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!