Torn Tendon Experience and Advice

Well, it is no surprise to me that I have had three torn tendons.  You can not train to be the strongest woman in the world without something to show for it.  ;)

For some time, even before I benched 600 lbs in March of 2008, my triceps tendon had been bothering me… that is an understatement.  Even two years after I retired from heavy lifting, I was in PAIN!!  The very tip of my elbow hurt when I lifted and when I slept and when I trained for pro-wrestling.  I couldn’t flex my biceps with out feeling the pain.  And when I accidentally hit it on something… Oh, man, TERRIBLE PAIN!  I was in constant pain for about 3 years.

The chiropractor said I likely had tendinosis, which is the stage after tendinitis.  The tendon is shredded and it is not reversible.  But, I continued to lift, though much lighter than normal as the pain limited my strength.

Then back in June of 2010, I traveled to San Diego to visit a friend.  We went to World’s Gym, a great facility.  However, I chose a crappy bench with a shallow hook and a deadlift bar on it (thinner in circumference).  I was slowly progressing in warm-ups.  I had 185 lbs on the bar, banged out a set of 8 repetitions.  When I went to rack the bar, the right side (my already painful side) bounced off the back of the upright and I missed the hook.  The left side hooked and the rights side of the bar came down toward my head.  I pushed it away from head, weights slid off the bar and went crashing to the ground.  Drawing the attention of the entire gym.  Embarrassing!

Nothing hurt, I felt just fine.  But, I knew it… I think I tore my triceps tendon.  I had seen it happen about three times.  The elbow bends in an awkward way and then you fire the muscle asking it to do something for which it has not prepared.  I looked in the mirror about 5 minutes later.  It seemed my triceps were firing as normal, but the swelling above my elbow was a clear indication I had torn my triceps tendon off the bone.

I am FORTUNATE!! Fortunate in two ways, it was the crappy tendon that tore and I am about to get a fresh tendon connection.  Thank goodness.  That was the end of a long era of pain.

I had surgery a week later to reattach my triceps tendon.  Basically, they nailed the tendon back on to the tip of my elbow.  And man it hurt!  Now, I will speak of both biceps and triceps reattachment surgeries and recoveries.

The biceps reattachment hurt way less, even though they drill holes in outside of your forearm bone to loop the Kevlar stitching through.  I woke up from from the biceps surgery with a pain level of 4, zero being no pain and 10 being the worst pain ever.  From that moment forward, I was a 2 in pain level.  I only took pain killers for two days.  Easy, easy injury and recovery.

The triceps tendon surgery hurt a lot more.  I woke up with a pain level of 8 and finished my pain killer prescription.  I can only guess that the biceps tendon surgery hurt way less because you heal with your arm bent, shortening the tendon, less tension.  After the triceps tendon surgery, I was at about 120 degrees extension (3/4 the way to a straight arm).  So, the triceps tendon is pulled on a bit.

I did not go to physical therapy for my triceps tendon recovery at all.  I feel I know my body and its limits.  So, here is what I did… not a recommendation, but my experience.

I left the splint on for about 5 days.  After that, while I was sitting at home, I would take the splint off and let my arm move about just a little bit, not forcing anything.  The brace was on and off all day long, but always on if I left the house.  I would always sleep with the brace on, I did that for about 4 weeks, then I used just the ace bandages for a couple more weeks.

I called a good friend, Jill Mills, who had torn her tricep two years earlier.  She suggested isometric contractions.  So, I did; keep my arm in one position and flexed, held it, then relaxed… over and over.

One week after surgery, I started lifting all other parts of my body.  I still had staples in and I would do front squats with as much weight as I could with one arm (see the video).  I would train my good side at about 75%.  It did get bigger than the surgery side, and people could tell when I pointed it out.  I didn’t care.  I had always heard, train what you can while you are healing.  The body releases growth hormone to heal bilaterally, so it assists in your surgery side healing.

After a couple weeks, I started pushing the extension of my arm a bit.  I would also lean against a table in a push-up position requiring my triceps tendon to fire and hold some weight.  I think you have to watch out for scar tissue build up.  If you don’t move your tendon enough, the scar tissue will bind it and limit your movement.  Remember, they reattach tendons with Kevlar wire.  That connection is not going anywhere unless you REALLY do something wrong.

It takes 6 weeks for a tendon to heal into the bone.  So, after about 5 weeks, I started benching lightly.  It felt good, so I trusted the process.  Jill had also mentioned she was benching 185 lbs after about 8 weeks… game on.  That is not advice, it is a challenge, lol!!  And so I did bench 185 lbs after 8 weeks and it felt good.  Other things did not feel so good.  I would do overhead triceps extensions with 3 lb dumbbells, rotating my arm after each 3 reps as to stretch the tendon in different positions.  It took me a long time to move up in weight, and there is no hurry.

Today, six months later, I forget my triceps tendon was injured.  The only time I feel it is when I try to rest my elbow on a table or when I am using it to dig into someone in jiu jitsu class.  There is a nail or a knot at the tip of my elbow another about an inch and a half up the tendon.

These experiences are priceless! On one more note, I was sort of feeling helpless after my triceps tendon surgery. So, I proved to myself I was NOT by going to Habitat for Humanity. I could only sweep and caulk, but I handle the caulk like a champ ;)

Email me any questions you might have about your tendon issues. I will help if I can.

