Recovering from a Rotator Cuff Tear

If you have ever been to the hospital or had surgery, then you already know that allied health professionals are critical to the medical system.  In a world where the population is growing older and older, there is an ever-increasing demand on an already over-taxed system, and health care costs continue to escalate as the system strains to meet this demand. Many believe allied health professions are a key part of the solution to the problem, and given my recent personal experience, I agree.

My experience began in the spring of 2018.  I fell – nothing glamorous, unfortunately, just wiped out while out with my dog – causing a full tear of my rotator cuff.  This injury was the beginning of a year-long medical journey. A journey that not only resulted in a rehabilitated shoulder but also opened my eyes to a variety of allied health careers.  Along the way, I met many impressive individuals who were very committed to their profession and raved about their educational experiences, patient contact, and compensation.

Recovering from a Rotator Cuff Tear

Day one of my ordeal, I met the first of many allied health professionals – a medical assistant and two imaging technicians.  Upon entering the physician’s office, my doctor’s medical assistant was the first person to greet me.  She immediately let me know she would be taking my patient history and insurance information and would complete all the related paperwork.  Upon completion, she took me into the exam room and I then met briefly with the doctor.  He sent me to radiology and later to get an MRI – to confirm his suspicions regarding my rotator cuff – and that is where I met the imaging specialists.

Both of these individuals were knowledgeable, professional, and courteous.  They told me all about the diagnostic testing they were performing, explained what the tests were able to detect, and were conscientious as they worked with my injured shoulder.

Getting Rotator Cuff Surgery

Although I really did not want to be told that I needed surgery, I was already fairly certain that surgery would be required in my case. As expected, the MRI taken by the radiology specialist indicated that surgery was needed which I scheduled shortly thereafter. After surgery, one-week post-op, I visited my physician’s office for follow-up.  It was at this visit I met another allied health professional – his physician’s assistant, or PA.  She was the person I saw most during my follow-up visits and definitely played a crucial role in my recovery.  I credit her with helping me know the limits of my shoulder while pushing me beyond what I would have done on my own.

She gave me guidance on what I could/could not do at all points along my road to recovery and provided me with many valuable resources.  During the follow-up appointments, I also learned all about her schooling, what she loved most about her job, and what had been challenging for her. All in all, she said it was very interesting to work, provided a great deal of patient contact, required deep medical knowledge, allowed her a lot of autonomy, and gave her the flexibility to live anywhere she wanted.

Going Through Physical Therapy

I also went through several months of physical rehabilitation.  I worked with physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and athletic trainers.  All of these individuals helped me to ultimately regain full use of my shoulder. They taught me about proper ways of lifting, gave me new stretching techniques, and pushed me to gain strength and range of motion week after week.

Some of the rotator cuff exercises that I learned included:

  • Supraspinatus
  • Subscapularis
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Minor
  • Bully Stretch
  • Lawn Mower Pull
  • Wood Chopper
  • and more…

They were by me every step of the way, and as one individual said, “being a part of the progress patients make on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis is the most rewarding part of the job.” As a patient, I learned how rewarding healing and recovering can be. I felt that the medical professionals helping me also experienced reward in watching my progress toward recovery. This awareness that I had of them enjoying their work was motivating and encouraged me to work on my recovery even harder. Like Eckhart Tolle once said, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”

While this experience was just a glimpse into the world of allied health professions, it made me realize how many options there are and how rewarding these careers are. Whether a person is interested in medicine, diagnostics, or rehabilitation, just to name a few of the professions I encountered, there seems to be a choice for everyone.  It is clear to me, that not only are the roles these individuals play critical to the delivery of care in our medical system today, but they will also be in high demand for the foreseeable future.