The Gifted Underachiever

My life so far

The real cold shoulder

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icecubeRemember psychology class in college? I exhibited every symptom of every mental disorder discussed. I was schizophrenic, manic-depressive, anal-retentive – a veritable psycho ward all inside my head.

Last April I was given the diagnosis of prostate cancer, so I was still reeling from that reality when a new pain appeared. At first it was just a dull ache in my right bicep, but still strong enough to wake me from a deep sleep. However, it was easy to ignore during the day.

I reached into the back seat to grab my laptop bag, and I felt a sharp knife slash down my shoulder to the elbow. It was so debilitating that I had to stop and let my arm rest for a full minute before I could think of doing anything else.

With such a pain shooting up and down my arm each time I put it behind my back I did what any man would do – nothing. Yes, I tried to ignore it, just as I tried to ignore the cancer. Out of sight, out of – ouch! It still hurt. The cancer doesn’t hurt, why doe­s my arm? Does my arm have cancer?

Yep, every new pain meant a new cancer. Every headache – brain cancer. Hurt knee? Knee cancer. I’ve never heard of butt cancer before, but here we are.

So I ignored it as much as naproxen and Bio-Freeze would let me. I learned that the best of modern pharmaceuticals will only allow one to ignore so much.

Fast forward to last week and after three hours of sleep over four days it was time to seek professional help. So off to the orthopedic surgeon.

I knew the x-rays would show nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve felt every bone, ligament and muscle in that arm over the past five months to know everything is where it should be.

Know what I hate about going to a new doctor? Resisting the urge to ask him “How old are you?” I have nothing against Doogie Howser, but I had to do some quick math after reading the date on his diploma.

The doc is a personable fellow and respects his elders. That does not preclude him hurting me. Every time he moved my arm to a new position he suffixed his remarks with “that hurts, doesn’t it?” He is a real doctor because he knew it hurt.

The good news – it’s probably not a torn rotator cuff. The bad news – it’s something called “frozen shoulder” or more accurately adhesive capsulitis. It’s caused by, well, they just don’t know. Seriously, they have no idea. It usually affects women and diabetics. That leaves me in the minority as far as target audience goes. Fortunately, it can run its course and go away by itself. Unfortunately, it usually involves months of excruciating pain followed by a period of paralysis after which everything returns to normal. So this started in April; can I postdate the pain?

The prescription was meds and physical therapy. I’m not a fan of either. But I was looking forward to experiencing Lortab, since I heard so much about it. Trust me, it’s not all that. The daytime stuff, Ultram, worked well enough, but the Lortabs had the complete opposite effect as was intended. Couldn’t sleep a wink all night. At least it didn’t hurt, but 48 hours in a dream state didn’t sit well with my work ethic.

So the Lortabs were nixed, and I’m relying on the Ultram to make the day bearable. More importantly, to make the physical therapy bearable.

I have heard my share of horror stories about physical terrorists balanced by the gods of physical manipulation to make people whole. Being a PT virgin I went to my appointment fearing the worst and hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I got both.

The one-hour episode consisted of interviews, examinations, high-tech toys and adjustments. The tech stuff consisted of a TENS unit on steroids and ultra-sound therapy.

twistedIf you’ve never experienced a TENS unit it’s an exciting blend of electricity and neuromuscular response that results in something akin to the scene in Frankenstein when the lightening strikes. OK, not necessarily a life-raising experience, but it’ll provide a cool jolt to muscles you didn’t know could move that way.

That was followed by the ultrasound unit. I did everything in my power to avoid the lame joke about “seeing the baby” because it wasn’t that kind of ultrasound. Anyway, the operator looked like someone who would roll her eyes and brand me uncool (she was a youngster, too). And knowing that I had nine more sessions with her I figured staying in her good graces was best for optimum therapy. I don’t know what ultrasound machines can do turned up to ten, but I know what microwaves can do and I can extrapolate from there.

The TENS and ultrasound did leave me in a good mood. The shoulder was nice and relaxed, which is just how the sadist wanted it as he attempted to make a pretzel out of my right bicep. I’m not saying that he put me in unnatural positions, but I’m sure I’ve never been able to touch my left shoulder blade with my right hand before.

I stifled the urge to yell out “I’m healed! It’s a miracle!” during the procedure because I don’t think he would have even paused much less stopped. I’m sure he’s heard it all before. So I let him complete the therapy, and I waited in vain for the t-shirt proclaiming I survived.

I don’t know why I’m going back this afternoon. I know what’s coming, and I know it will hurt. Maybe I am a masochist after all. I learned that in psychology class, you know.

Categories: What was I thinking?

1 reply

  1. I mentioned that I didn’t know the cause of the frozen shoulder, but it has since dawned on me. I was invited to my brother’s house to shoot skeet… again. I told him that I had just finished therapy on my shoulder and didn’t think it could take it.

    Then I realized that just two months before my problems started that I went to his house for a day long affair with a 12-guage shotgun. A couple of cases of shells versus a shoulder that hasn’t experienced a blunderbuss in a couple of decades makes a wonderful recipe for adhesive capsulitis.

    So mystery solved for all the good that did. At least now I know what will cause it again when I start shooting in the near future.

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