I wanted to write a little about my experience here because of how common this injury is, albeit a little unusual for climbing, with the hopes that a few people out there suffering the same thing would find this helpful one day. Dave McLeod has an awesome video about his recovery and I found it incredibly helpful and super motivating. A little motivation goes a long way in times like this, so hopefully these entries will do the same for you!
Immediately after the crash I had a lot of trouble breathing, felt obvious concussion symptoms and could tell my shoulder was totally smashed. I lifted my arm above my head but I felt cracking and popping and grinding in my shoulder like crazy. I immediately started holding my left shoulder with my right arm - it was completely unstable, almost felt unattached. My buddy took me to the ER for X-rays and I got a sling. Thank god because my right arm was SO tired from holding my left arm at this point that it was beginning to hurt worse. I was convinced that I broke something because of how awful my shoulder felt but the X-ray showed clearly I had damaged the AC joint, but no breaks.
The first night was quite horrible, well, honestly the first few nights were pretty bad. I had a really hard time sleeping as expected, and the pain in my back made just shifting around in bed exhausting. The day after the crash I got an appointment with an Ortho where I expected to get an MRI but he did some tests on my rotator cuff and some feeling around and suggested I would not need images. He diagnosed me with a Grade 2/3 AC joint Separation and sent me on my way. Much to my surprise the doctors at the hospital and the Ortho barely really even mentioned Physical Therapy. Even after I told both of them that full recovery and aggressive use of my shoulder was imperative for my career. If you have suffered an AC joint sep I can not emphasis enough that you should see a good PT right away and strongly consider massage therapy once a week as well. You will need to practice movement patterns and encourage muscle use etc if you want this thing to go over well!
I made some really clear and exciting progress during my first week. After about a day, I was able to stop using the sling - but only when I had my shoulder taped, specifically with Leuko tape (it will not stretch and thus will actually support your shoulder). My massage therapist who I really really trust in Las Vegas, Pat Teves, was adamant about this.. Tape it tight, and only use Leuko tape. I credit the taping with a lot of my comfort and healing progress thus far.
In the first few days it felt more or less out of the question to raise my arm above my head, and holding any loads with the arm was too difficult. I was able to use a grip master, and I could flex my whole arm without pain. Holding a plank or a push up position felt too aggressive still. After a few days I went to the climbing gym to see if I could do some weights with my right arm but it was just too hard not to engage the left side of my body (even a tiny bit) which created pain, so I bailed. I did a few hour long hikes, the first of which was downright painful, and borderline terribly unpleasant. However the movement was just so nice so I kept it up.
Over the course of the first week I really felt as though I was making ~5% progress every day which was super encouraging. I went to a PT, Ross Bodine at Alta in Boulder, who I would highly recommend. He ran me through some difficult movement exercises that I have been doing everyday, including cable pull downs with a focus on pulling the shoulder blade down and back not dissimilar to my hangboard position. I also spoke with Tyler Nelson who asked me a handful of questions and determined that he thought I could hang (!) which sounded altogether insane to me over the phone but I tried (arms bend and locked at 90 degrees) and miraculously I could without pain! This was a massively encouraging moment - immediately following the crash I was certain I would not climb again in 2020, now, hanging until exhaustion on a small edge I was starting to have some serious hope!
Now, 8 days after my crash I can pretty easily lift my arm overhead. I can hold a plank or push up position (can not do a push up yet however), and I can do some simple exercises with my left arm like low weight curls (using the BFR this is actually pretty good) and finger curls with a training block. Mobility is coming back slowly, but overhead pulling or pushing is pretty scary. Normal life stuff, other than turning over in bed, is pretty mellow now. I still have some pain in my back which comes and goes but generally is on the decline.
I've been seeing a very good friend and Rolfer here in Boulder as well, Dan Micheal, who I largely credit with originally healing my funky left shoulder years ago due to subluxation. I really feel like massage therapy is critical to all injuries, but especially one like this where so much of the body is scrambling to re-align.
Okay I will check back after another week of healing and let you guys know how it's going! Wish me luck.