In 2011, I started to experience right shoulder pain. I had numerous physiotherapy sessions involving manipulation, and exercises for me to do by myself. After ten physiotherapy sessions and no improvement, I consulted a specialist and had CT and MRI scans. I was diagnosed with calcific tendonitis, which required three sessions of extracorporeal shockwave therapy (EST), to break down the calcification, which would then be absorbed in my body. Following EST, I underwent a rehab programme which prevented me from doing overhead lifting for a few months until I regained more upper body mobility and strengthened my rotator cuff.
With an office-based job, my sitting posture was not great, which is the case with most office workers. My upper body was not flexible enough to handle heavy loads during extremely technical lifts. While I thought that I had good posture when I was lifting, it wasn’t until I started training with a personal trainer that I realised that my posture in the gym up until that point had been appalling. Like most people, I relied on what I saw around me and on guidance from other people who didn’t know what they were doing. My tendon became degenerative and calcified. Had I been seeing a good physiotherapist from the start, the issue might have been caught in time.
I was able to start overhead work again at the end of 2012 and I started learning Olympic lifting. However, towards mid-2013, I started to experience issues with my left shoulder, so I was put on another rehab programme and not allowed to do overhead work for a few months. The pain didn’t fully disappear, so I had an ultrasound on both shoulders. The consultant wanted to ensure that my right shoulder was free of calcification. Both shoulders showed tendon degeneration and tears. Despite originally resisting, I agreed to cortisone injections in both shoulders.
I had the injections in December 2013, two weeks apart. After four months’ relief, the pain returned in both shoulders. While the right was manageable, the left was unbearable. I could overhead press at the gym and swing a kettle bell with no problem, but I couldn’t wrap a towel around myself without wanting to squeal. This indicated that there was an impingement. I was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon and had an MRI on both shoulders.
The left shoulder tendon showed signs of degeneration and it was inflamed to point where it had slightly dislodged the clavicle from sitting neatly on top of the shoulder.
While the right shoulder injuries sounded more serious, I started with the left surgery in December 2014, and then had the right shoulder surgery in March 2015. The right injuries ended up being more serious as the surgery revealed that the tendon had torn away from the bone, which was not visible on the scans. 6 months post-surgery I was able to do overhead work again.