If it doesn’t move, force it!

January 11, 2012

Health, Unfortunate

I know… not usually sound advice.  But apparently in the case of my frozen shoulder, it is.

I’ve been dealing with increasing shoulder pain and decreasing shoulder mobility since G was born.  For a while I chalked it up to stiffness from holding G in my left arm so often.

Eventually when it started to get to be a real pain the ass shoulder, I went to my GP and got a referral to go to physical therapy.

The PT definitely helped a little.  It got me to the point where I could sleep again, even if not as well as before the pain started.  But we hit a wall… there was always so much inflammation that my therapists (2-3 times per week) had to focus on just getting muscles to relax a little so that I’d be in less pain, rather than being able to give me exercises to strengthen and mobilize.

After a couple of months of that (about 8 months of shoulder pain in toto) I decided it was time to see an ortho.  I probably should have gone sooner, but I’m fairly medically conservative, and PT has often helped with things in the past without me needing to see specialists.  But I can’t lift my arm higher than my lower ribcage at this point, can’t turn it, can’t move it back or forward very much… it’s just not a tenable situation.

After waiting an hour and a half past my appointment time today to see the ortho, he’s diagnosed me with (at the least) frozen shoulder.  I say “at the least” because there also appears to be some sort of nerve problem, too, and possibly rotator cuff complications.  It’s just that with the frozen state of things, they really can’t get to whatever else may be wrong.

So now I have a small laundry list of action items.  It feels good to be “doing something” but there’s at least one that actually has me a little intimidated.

1. XRays of shoulder and neck.  This is to rule out some sort of crazy arthritis.  We really don’t expect to find anything on these, but it’s de rigeur and you have to start with things like plain XR before insurance companies let you get cool imaging like MRIs.

2. Nerve study.  Apparently some of my reflexes aren’t working any more in my left arm.  I hadn’t noticed, so clearly it’s not debilitating at the moment… but it’s not the kind of thing you want to ignore. Permanent nerve damage sucks.

3. Cortisone injection to the shoulder capsule. YAY!  This one has me stoked.  I’ve had these before (but to other body parts like my SI joint) and it’s worked miracles in getting inflammation under control so that PT can really work its magic.  Also, less inflammation = less pain.  And I’m all for less pain.

4. The last thing (though these aren’t all going to happen in any particular order…) is forced mobilization of my shoulder while I’m under general anesthetic.  This is the one that’s freaking me out a little.  It didn’t sound scary when the doc told me about it, and it certainly makes sense.  Basically, they put me to sleep, and then they FORCE my shoulder to move in the ways it doesn’t want to right now.  The anesthetic is there to keep me from screaming in pain as they do it.  The more I think about this, the more BARBARIC it sounds.  But what really started to give me the heebie-jeebies is this choice tidbit from the Mayo Clinic describing the procedure:  “Depending on the amount of force used, this procedure can cause bone fractures.”  Yeah.  Right.

Oh – and last but not least, I’m going to get my thyroid checked.  There’s a history of thyroiditis in my family (amongst other auto-immune atrocities like lupus and multiple-connective tissue disorder), and it’s not uncommon for women to get postpartum thyroiditis.  There has been some evidence to link frozen shoulder with auto-immune disorders like thyroiditis.  So we may as well check my TSH levels just to be safe.

Once all of this is done and I can start moving my shoulder again and am in less pain, then we can do more evaluation to figure out what the nerve problem is and if there’s soft-tissue damage to the rotator-cuff.

I don’t suppose any of you have dealt with a frozen shoulder?  Apparently only a very small fraction of the population gets this (I’m SO special).

Why do I somehow feel like a puzzle piece that someone is taking an exacto blade to so that it’ll fit where desired?


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