Meanwhile, In Range of Motion News

The picture above is not exactly the sexiest photo I’ve ever taken, but it’s notable in that it represents the furthest up I’ve been able to raise my left arm for several months. That’s because at the moment I have a physical condition known as adhesive capsulitis (more commonly known as “frozen shoulder”), which restricts my arm mobility quite a bit. As physical conditions go, it’s more annoying than anything else; it’s not great not being able to lift your arm past a certain level, but given my life and profession, it’s not the end of the world.

Still, it does come with pain and there are certain things that are more difficult to do, including commonplace activities like putting one’s carry-on into an overhead bin. It can and does eventually go away on its own, but that takes a couple of years, so today I went for a consult with an orthopedic surgeon to see if there’s anything that could be done to shorten up that progression.

The doctor’s answer: A shot of (I think) steroids into my shoulder, to reduce inflammation and pain and to help loosen things up. It’s done the last of these to some extent — again, this is as far up as I’ve gotten my arm in a long time. The fact the shot featured two different types of novocaine so I’m not feeling a ton of pain when I’m hauling my arm up probably helps a bit, too. I’ll be scheduling physical therapy as well and will be going back in about six weeks to see how things are.

In the meantime: Wheee! Go, arm, go!

45 thoughts on “Meanwhile, In Range of Motion News

  1. I have that too! It’s been 6 months. I got the cortisone shot which helped with the pain and I might just do the mua because the progress is almost nonexistant with pt. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I got arrested and they try to handcuff me…

  2. Don’t admit to using steroids!
    You might get banned from the Hugos for using performance enhancing drugs.

  3. Shoulder pain is the pits. But, three cheers for Physical Therapy! I cried happy tears when I was able to finally make that motion without pain. It meant going through some painful therapy exercises, but the PT knew their stuff, and it helped so much.

    I hope your outcome is good!

  4. I’ve got that as well. So far the doctor is just having me do exercises, which are helping. It is annoying. If it gets worse I may use this Whatever post in conversation with my doctor.

  5. I broke my left arm, near the elbow, about six weeks ago (Dec 27). Started out with a fairly rigid splint and a sling, moved to an articulated splint w/o sling, now I’m not even wearing the splint. I’ve been going to OT/PT ever since my orthopedist cleared me to do so. Everyone, including me, is astonished by how well my arm’s healing. I have almost full range of motion back–I can unhook my bra with both hands while still wearing it, I can almost wash my hair with my left hand (right hand has to chip in a little for the last inch or so), I can raise my left arm fully above my head, and I can blow my nose again while using both hands to hold the tissue to my face. Left elbow still can’t flatten out completely, I still have about a fifteen-degree bend, but that’s what the OT/PT is for.

    I hope your shoulder heals quickly!

  6. I had the surgery- big mistake. Mine was bad, though. But, I got a blood clot and my body had mini melt down. So, remember surgery is for pro athletes.

  7. Be careful with the steroids. I have had this a few times. Usually, it wasn’t a problem, but it did lead to an immune suppression issue that lasted for a few years. I got sick a lot during that time. Steroids are tricky.

  8. I believe they can also maneuver your shoulder to break the adhesions. Fortunately this is done under anesthesia. Steroids and PT should definitely be tried first; conservative is the way to go, with medical treatment at least. :-)

  9. Physical therapy is the best! With a good PT, that is, of course. I found PTs at a sports medicine practice push you harder and have higher expectations for your recovery than PTs at a place where the goal is to get people back to minimum functioning and thus off disability.

  10. That’s good news. Keep the shoulder moving. I’ve had both my shoulders operated on (rotator cuffs) and motion is what is needed to keep the range of mobility.

  11. I separated my shoulder in an early morning Aikido class many years ago.When I got home, I couldn’t lift my left hand from my lap, but I went to see the acupunct my Sensei recommended. Lots of pokes later he sent me home. I came in the next day for a booster and greeted him with a handshake at shoulder level. Even he was amazed.

    But the truth is, injuries like that come back to haunt you many years later. All of my issues with arthritis can be attributed to injuries in joints. That one was treated with cortisone injections twice over the years.

  12. I see my orthopod tomorrow and will have another x-ray of the ankle first; I think it’s mostly healed, and will probably get to get rid of the boot. No idea whether or not he’ll want me to have PT.

  13. Been there. For me, the steroid shot reduced the pain sufficiently that I was able to remobilize my shoulder by doing stretching exercises on my own. Unfortunately, I now have it in the opposite shoulder, so I’m facing the same thing all over.

  14. To quote my favorite doctor, on showing him a painful move: “So stop doing that”. I know your pain, as I have gotten a twinge every time I move my right elbow in just that special way. I do hope that the steroid shot works, and we must consider that you need an artificial limb so that you can continue typing, sir.

  15. I second what Nan S said. I had that in both shoulders at the same time. PT with sports medicine place fixed it. Did not get the steroid shot.

  16. As your personal Aquatic Therapist, please do the physical therapy, do the exercises they recommend you do at home and keep doing them. Frozen shoulder is a common condition that comes back and is f-ing painful. I deal with a similar condition and it sucks. I hope you get full ROM sans medication.

  17. My ortho MD said 2 things about my frozen shoulder.
    1. Once you have it, you won’t get it again (not sure about Jada Hope Diaz’s comment).
    2. 25% of the time, it will go to your other shoulder (happened to me).

