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.