Friday, May 15, 2009

Shoulder Woes

I must say, the accumulation of birthdays is a humbling proposition. Body parts I never thought about suddenly come to life (in a not-so-good way) and start talking, talking the language of pain. Arghhhhhh.

This time it's the shoulder....both shoulders really, but the left way more troublesome than the right. It started a couple of months ago with ever so mild, but annoying aching pain with movement. But this discomfort just kept getting worse, ever so slowly over weeks. I blamed it on muscle strain from moving furniture, packing and unpacking boxes, helping my Mom move in and out of the car, up from a chair and such. Finally when sleeping on my left side, or putting on a jacket, or reaching back to grab the seat belt from the driver's seat of the car predictably led to a zinging pain like a spear stuck through my upper arm, I knew something was way wrong with this shoulder of mine.

Now I know....all the doc had to do was listen to the story, do a brief exam and confirm a normal looking Xray to make the diagnosis: FROZEN SHOULDER, otherwise known as adhesive capsulitis, a most painful inflammatory condition of the aging shoulder. No trauma necessary apparently. This can be bilateral (oh no, the right shoulder is starting to act up too), will eventually get better in a year or so but in the meantime, healing can be sped up by a steroid injection into the joint, physical therapy and heat.

Apparently this a common condition seen by orthopedic docs. I wouldn't know; the shoulder joint is rarely on my radar screen when I see patients and if so, I usually refer them for better advice than I can give. So, long and painful story short: I'm following his good advice and getting an injection next week, physical therapy to follow and will take my aspirin and ibuprofen meantime. As he reminded me, "things could be worse...." OK. OK.

Looks like my plans for training for the Triathlon (which, to be honest, were fading steadily due to lack of discipline, bad weather, and very low energy) are out again this year. Last year it was the meniscus tear in the right knee, this year it's a frozen shoulder syndrome. Yikes! What's next? I never had any of these ailments before I tried to be the least bit athletic. Is there a message here?

So, all of you readers, if you can put your arm above your head to reach that object off the top shelf, pull on that sweater in the morning, and buckle your seat belt in the car without thinking of your shoulder, you're having a "good shoulder day". And that is very, very nice. I happen to know.


  1. Oh no. My husband had that and it was so painful! You have my sincere wishes for a speedy recovery. There's a great saying "aging is not for sissies" so I look upon my tri-training as a way to keep from being a sissy and hence better prepared for my later years :-)

  2. I get my share of aches and pains, like we all do. Yesterday I showed up at the office with a migraine. Fortunately, I'm in a job with unlimited access to "triptan" samples.

    What I love is how patients get irritated if we are sick. This bizarre attitude of "you're a doctor! You're not supposed to get sick!"

  3. Sorry to hear about your shoulder. It's hard to be out of commission for any reason, for any amount of time. I have spent four days moving plants, bending up and down, reaching, lifting, and going up and down steps. Every day I have been grateful that my body still works. As I told my husband, that is no small thing! I hope you start to feel better soon.

  4. Oh dear. I think I have that myself, although I've just been gritting my teeth and bearing it.

    I should probably go see about it.


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