Just taking plates out of the cupboard was excruciating for Kay Subhawong.
She has a torn rotator cuff. The small muscles that hold the shoulder joint together have ripped apart.
“That type of rotator cuff tear occurs with aging just like getting wrinkles or gray hair,” said Dr. John E. Kuhn, Chief of Shoulder Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Kay thought her only option was an operation.
“I was really scared. I am not a fan of surgery,” she said.
“It usually takes people about four months before they can even think to get back to any kind of labor type work and it usually takes a year to get a full recovery,” said Dr. Kuhn.
But Dr. Kuhn convinced Kay to skip surgery and do these exercises instead.
Dr. Kuhn is part of a network of doctors researching the best options for bad shoulders.
“We found the exercises programs that were found to be effective at treating rotator cuff disease and consolidated them into one physical therapy program,” said Dr. Kuhn.
The focus is on range of motion, flexibility and strengthening.
“We do not expect the therapy program to make someone’s tendon heal, but it does take their pain away,” said Dr. Kuhn.
A study of 452 rotator cuff tear patients found the program helped 85 percent avoid surgery.
“The effects last for two, up to five years so far,” Dr. Kuhn said.
Kay finished the program about five years ago.
“I really have not had trouble since,” Kay explained.
Her shoulder misery is just a bad memory. Now, she’s focusing on making good ones.
“I just pulled my suitcase all over Europe a few weeks ago,” Kay said.
Dr. Kuhn says the exercise program has changed the way he practices. The entire shoulder program is available for free online (DOWLOAD BOOKLET HERE), but you should talk with your physician before starting it.