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Thread: Whose shoulders have lasted the longest?

  1. #11
    35+ years and shoulders are in A-1 shape. I did once have a tiny but brutally painful rotator cuff injury (I swear it was the result of a poorly placed flu shot!) but fortunately got relief with only one cortisone shot.
    For those of us exclusively reliant on our upper extremities for mobility, you've got to think LONG TERM. Many wheelchair sports may be good for the soul, but the repetitive stress is the piper that will want to be paid.

  2. #12
    Funklab, I went to a van early because my wife is also a chair user. I played wheelchair basketball for a few years then roadracing with race chair for 10. After a few minor shoulder issues in my 50's I started to adapt my environment for gravity transfers and increased my use of transfer board. A lot of chair users wake up in the AM and without warm up lift their entire body weight to transfer to their chair. On bitterly cold days they leave a warm house, transfer to driver seat, lift chair over their body and stow. I always felt big transfers stressed my shoulders more than sports activities.

  3. #13
    33 years post injury and have had no real issues. I use 6kg weights 3 times a week doing 100 curls. I also use a Varna hand bike 3 times a week on a trainer doing, depending how I feel 3 to 10 miles. This may sound a lot but it alters your position and so works different muscles particularly back and shoulders. Normal pushing everyday only works your arms and nothing for your back.

  4. #14
    I'm a para from Polio at age 7, so about 70 years paralyzed. Looking back I think the worst idea was years of transferring into a tub, sometimes even a spa tub (deeper). To do that transfer I would have one arm out with hand on far side of tub edge, the other one on near side of tub edge, then lift up. This technique was so stupid for me, due to the wear and tear on my outstretched arms. Why did I do so? Because I could do it. I had no pain. It didn't even occur to me to use a bench in my tub.
    I played recreational wheelchair basketball and did about 8 road races a year for 12 years, ending in 1995. Again, no pain.
    Around age 60 I began to have discomfort in my left shoulder during the day. I began taking OTC Motrin per doctor. By age 74 serious pain in left shoulder and got into 3 month in-home PT, 3 times a week, and prescription gel for shoulder. I continue with daily light exercises and stretching and have about 90% less pain.
    Now, I never transfer with either arm outstretched - they are close as possible to my body when I do any transfers. Use power bed for gravity transfers, and very slick transfer board. (did not use transfer board until age 67-ish.) Retired at 55 after 20 years of full time work, then a few years ago got ZX1 mainly for outdoor travel.
    Hope you can develop a plan for shoulder health - totally worth it to avoid future problems. I guess I'm saying that shoulder breakdown and/or surgery is NOT inevitable for a para.

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Blog Entries
    63 years old - (C 6/7) pushed manual chair for 35 years along with all the tranfers etc. Shoulders started wearing out so went to power chair and now wished I would of done it a few years before. Have more energy and mobility as far as going to places. Still have some shoulder pain so don't wait to long to make the change.

  6. #16
    I am 35 years post injury. My shoulders hurt but they were always strong until a few years ago. It all started with one bad transfer that tore some rotator cuff muscles. I had to baby that shoulder because it hurt so badly. As a result it froze up and I lost range. The other was strong. Then one day, without incident, that one started hurting badly and soon lost range. Cortisone helps.

    I used to do long transfers without even locking the brakes. My shoulders were so strong that I could lift, move the chair into position, as I transferred. I never even thought about it. Ah, the luxury. Today, I have to lock my chair and go slowly and deliberately. I even bought a van to take it easy on the shoulders.

    I used to walk with braces and crutches. Being T7-8 complete, that puts a lot of stress on the shoulders. I'm paying the price now. I think your pre-injury life matters too. I used to make pizza the Italian way, which is hard on the shoulders. Everyone I know from that restaurant has bad shoulders.

    I'm getting a new wheelchair that will be 1.5" lower. I made the one I have now taller to better access counters and things at a height. But the trade off is transfers and pushing are more difficult. That was the wrong choice. Transfers are the most important factor in preserving shoulders. Pushing is second. I am confident that lowering my chair will help my shoulders.

  7. #17
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Leeds, AL USA
    Quote Originally Posted by funklab View Post
    Just curious of us manual wheelchair users if anyone has maintained relatively good health (outside of the obvious SCI) for a long, long time.

    My shoulders are creaking and popping disconcertingly after 11 years of pushing a manual chair, and I'm a pretty skinny guy with full arm function. I'm starting to wonder how long I will be able to work before something breaks and I'm out of the labor force, possibly for good.

    I know we live for a long time post SCI, almost as long as ABs, but living the way I am now independently, working, taking care of everything myself would be much different than if I couldn't lift my arms above my shoulders or had to use a power chair or had to not use my arms for six months after shoulder surgery (I can't even imagine that... what's the point of the shoulder surgery if you lose all function for six months?!?!??) and wasn't able to work any longer.
    Get shoulders checked asap. MRI will tell if surgery can repair the creaks and pops. Don't wait to long like I did. My shoulders now need replacing because I just lived with the discomfort too long.
    This was Pre SCI, a year of recovery after SCI, I couldn't operate a manual chair. Now I can't have replacement surgery because I live independently (no help) and recovery not possible without 24 hr long term assistance (3 months min, possible 6 months or more).

  8. #18
    Senior Member tooley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    wow we have a lot of old-timers here! (I consider 30+ years SCI a long time)

    I love hearing all your real-world experiences, as opposed to the molly-coddle attitudes of health-care professionals who would curl up into a ball and die if they ever found themselves in our shoes.

    funklab - you are not alone in your thinking.. I'm sure most of us independent (self-dependent!) working cripples wonder what the future holds.

    Good discussion guys.

  9. #19
    Hearing how long lots of yall pushed a chair makes me feel better about my future. I really started thinking about all this as I was looking at how much to put into retirement, and I was wondering if my shoulders would put me out of work by age 50 (which is less than a decade and a half away, and about 25 years post injury), maybe if I heed all of your advice I can make it past that and keep working.

    I didn't think about tub transfers. I didn't really start doing those until the last 2-3 years, before that I always had some kind of seat in the tub, but after my most recent move it just seemed more convenient to put a cushion on the bottom of the tub and do it that way... my last and only shower bench got all grimey and nasted after a couple years and I tossed it, using a folding chair in the shower with a cushion (definitely didn't make for the safest or stablest transfers).

    Thanks for the link to the book, KLD!

  10. #20
    I'm 46 years in June 21st. We are the first generation living long enough to where the ramifications of shoulder use long term is evident. Shoulder injury was not an issue in rehab because most of us didn't live long enough to get them. We did unsafe transfers and dragging our bodies up stair by stair is because that was the only way it could be accomplished.

    Both Spinatus are ripped, both biceps torn off the long head, right ulnar nerve is almost dead so losing strength in little and ring finger. I used to be able to transfer from the floor to the chair no problem; now the wife assists or I use a sliding board. I still stand, ride a handcycle with roadrace powerpod and go to the gym once a week with a trainer. Pre injury and post injury; I was either in the gym, training for a sport or upcoming stunt.

    I'm pretty busted up but wouldn't change it for the wonderful life it took to get where I'm at. I feel it's not a matter of "if" but "when". Follow the guidelines of course, but if you go power, figure out a way to make up for the exercise you lose by not using your manual chair. I'm using a ZX1 more often and find it acceptable but in the back of my mind I'm wondering how much endurance I'm missing out on. It's a mindset change I'm going thru. I'm not a jock anymore and 46 years in I need to give myself a break.

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