Tendon Tear Experience

To my friend Moses, wishing you well in the coming tendon reattachment in your chest.

Unfortunately, I have experience in torn tendon rehabilitation.  Here is an overview of my experience.  Tomorrow, I will speak more of advice I would give a to someone in a similar situation.  Of course, I have no medical training, so take it for what it is worth.

In 2004, I tore both of my biceps.  The left one I tore when I was deadlifting.  It was the first time my coach had challenged another lifter against me.  ”Nick, I bet she can out lift you in the deadlift,” he said.  I turned to Nick and said, “I will do TWO more reps than you.”  I didn’t even know what the weight was.  It was 600 lbs.  Nick, a lean man of 198 lbs, pulled 3 repetitions.  That means I my big fat mouth said I would do 5 repetitions.  Well, on my 5th rep, I got out of form; the bar pivoted clockwise.  When I attempted to straighten it out as I took the bar over my knees I felt a release of pressure in my shoulder and dropped the bar.  Oh… ooohh… I looked in the mirror and flexed.  The experience had not been painful and my bicep didn’t appear to look much different (wishful thinking), plus I could function normally.  I was none the wiser, but the biceps tendon had separated from the bone in the forearm.

Well, from then on, I would do what any other powerlifter would do at my level; I kept training.  Apparently, I must have been favoring my left side while training for a strongwoman contest.  I flew from Nebraska to California to compete against a few top females in a strongwoman contest.  After the deadlift for reps, I turned to my friend Jill Mills and said, “Gosh, my right forearm is killing me.”  And I massaged it before the tire flip.  Well, it was ready to blow because when I picked up on that tire… SNAP!  I knew what had happened.  Time for a couple of MRI’s.

It was confirmed, I needed bilateral bicep tendon reattachment.  I tore them 7 weeks apart and had surgery 3 weeks after the second separation.  Because it had been 10 weeks since I tore the left one, it needed a cadaver tendon.  I was kinda freaked out when I learned they only “harvest” tendons from people under the age of 40.  Gosh, a young person died and I got the gift of their tendon.  The doctor explained that it is just a bridge, no live tissue.  So, eventually, it would be considered my tendon again.

After the surgery, I was in splints for ten days.  Then I had adjustable braces for a few weeks.  The doctor allowed me more range of motion for the left arm with the cadaver tendon, it wasn’t as taut as my right biceps tendon.  I was allowed to ditch the left brace about two weeks before the right one.  Then I had limited use ability, which I will get to in a bit.

A lot of people were saying, “I bet you are chomping at the bit, ready to get back to lifting.”  Au contraire!  I had been lifting for 8 years; I welcomed the break.  After about two months the doctor said, “do what you feel comfortable doing in the gym and then move up about 10% a week from there.”  So, I deadlifted… 400 lbs and the next week I was planning on 440 lbs, until the doctor caught wind of it and had to change his advice because he didn’t take into consideration who he was talking to.  LOL!  Fine with me.  I actually took it easy for about 5 months before gearing up for a powerlifting meet. You only get one body, and mine is used intensely, so I let myself heal.

Deciding to train for a meet was a Godsend.  I couldn’t turn my right palm upward; I couldn’t supinate. Even physical therapy was not helping.   But a bench shirt did!!  It was like a tourniquet around my lower bicep, just above my elbow.  Then, when I grabbed the bar it fixed my wrist position.  Those two along with manipulation of my elbow position as I benched broke up the scar tissue around my biceps tendon.  It was so scary.  I heard popping and felt crazy stuff.  There were times where I would freak out and have my spotter take the bar in the middle of the lift.  Keep in mind, this is 5 weeks after my surgeries.

I am happy to tell you I function normally.  And I was my very strongest AFTER the surgeries.  For those of you who have never torn a tendon, it is fairly painless.  And sometimes the only indication is if you bleed out.  In a complete tendon tear, the blood vessels are ruptured along with the tendon, and thankfully, so are the nerves.   Some may see a void, where there muscle once was.

Six months ago, I had also torn my triceps tendon… we will save that story for tomorrow.  Again, tune in tomorrow for more insight on how I handled my torn tendon recovery… or I guess, torn tendons recoveries. ;o)

Lifting Video – Incline Dumbbell Curls

Just in case you missed my lifting videos, here is one about incline dumbbell curls. Enjoy!!

Jakked – Good Times!!

Last Thanksgiving, I was visiting family in Chicago. I found the greatest gym… JAKKED Hardcore Gym!!  JACKED is my favorite word!!! They have t-shirts (as shown in the video) – “Somewhere there is a little girl is warming up with your max” … I love it!!

The video is the first one listed in my favorites.  Subscribe to my Youtube Channel, please!!

Enjoy this video and leave a comment!! And visit Jakked Hardore’s website!!

Incline Dumbbell Curls

This is an instructional video about Incline Dumbbell Curls. Enjoy!

Let me know if it is helpful.

This Weekend

This WEEK has been crazy! I am living it up in Eldon, MO as it is my last weekend to party it up before I move. I went out on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and I am heading out tonight. EIKS, going to have to burn the extra calories off!

Here is what I did for Tris and Bis yesterday:

Skull Krushers
Overhead Cable Skull Krushers (elbows up really high)
Kick Backs with a rope on the low cable

Straight Bar Curl
Incline DB Curl
Hammer Curl w curl bar

I have a video about Incline DB Curls I will post later tonight. Come back and check it out!

I am off to do legs!