Athlete Brakes for Shoulder Pain Relief

Mincher shoulder2

Like most young adults looking for a place to land, Jim Mincher came to Wrightsville Beach chasing a dream.

“I wanted a place where I could surf and ride my bicycle all the time,” said the Houston, TX, native and accomplished triathlete. “This was it.” 

That was forty years ago. 

More recent landings, however, haven’t been so kind to the local bicycle shop owner. 

“I was in a bicycle accident and landed on my right shoulder, which required surgery,” he said. “Then just last year I was surfing in Mexico and a big wave threw me to the bottom, where I landed on the same shoulder. Just a month after that I was backpacking in the Rockies and I fell again, this time on my left shoulder.” 

Banged up, bruised and battered, Mincher, who had always lived an active lifestyle, had to face the reality of constant pain and limited mobility in both shoulders, the result each time of traumatic rotator cuff tears. Unfortunately, Mincher also dislocated his right shoulder, in addition to tearing his rotator cuff, which is a more common combination in patients over age 40. His shoulder was left unstable, and he was unable to raise his arm above his head. 

“The pain got so bad I couldn’t turn the steering wheel in the car,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t continue this way – it just wasn’t me.” 

After exhausting non-surgical treatments including physical therapy, Mincher contacted orthopedic surgeon Dale Boyd, MD, and made way to the NHRMC Orthopedic Hospital, home to Eastern North Carolina’s largest orthopedic program. 

“A shoulder dislocation typically involves a tear of the ligaments attached to the shoulder socket, and this allows for increased movement of the humerus,” said Dr. Boyd. “A dislocation can lead to arthritis in the joint, as well as further instability if repeat dislocations occur.” 

The rotator cuff, comprised of four distinct muscle/tendon attachments to the humerus, provides dynamic stability of the shoulder, as well as strength when the arm is moved away from the body to an overhead position, said Dr. Boyd. 

Mincher’s rotator cuff repair surgery was performed arthroscopically, which uses a small button-hole sized incision, and his torn rotator cuff was reattached to the humerus and the torn ligaments were reattached to the socket. 

A rotator cuff repair performed as an isolated outpatient procedure typically lasts between one and two hours; however, a combined procedure, as was performed on Mincher, can significantly extend this time frame, said Dr. Boyd. 

Typically, a return to normal activity takes nine months to a year, including a comprehensive physical therapy program, he said. For Mincher, a return to normal activity meant reconnecting with what brought him here so many years ago. 

“I’m back surfing and doing the things I love without shoulder pain. I guess you could say, ‘I’m living the dream,’” he said.