February 12, 2018

Runner undergoes rotator cuff surgery and knee surgery

Knee | Patient Stories | Shoulder | Sports Injury


Mark Nolin is a 61-year-old distance runner and walker. He has averaged running between 1500 and 2000 miles each year since 1994. He also follows a military fitness program, which includes sit-ups, push-ups, free weights and more running.

Additionally, Mark has several hobbies: He plays golf, works on his house that was built in 1842, cuts firewood and cleans up the woods after they have been logged. Mark is also vice president at a small community bank in West Central Indiana and he lives in Rockville, Indiana.

For Mark, there is no slowing down. However, when he started to experience pain in his right shoulder that worsened with activity, he wondered what his next steps should be.

Mark was experiencing pain after working in the woods and playing golf, but he was also having trouble with less strenuous activities such as working at his computer or eating with a knife and fork. Over time, he even found himself steering his vehicle with his left hand only.

“I am 61 years old and people try to attribute lessening ability to age. I try to reject that thought and believe you will lose your ability to perform if you give up or stop challenging yourself,” said Mark.

Mark decided to visit Dr. Chris Bales, OrthoIndy shoulder specialist.

“I chose OrthoIndy and Dr. Bales partially because of his background as an athlete,” said Mark. “It makes a difference to me if someone who is treating me understands what it means to be in shape and stay in shape. I did not want someone who would try and discourage me from active participation in life because of my age.”

Rotator cuff surgery

Dr. Bales determined Mark would need rotator cuff surgery in order to become pain free again. A rotator cuff tear is a common cause of pain and disability among adults. A torn rotator cuff weakens the shoulder and makes daily activities painful and difficult to do.

“Mark had some shoulder pain for about five years but symptoms had worsened more recently. He had weakness on exam and pain that was affecting his activities and quality of life,” said Dr. Bales. “An MRI showed a full thickness rotator cuff tear. Surgery was recommended to restore function and decrease pain. Shoulder surgery can be a long recovery, and a positive attitude and mindset are very important for patients to handle the rehabilitation. This wasn’t a problem for Mark. His determination to tackle the rehab and get better played a major part in his surgical success.”

After rotator cuff surgery, patients are placed into a sling, typically with a small cushion/pillow attached to it that holds the arm away from the body. This helps reduce tension on the repair. Physical therapy is an important part of the recovery to regain motion and strengthen the shoulder.

“My experience with OrthoIndy and Dr. Bales could not have been better,” said Mark. “All appointments were on time, to the point and targeted to my problems.”

What is a meniscus tear?

Unfortunately, when Mark was recovering from his shoulder surgery, he tore the meniscus in his right knee and had to return to Dr. Bales, who also specializes in sports medicine injuries.

Also referred to as torn cartilage in the knee, a meniscus tear is one of the most common knee injuries among athletes; however, anyone can tear their meniscus. As we age we are more susceptible to degenerative tears of the meniscus.  A simple awkward twist when getting up from a chair may be enough to cause a tear.

Treatment depends on the severity of your injury. If your meniscus tear is small and does not cause symptoms, surgery may not be necessary. If you have additional injuries or your symptoms persist with nonsurgical treatment, you may need surgery. Meniscus tear surgery is done arthroscopically using small incisions. This less invasive technique will have less pain and is typically done as an outpatient surgery.

“Unfortunately Mark had a twisting injury to his knee and despite rest, activity modification, ice and NSAIDs his pain persisted,” said Dr. Bales. “An MRI was obtained that showed a meniscus tear and no significant arthritis. I felt Mark would benefit from arthroscopic knee surgery to remove the torn portion of the meniscus. As with his shoulder, Mark did very well post-operatively and I spent more time trying to convince him to take it easy than getting him going.”

Now Mark is back to his active lifestyle. He is cutting wood again on the weekends, running and plans to start golfing again soon.

“The morning after both the shoulder surgery, and the meniscus surgery I walked my dog three and a half miles with little or no discomfort,” said Mark. “To be able to do what you want to do without restrictions from injury is something that I treasure greatly. “

To make an appointment with Dr. Bales please call 317.268.3632 or learn more about sports medicine treatment at OrthoIndy.
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Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

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