One Limb at a Time

     Last year, right around this time I woke up one morning with a pretty sore shoulder.  I figured I must have slept on it and I’d be back to normal in a day or two.  Of course if you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s usually not that simple with me.  The thing just got worse and worse until I finally brought it up to my doc, who checked my range of motion and thought I might have a torn rotator cuff so off I go to the very expensive MRI.  MRI shows some mild inflammation, but that’s about it and now I’m going to an equally expensive neck MRI.  Apparently some neck issues can give you shoulder pain.  The neck MRI shows some degenerative disc disease but nothing to explain my ever-increasing pain.

     I’m on pain meds for my chronic pain already, but it’s just not touching this and I’m getting more frustrated not having any answers so I hit the internet looking for some.  I think I found it.  I couldn’t get in with my doc, so I make an appointment with his nurse practitioner, and I can’t wait to tell her I think I have a frozen shoulder.  By this time my range of motion is so bad, I’m having a hard time dressing myself, washing my hair or doing anything, and nights are the worst.  The pain is so bad I’m not sleeping more than a couple hours a night at best.  Well, she pretty much tells me I don’t know what I’m talking about and puts me on the lowest dose fentanyl patch and dilaudid for breakthrough pain.  While this does help I still can’t take care of basic hygiene.  I never did get a referral but when I got home I made an appointment to see an ortho.

      By the time I get to see him, I can no longer put my hand behind my back or move it more than a couple inches in any direction.  I didn’t tell the ortho what I thought it was, I wanted him to draw his own conclusions.  I’m finding that alot of doctors and nurses really don’t want patients diagnosing themselves.  They tend to get a little condenscending, if not downright insulting.  It’s not like it’s going to put them out of a job.  I can’t write my own prescriptions.

     The ortho looks at my MRI, sends me to the hospital for a shoulder X-Ray, and tries to manipulate the hell out of my shoulder.  He really took his time, and he listened to me, the he diagnoses me with….wait for it……..a frozen shoulder.  Frozen shoulder affects about 3% of the population.  It typically follows an injury but alot of the time you can’t pinpoint a cause.  It does affect a substantial number of diabetics and we figured that’s what’s happended to me.  It’s usually a condition that resolves itself, but to run it’s course can take from 1 to 3 years.

     So, a year and alot of painful physical therapy later, I can say this;  the pain is no longer increasing on a daily basis, it’s kind of leveled off, but my range of motion while better, is still very limited and the pain can still be pretty bad.  I’m off the fentanyl and dilaudid now and back on percocet.  Night time is still very hard, but I find if I put my headphones in  and listen to some classic rock on my ipod, it’s definitly more manageble.  Here’s the kicker though, as my left shoulder is starting to improve, my right shoulder is starting to freeze up.  Here we go again.


8 thoughts on “One Limb at a Time

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for writing about your rotator cuff injury. Good thing for the entertainment of music. It makes the waiting and healing a little more pleasant. I wish you the best in your healing. I would like to add a link to this entry to my blog at

  2. The shoulder can dislocate either forward, backward, or downward. Not only does the arm appear out of position when the shoulder dislocates, but the dislocation also produces pain. Muscle spasms may increase the intensity of pain.

  3. Hello,
    I to have developed a second round of frozen shoulder…I certainly feel your pain. Are you an A type personality like me? I read somewhere that A types develop this condition more than others. My first round was more painful…I tried drugs, steroids, heat, etc; I finally found a surgeon that told me to fight it…this surgeon is famous for treating Pro athletes and has seen this condition throughout his career. I came home and began exercising…it was so tearfully painful, but within a week my shoulder begin to thaw. Of course the healing was gradual but I knew that each day I would fight and get better, I was no longer scared of the condition. Now with round 2 I have begun the fight and I am in the dreadful freezing stage…I am exercising and with difficulty I can still raise my arm behind my head. The only difference this time around is that I am having hand and neck pain that I did not have before. I was in Physical Therapy before but was not an active participant because of the pain…now I am and it does pay off…the pain is incredible but it keeps the condition from continuing to freeze and then begins to loosen the shoulder…gradually of course but sooner rather than later. My pain is worse at night when I have layed on my shoulder for a period of time without moving, that is the absolute worse or when I jerk my arm to the side (very painful.) Hopefully when we get through this one we are done, not any more shoulders available…ha ha
    Good Luck…hope that your recovery is a speedy one! My advice is to fight it with all you have…you will win!

    • I can’t say I’m a type A, but I do stress myself out. My range of motion in my left shoulder was getting considerable better, but I seem to be going backwards now instead of forward. I hope you find relief soon

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