Back At ‘Ya

“Time to punt.  Your PCP did what he could for your shoulder and it didn’t help, so he sent you here,” summarized my physical therapist.  “I’ve done everything I can do, but it doesn’t look like you’re getting better, so I’ll send your doctor a note saying, ‘Back at ya.’  It’s his turn again.”

I think I just failed PT.

Last time I did PT for my shoulder, it was extremely helpful.  This time, not so much.  In the past, I’ve really liked ultrasound treatments.  This time, it hurt.  The intensity would get reduced when I’d wince, but it still hurt at the lower setting, and would ache for hours after I left.

I’m glad I did the PT, though.  I saw a different therapist this time, and although there was some overlap in the approach, there were a few differences.  This person had extra exercises that weren’t prescribed last time, and there were a couple exercises that he explained differently.  There’s also one exercise that I discovered I’ve been doing wrong all this time, and that’s now been corrected.

My shoulder no longer wakes me up at night, which I’m very happy about.  That’s the only improvement, though.  Nothing looked any better when comparing the initial and final evaluation tests, which is very frustrating.

The physical therapist is bouncing me back to my PCP, and I’m supposed to schedule an appointment to see him so he can figure out what to do next – which, the PT warns me, will likely be either another round of PT, or a referral to an orthopedist.*  That’s me.  WarmSocks, the human ping-pong ball.

Sometimes I just want to quit.  “Never mind.  I’ve had enough contact with the medical profession to last a lifetime.  I’ll learn to live with it.”  That thought lasts until I try to pick something up, or reach out to the side.  I quickly realize that this is not something I’m willing to make accommodations for.

  • If there’s something in the passenger’s seat, I want to be able to reach over and pick it up.
  • I want to close my car door without pain.
  • I want to be able to move the shifting lever with my right hand (it’s so awkward to reach through the steering wheel with the left hand and tug that lever upward).
  • I want to wipe the dinner table after meals.  I’m learning to do it left-handed, but it’s mighty frustrating to have such a simple task be so hard.
  • I want to be able to vacuum my house.  Sure, my kids are good at helping out, but I want to be able to do these things.
  • If my children sneak up beside me, I want to be able to give them a hug regardless of which side they’re on.
  • I want to snuggle with my kids and husband.  I don’t want to spend the rest of my life saying, “That shoulder is not a pillow” when loved ones lean over to rest their heads against me.
  • Have you ever tried to take wet clothes out of the washing machine with only one hand?
  • I want to use whatever bathroom is most conveniently located, and not have to consult blueprints before relieving myself.  (Nope, can’t use that bathroom because the TP roll is on the wrong side; my arm doesn’t rotate that direction.)
  • I want to play basketball or baseball out in the yard with my family and friends.  Normal, everyday things that I used to take for granted are now spectator sports.  I don’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch life pass me by.  I want to participate – with both arms.

So I’m not going to quit.  I just need a breather before tackling the problem again.

Monday mornings tend to be pretty busy, so I’ll wait until after lunch to phone my PCP’s office and tell the receptionist that if they’re not as sick of seeing me as I am of needing to see them, the physical therapist says I need to schedule another appointment with the doctor.  Okay, maybe I won’t phrase it quite like that.  I actually like my doctor.  I just don’t like needing to see him.

Dear WordPress grammar checker:  When I write “an orthopedist,” do not tell me that I’ve selected the wrong article and should try “a orthopedist.”  Any six-year old can tell you that the letter “O” is a vowel, therefore the appropriate indefinite article is “an.”


Shoulder Exercise #2

At last, my tendency to be sentimental about gifts paid off!  As a little girl, I was given a baton and taught to twirl.  I’ve kept the baton all these years – and now I can use my old baton to do one of the exercises that the physical therapist recommended for my shoulders.

No, he didn’t suggest that I resume twirling a baton!  I just use it as a long stick.  If I didn’t have a baton, I’d buy a dowel at the hardware store (and maybe a couple rubber feet to pad the ends and keep them from scratching the floor).  (no need to watch the video – I just liked the visual)

Back to shoulder exercises.  This one is done prone:  back flat on the floor, feet flat on the floor, knees bent:

  • The baton lays across my stomach to start.  I started to say “raise the bar” but that sounds like arms go straight up toward the ceiling, which is wrong.  This doesn’t look anything like bench presses.  It’s more a range-of-motion thing.  I grab the bar with both hands and move both arms together (as nearly as possible) first toward the ceiling, but continue on toward the wall/floor again.  Eventually (on good days) my arms end up by my ears and the bar is resting on the floor just past the top of my head.  Return to the original position.
  • 10-15 reps with hands wider than shoulders.
  • Repeat with hands centered close together.
  • Repeat with hands approximately shoulder-width apart.

I can definitely do this more easily than I could a month ago.  If done on a weight bench, it’s possible to go past 180 degrees to get a little more range of motion.

Disclaimer:  this is not medical advice.  Consult your personal physician for diagnosis and treatment of your medical issues.


Update:  my shoulder is no longer keeping me awake at night.  This is good.  Unfortunately, it’s quite a bit short of my goal;  I was really hoping for “back to normal,” like last time I did PT.  Until things improve, I’ve rearranged my kitchen so that it’s a little easier to do things left-handed.  Back in junior high, I had broken bones that led to my learning to eat with my off-hand; that is a skill I’ve kept tuned over the years, and it’s come in handy.

Shoulder Exercise #1

I promised to share some of the things that my physical therapist prescribed.  The first (and easiest) range of motion exercise:

Pendulum:  bend at the waist and let your arm dangle straight down, then swing it in around in circles.  The trick is to not move your arm, but to just let it hang there and swing freely.  I was told that doing this simplest of exercises correctly involves a slight sway of the body to make the arm swing around.

This exercise works even better with a small weight.  A two-pound weight like the one pictured here can just be strapped around your wrist:

Having tried two different types of wrist/ankle weights, I can attest to the fact that the kind with the velcro strap going all the way around is better than the less expensive model with just a tiny tab.  If you don’t have access to one of these, holding a water bottle or can of food in your hand can also provide the extra weight needed to turn your arm into a pendulum.

Do this 3-4 times a day for maximum benefit.

Disclaimer:  this is not medical advice.  Consult your personal physician for diagnosis and treatment of your medical issues.


Addendum:  illustration of this exercise here


I’m finding that my shoulder feels much better as long as I stay away from my computer.  Reaching for the mouse starts my shoulder hurting again.  Fifteen minutes of reaching out for the mouse leads to my shoulder and arm aching for hours.  Expect posting to be sparse until things improve.