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A Boring Shoulder Story - cellophane — LiveJournal
the story of an invisible girl
A Boring Shoulder Story
Awhile back, I had my yearly physical. I mentioned to my doc how much annoyance and pain my shoulder had been giving me of late, and she looked it over for me. She poked at it, and when I said it hurt she said, "Probably some tendonitis." Inside I groaned a bit, because I had a feeling she was going to prescribe me anti-inflamatories, which is how she treats most issues I've come to her with. I really wanted her to do more than give me some random pills. I wanted an expert to fix it.

Then she started moving it around, testing its mobility. She pulled the wrist back with the elbow sticking out and asked, "Does this hurt?" When I said it didn't, she released my wrist. As it rotated back to normal position, a distinct "crunch/crack" sound came from the shoulder.

We both looked at it for a moment, then at each other. "That didn't sound good," I remarked.

"No, it didn't. There might be something more seriously wrong in there than I thought. I'm not going to test it any more, I'd rather you see a specialist," she told me. I nodded seriously, but inside I was doing a little happy-dance. Yay, my random shoulder pain might have a source! Maybe it can be fixed!

I saw the specialist last week, and he took some x-rays and did a lot of maneuvering and testing. The x-rays showed nothing wrong, which was encouraging. His evaluation decided that everything was where it belonged and attached properly, but there was some strain and weakness in the rotator cuff. The injured muscles weren't holding the shoulder properly, so as it slipped around in there, it injured the muscles further. He prescribed Physical Therapy.

This afternoon I had my first PT appointment. I haven't ever done PT before, so this was an interesting (and mildly scary) experience for me. My therapist's name is Susan, and she is very friendly. She explained to me a lot about shoulders - how they should work, and how they sometimes don't work.

I told her about my pain, how sometimes it can feel just fine, almost invisible, but how sometimes it hurts so much I can barely lift my hand to move my (computer) mouse. How even on the good days, I get painful pops and twinges when I rotated my arms around. (Both arms too, not just the right!) How sometimes on the bad days all the muscles under the shoulder blades and collar bone and everywhere get involved.

I demonstrated that I can hold my hands out away from my sides, rotate my thumbs from pointing up to down back to up, and both shoulders will pop enthusiastically.

She told me not to do that anymore. "But how can we know if it's fixed, without checking the broken bits?", I asked her.

"When a shoulder is strong and healthy," I asked, "is it supposed to make those popping sounds?" She said no. "Never?" This fascinated me, because my shoulders have reached the point where I'm not quite sure what "normal" is any more. I thought the popping seemed wrong, and I knew it was painful, but I was starting to worry that I was complaining about nothing, that this was just normal shoulder functionality, since both of mine did it.

Anyway, she examined my shoulder blades. She had me lift my arms up over my head, then bring them down slowly together. She reported that although my arms were doing the same thing, the shoulder blades were each doing different things at different times. "Which one is right?", I asked, but she said neither was quite correct.

Then she started poking my back muscles. Whenever I'd jerk in response (which was often), she'd comment, "That's an angry muscle." I'm not sure what "angry muscle" means, perhaps that it's overworked and under appreciated. Under too much strain, in spasm. I suggested that perhaps they were hurting/angry because she was poking them so hard! Then she poked my biceps and triceps muscles, and they didn't hurt. So I conceded the point, although I'm still not convinced she poked the arm muscles as hard as she had the angry muscles.

She thought that strengthening the rotator cuff muscles could help all of these problems go away. She was confident that the problems seemed to be all muscular, and she was confident that I was fixable. I nodded seriously, but inside I was doing a little happy-dance. Yay, I'm fixable! Yay, maybe this wil go away!

I have some exercises I'm supposed to do daily at home. Since I'm off to California next week, I'll just play the home game for a week, stretching a giant rubber band she gave me. Then the week after that, I start PT for real! Hopefully by the end I'll have powerful strong new shoulders!
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greyyguy From: greyyguy Date: October 9th, 2003 05:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Congratulations on being fixable! It sounds like a big relief!

It would be unfortunate if you were not fixable and had to be exchanged :)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: October 9th, 2003 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually I've often though how much easier it would be, if we could simply exchange poorly-working body parts for better ones! Or, in the case of ones we don't want, just return them for a full refund. I'd much rather have cash than love handles, for example.
greyyguy From: greyyguy Date: October 9th, 2003 07:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Or maybe be able to switch them. Like keep an extra pair of arms around so you can get more done. Though trading in love handles would be very nice too.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: October 9th, 2003 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, that could be (ahem) handy.
anderale From: anderale Date: October 9th, 2003 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is a fantastic idea! Just think of all those poor much-too-thin people out there who could use love handles! I have plenty to offer in that department and would love to contribute, I wouldn't need anything in return! :D

I'm glad you are fixable as well, that is always a good thing.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: October 10th, 2003 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. Yep, come to think of it, I'd donate mine for free too.
From: blueskies131 Date: October 9th, 2003 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
sorry to hear about your shoulder, but glad got it all figured out. i had to go to therapy for my back a couple years back. it helped my back alot.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: October 9th, 2003 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)
That's encouraging to know. thanks!
retepsnave From: retepsnave Date: October 9th, 2003 06:12 am (UTC) (Link)

doc it hurts when I do this...

as you discribed your arms extended demonstration, I found myself doing it... and would ya know my left sholders did a little pop and crunch! although I'll confess I've never before noticed this.... :-/
good luck with PT!
keep us in the loop-
renniekins From: renniekins Date: October 9th, 2003 01:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

...well stop doing that.

Oh no! Well if you haven't noticed it, it's probably not an issue for you, hopefully. For me, that move is a way I could consistently get it to pop for demonstration, but the shoulders have been popping and hurting doing all kinds of other activies too.
Hopefully the PT will make it all better though.
retepsnave From: retepsnave Date: October 9th, 2003 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: ...well stop doing that.

bighoward From: bighoward Date: October 9th, 2003 02:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
NO.No,No. Your therapist name is Howard, now say it three times. And You'd really be amazed to find out how friendly I can be. AND YOU'RE ALREADY LATE FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT.
figure_skater From: figure_skater Date: October 10th, 2003 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
LOL, I sure wish I could trade my lovehandles in for cash, heck I'd also give them away for free!
Hope the PT helps your shoulders, I had to have PT when I fractured my leg a couple years ago (damn double loop...) and while it hurt sometimes, it helped me get better much sooner than I would have otherwise.
From: herqules Date: October 8th, 2004 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)


I was searching for some exercises for my shoulders and came across your page. I know this is an old entry so I don't know if you will notice.

I have very similar problem with my right shoulder, actually almost 100%. When I was reading your journal, I thought for a minute that was about me I'm reading. As for me, strengthening didn't really help nor did those Glucosamine/Chondroitn supplements. I'm actually doing some back exercises and that have started to help me.

Hope you have been better since then.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: October 14th, 2004 01:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: shoulders

Hiya! Thanks for the note, and yes I noticed it. :)

I found the strengthening exercises helped some, though not completely. I suspect if I did them more regularly that would help, but I'm not good at being consistent with such things.

It still bugs me, sometimes worse than others, and I still can't sleep comfortably on it. But it bothers me less often, and with less intensity, so I guess it's a little better. :)

What kind of back exercises have helped?
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