (kind of like a slow, exaggerated baseball pitch) until someone asked me what was wrong with my shoulder. I didn’t realize I was messing with it that much until he pointed it out.

Still it wasn’t that bad, I thought. Probably something that just needed to be worked out.

When I got back home, I continued to work out but the nagging pain from my shoulder wasn’t going away. After a few workouts, I decided to rest it for a couple of weeks.

Nope. When I tried again, it felt like I was in even more discomfort. I decided to drop the weight to 40% of what I normally lift. This made things better but it was obvious that there was something wrong with my shoulder.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I took 7 yoga classes within a 2 week span. This stretching helped but didn’t solve the problem.

When I was at home, I could almost make my rotator cuff pop at will. If I so much as went throw a throwing motion, it would click or pop. And if I didn’t do this for awhile, my shoulder would lock up until I’d have to make it pop just to relieve the tension.

I had never had a rotator cuff injury before but by searching for my symptoms, it was pretty clear this is what it was.

I quit working out my upper body for months. It’s all a blur now but given the timeline, I’d guess I completely stopped for 3 months.

I was concerned I’d never be the same after reading body building forums (and who knows, I may not be) but I decided to take a proactive measure and buy a book on rehabbing your rotator cuff. Here’s the book I bought:

[easyazon_block add_to_cart=”default” align=”center” asin=”1598582062″ cloaking=”default” layout=”left” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”krisr-20″]

Based on the glowing 5 star reviews, I bought it and after a week of intermediate exercises, my shoulder felt 75% better. Since that week, I’ve only had a few more sessions and my shoulder feels even better.

Yesterday, I bench pressed 185 3×6 and curled 45 lb dumbells 2×6 pain-free.

This may not sound like a lot but to lift these weights pain-free is a huge deal after months of being unable to.

Let me disclaim, that I slowly built up to these weights even though I’ve felt much better for about a month now. I didn’t just feel better and try to take a huge jump. I’ve slowly increased my lifts in the last 4 weeks to this point.

From my experience with what I perceive was an average rotator cuff injury, I recommend the following:

First, buy [easyazon_link asin=”1598582062″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”krisr-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Treat Your Own Rotator Cuff[/easyazon_link] and do the exercises and do not push yourself.

The book takes a little while to read but after 30 minutes of reading to understand everything that was going on, I skipped to the exercises. They’re easy to do and do not take long – maybe 5 minutes a day.

Second, completely rest your shoulder. Forget about your upper body workouts and just try to get healthy again. I recommend sidelining your shoulder for at least 2 months (the more severe, the more months off you should have). Don’t even try to get another workout. Give your shoulder a complete break from working out.

Third, eat nutritiously so your body can help the healing process.

Boiled down, my recommendation for recovering from a rotator cuff injury is 1) strengthening/stretching exercises from the book, 2) no workouts for a long time, 3) eat well.

Now that I’m on the way back up, I’m also working on strict bench press form with my elbows tucked all the way in with no flare.

I would say I had a little bit of “flare” before but I’ve completely eliminated it. I’m 90% sure bench press was the culprit behind getting injured. It may have been the high weight (275 3×6 is what I got up to) or bad form or a combination of both but now I’m extremely cautious about it.

My two major injuries so far have come in the last 2 years: torn bicep and rotator cuff. I think bad form played a part in both. I tore my bicep on chest flies with too much of the bicep exposed/bearing the weight.

This serves as a reminder to always try to improve your form.