    I eschewed surgery, and stuck with PT (at a sports med place). I now have full range of motion in my shoulders – up down back front etc etc. My arms can do the hokey pokey.

  18. My horrendous shoulder break in 2012 (you ever done that thing with a head of lettuce where you dig your thumbs into the bottom and rip the head into halves? That was the top of my humerus) necessitated a joint replacement (twice; the first prosthetic never worked great or painlessly, and was replaced with a different type in 2016).

    That left me with a permanent 10% disability in my right arm, similar to frozen shoulder (limited range of motion and loss of strength). Not particularly painful, except when I push those limits and the prosthetic joint’s ball and socket tries to disengage and partially dislocate. Which is much more often than I’m happy with.

    This was the first major injury in my life, and even though I’ve lived with a disabled spouse for decades, the constant unending process of judging and evaluating what I can and can’t do still surprises and dismays me.

    (Most of the time, this is an “invisible disability” to others, because people don’t realize all the things I choose to *not* try to do.)

    The bright side to this is that being off work for more than half a year got me jumpstarted back into writing fiction again after a lapse of years. (SELF-PROMOTION TIME: google “Voices, In A Cedar-scented Darkness” to find my latest published story.)

  19. > To quote my favorite doctor, on showing him a painful move: “So stop doing that”.

    I’d think about switching to a less favorite doctor. I got advice like that from a doctor once, and it took me 3 months of physical therapy to recover.

  20. I broke the top of my humerus a few years ago, my shoulder froze while the break was healing, and the orthopedist sent me for PT (the facility encouraged its patients with a pair of crossed skis on the wall near the entrance. Well, it amused me.)

    I had an excellent therapist who gave me exercises to do at home as well as the ones I did at the facility. She told me to do the stretches “to the edge of pain but not into pain” to avoid further injury. It was extremely boring, but after six months my range of motion was about 99.9% of what it was originally.

    Good luck!

  21. Much empathy to you… my wife is currently working her way through frozen shoulder on her right shoulder. This after taking close to two years to regain range of motion and get pain free after suffering from frozen shoulder on her left side.

  22. Both shoulders shot.
    Left hip degenerative arthritis severe.
    Compressed vertebrae.
    Your going to love 73.
    Can hardly swing my leg over my motorcycle with out grunting.
    It’s not all that and a bag of chips. But it beats the alternative all to hell

  23. Injured/strained a shoulder decades ago lifting weights. Never lifted that much again! Some of my fellow archery buffs have had this problem, and it can indeed sideline you for months or even a few years. Physical therapy works on both loosening the joint and strengthening the surrounding muscles. Good luck!

    PS on a tangent, do you think that dictation-to-text software is still ‘not ready for prime time’?

  24. My wife had a frozen shoulder a number of years ago (once, thankfully). She had PT and, yes, they broke the adhesions, which hurt like hell but helped in the end.

    Last year I fell and shattered the top of my humerus (which wasn’t, in any way – sorry, couldn’t resist), but thankfully I did not have to go through what brucearthurs described above. The orthopedic surgeon said to do exercises and twice a week PT and see how it went, and after four months or so, I was back to as close to normal as it is going to get without a total replacement. (By the way, I did not know that was a thing before it happened to me.) So no, can’t pick my right arm all the way up any more, but other than that, all is good.

  25. I’ve had that. You’re doing really well in that picture, so good on you!

    The bad news is once you’ve had it in one shoulder, you’re statistically more likely to get it in the other. At least the second time, you know what it is when it starts and you can being action more quickly. Good luck with the PT.

  26. Physical Therapy is wonderful.
    For those of you with financial challenges. Go to Physical Therapy. Learn some exercises. Follow through at home. Keep those exercises in mind if the problem starts to come back. Don’t wait till it gets bad.

  27. The last time I swung a golf club. Hit a root. Near instant bursitis, though I laughed it off at the time.

    Nine months of physio before I could raise my hand above my shoulder. Washing my hair was the worst.

    Bet it made your DJ work more awkward though.

  28. ahhh should injuries . . . I had the same issue starting about 10 years ago after a work injury. Did some PT and it was ok for a while. I re injured it a couple years later and after many rounds of pt and cortisone shots I finally had surgery. I had an AC joint resection and decompression about 6 years ago. Basically they sawed off about 1/2″ off the end of my collar bone to open up the joint and filed down a nasty bone spur that had developed. My shoulder still isn’t and will never be 100% but I have full range of motion and having a desk job now really helps.
    Speedy recovery! PT and ice/heat are your friends!!

  29. Having finished a year+ of physio for bicep tendonitis, I empathize. For me, the joy was in being able to reach behind my back to undo my bra. The first I did that without shooting pain, I did a happy dance.

  30. I had this a few years ago and PT was a great thing. My affected arm has almost the same range of motion as it used to (those pesky itchy spots in the middle of my back still elude me)

  31. My partner had it in one shoulder, and then the other. Apparently very rare to have it in both. Most important takeaway: physiotherapy. Physiotherapy, physiotherapy, physiotherapy. And, if your physiotherapist thinks it’s a good idea, do something like yoga, but only to the limit of discomfort. Don’t push it, or it’ll make things worse.

    Do all that, and in two years or less you’ll have better arm mobility than ever. Really.

  32. Huh. I didn’t know frozen shoulder was also an adhesion issue.
    As someone with the abdominal version, I’m very glad your treatment is working and I wish you a continued smooth recovery!

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