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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Therapy In A Motorhome

No, this is not a post about how good it is to be driving down another American highway traveling to exotic locations while clearing the mind of life’s pressures.  As much as I wish that was the case, this is about different therapy, doing rehab exercises to help my injured shoulder to heal.

After a visit this week to the Veterans Hospital Occupational Therapy department, I was given some equipment to use to hopefully mitigate the damage in my right shoulder.  I injured it many years ago.  Long story.  Let me ‘splain.

My goal at the time was to become a special agent in the Coast Guard.  I had a lot of hoops to jump through and it took me six years to get them done, for example I had to advance to a certain pay grade and to do that I needed an underway tour of sea duty.  Then I was able to get a shore side tour where I was able to complete my college degree at night.

Finally after some interviews, in 1992, I was selected to go to ten weeks of training for the basic investigator course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, GA.

During the training, at the eight week mark, I injured my shoulder lifting weights.  I went to the trainer who gave me some Motrin and was sent back to class.  Fortunately for me, it was a Friday.

Saturday morning, I awoke in extreme pain, I couldn’t even move my arm and I knew I needed medial help.  I hopped in my car and drove about 30 miles to the nearby Naval Hospital.  Fun ride.  My car was a stick shift and I had to shift with my left hand.

I was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff, given a bunch of meds and a sling.  This was were it got interesting.

I showed up at FLETC Monday morning for class.  The class advisor took one look at me and told me either I could take off that sling as injured students were not allowed to train, or I could drop out of class and go home. After working six years to get into FLETC, if I dropped out, there was no guarantee I’d ever be able to get back in to another class at a later date. 

I wasn’t going to let my goal evaporate.

I took off the sling and stayed, I tried as best I could to immobilize my arm by keeping my hand in my pocket.  I went through the last two weeks in pain, doing all kinds of things, wrestling, handcuffing, shooting shotguns and so forth, but I made it through and graduated. I spent the next  20 years as a special agent in the Coast Guard Investigative Service.

Little did I know that I really messed up my shoulder.  Seeking treatment after the initial injury didn’t help much and physical therapy wasn’t as advanced as it is today.  Over time, the shoulder pain lessened and wasn’t a big issue.

Now that I’m retired, the shoulder began to really act up.  I don’t know if some of it is age related, but the VA doctor believes I have some scar tissue in the joint.  I now am on a round of rehab to see if that can improve it.  That’s where the fun has begun.

I’ve been given a couple of pieces of equipment to use to do motion exercises.  They are designed for a house, not an RV.  The exercises all require a door, a normal door.  In the Journey, we have two pocket doors and one bathroom door that is made out of very light pressed wood, not something to hang on.

Marti and I put our heads together and came up with an idea to hang one of the devices on, an overhead cabinet by the driver’s seat.  With the seat turned, I can do some of the exercises as required.  It is a simple pulley with a rope and two toggles to move my arm up and down in a variety of directions. 


The other device, a couple of elastic bands had to go in the bathroom door.


It had a little ball end to lodge in the door and you pull against it.


I didn’t get it in right on one exercise round and it pulled the door trim loose.  Oops, another project to fix.


Lastly, I was given a shoulder ice pack thingy to ice down my shoulder after exercise.  It’s big, it feels good after all the exercises, but it is a battle to find space for it in the RV freezer.  Yep, some of those hoarded Twinkies in the freezer will have to go. ;c)


I have to do these exercises for the rest of the month, three times daily and then return to the VA for evaluation.  Hopefully it works and I don’t break anything else while doing them.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.



  1. Good luck with the exercises; hope you start seeing results quickly.

  2. Ouch, that sounds painful. I hope everything goes well with your therapy. You'll be playing the piano in no time. Or at least playing with the grandkids.

  3. I hope the therapy does the trick. My father-in-law just had rotator cuff surgery and it doesn't seen to have done much good unfortunately.

  4. Be faithful with your exercises and I hope you will see improvement soon.

  5. Sure hope the exercises help. I injured my rotator cuff last year so I know what you're talking about. Mine was nowhere near as bad as yours but it sure makes the arm darn near impossible to use. Take care.

  6. Wow! That doesn't sound like fun at all. Hopefully, something will work and the pain will go away. I'm banking on that therapy for you.

  7. Paul good luck with the therapy. Hopefully, those exercises will ease some of the pain.

  8. Oh my goodness what an outrageous thing for the instructor to do to you. What a terrible choice for you to have to make. But I can sympathize with you all the way on the PT in an RV. I had equipment and bands and ice packs that won't fit in the freezer. It was hard to make it work but it paid off mostly. I still have some pain. Hope yours pays off totally.

  9. I hope you are able to keep up those exercises in such a tight space. Great story too!

  10. I had rotator cuff problems about eight years ago. The physical therapy office where I went treated my rotator cuffs with ultrasound, alternating with ice. Then I was given the exercises with the bands on the door and some others.

    It helped and I have not had any more problems with my shoulders.

    It sounds like your problems are much more extensive, though. I hope you heal because rotator cuff pain is awful.

  11. Being faithful with your exercises really is key. Unfortunately it can be a little tricky in an RV, but it sounds like you've been able to adapt. Good luck.

  12. I was fine right up to the part about losing those Twinkies. My condolences.
    Find a construction site and ask if they can go in a time capsule. They'll still be fine in a 100 years.

  13. Glad you found a place to use your rehab equipment. I still do my shoulder rehab and stretches almost everyday and my surgery was 3+ years ago. When I let it slip...I pay the price. Hope you can get relief without surgery!!!

  14. Exercise will extend and make your RV travels more enjoyable. Have you tried those exercises outside the RV where you have more options of where to attach the apparatus to?
    Also look into the TRX, you can take it anywhere and it does hundreds of exercises and is in fact great for shoulder work. My GF and I use it all the time when we go on vacation. Your body is the machine and it is all about leverage.
    You can get the best price for them at ebay. It doesn'nt look like much and at first I laughed at the idea but once I tried it, its amazing.
    It was invented by a Navy Seal and the military and many professional sports teams use it now.


  15. After helping Al through 3 rotator cuff surgeries, I can sympathize. Could you maybe do some of those exercises at the campground clubhouse?

    I also remember Al learning to drive a stick shift using his left hand to shift. He did that for quite a while after two of the surgeries on his right shoulder. He got pretty good at it.

  16. Only you can judge weather taking that sling off when you did was worth it in the long run. I'm thinking if you had it to do again, you'd do the same thing. Good luck with the exercisers. I'll be stretching along with you only a little lower down. ;)

  17. Never knew you were a secret agent....were you on Maxwell Smart's team.

    I remember those door exercises as I had a rotator cuff problem about 2 years ago. When I asked my Doctor if they'd really work and what else would work better his reply was rather disconcerting - he simply said 'time' - about 6 months!!

  18. Keep up the good work and get that shoulder working again. We don't want surgery for you.

  19. Ohhhhh Noooooo---- Not the Twinkies!!!!

  20. Keep up the therapy. Work, work, work! You can do it, cadet!

  21. Looks like we're in the same boat. Started physical therapy myself this week for a hacked up back. Dang old age!!!