Anyone who’s ever had physical therapy for a shoulder injury will feel a sense of déjà vu when they read what I am about to write.
I don’t wear my Danskos any more. They’re – sorry, Kath – butt-ugly and not even all that comfortable. In fact, for me they’re downright dangerous. Once, I twisted my ankle playing kickball out in the cul-de-sac with the grands (I know, operator error – no, make that absolute stupidity). The last time I wore them was just before last Christmas, when I slid down a couple of steps at a fashionable hotel in downtown Charleston, attempted to catch myself by grasping onto the polished brass handrail, and landed on my knee. I couldn’t tell which pain was the worst - my pulverized knee, my overflexed ankle, or my bruised ego.
It turns out that all of those were only temporary. My shoulder, however, was not so lucky. After that fateful day, my right shoulder grew alarmingly more painful. When I finally realized my shoulder was not going to heal on its on (but why not? I’ve always healed on my own before!), I tried Aleve and physical therapy – the Aleve had no effect and the physical therapy just about killed me. When I asked her for a little stronger pain med, my internist referred me to an orthopedist.
Having worked in healthcare for some time now, I know there are progressively more aggressive steps that a physician must take before arriving at the decision to operate on a patient. So I wasn’t surprised when the ortho guy stuck a screwdriver-sized needle filled with cortisone into my shoulder joint. Unbelievably, the shot didn’t hurt nearly as much as I expected, and the long-standing pain in my shoulder went away.
For a week, that is. While we were together in Alaska, the pain was pretty bad but Kathie warned me big time against shoulder surgery. On my return to Charleston, then, I tried acupuncture by a chiropractor, who only seemed to be interested in my bra size. The pain getting worse by the day and my shoulder starting to freeze up, I gave in and visited the orthopedist - who agreed it was time for surgery.
Tomorrow morning, it will be four weeks since my arthroscopy, which was done at an outpatient surgery center. The surgeon reattached the avulsed labrum to my glenoid using a scope and tools inserted into four small holes through my flesh, and he removed a lot of scar tissue (the freeze-up factor). Three and a half hours after start of surgery, daughter Jessie drove me home – loaded up with post-op instructions and prescriptions for Lortab and four weeks of physical therapy.
That very afternoon, I visited the physical therapist, Barbara*, who had treated me before. Thanks to the nerve block that caused my entire upper right quarter to feel as if it belonged to a marionette, Babs was able to manipulate my arm and shoulder like a Gumby’s. All the while, she chatted about schools and kids with Jessie. I listened to their chatter, happy as a clam, as my rubber band arm was stretched and folded every which way. After about forty five minutes, we scheduled a return visit for the next afternoon and left for home.
The next visit was much different. The nerve block had worn off and my shoulder had started to freeze up again. Daughter Kelly had driven me this time, and the two girls chatted about their mutual alma mater while Babs proceeded to attempt snapping my arm off at the shoulder. Of course, she let up if she noticed a sharp intake of air on my part, but this time I left the gym with a fierce resolve to avoid at all costs experiencing that kind of agony again.
So for the following two days, I lay on the floor in my bedroom and constantly stretched my shoulder and arm in every direction and as far as I could. The pain med helped a lot and I thought I made a lot of progress. Babs thought so too at my next appointment, but proceeded to torture me shamelessly anyway – all the while yakking merrily with Kelly.
After four weeks of hearing about Babs’ children, their school, their homework, her husband, her husband’s business, her family, her in-laws, her in-laws' farm, her intra-family Clemson-USC rivalry, and every recipe she’s ever tried in minute detail (seriously, I can tell you that she uses a third of a cup of sugar in her peach cobbler – or was that in her chocolate chip cookies?), I finished my course of therapy two days ago. Babs and I agreed that I would give her a ring if my shoulder started to freeze up again.
I have not stopped stretching since. Anyone need a used pair of Danskos?
* name changed to protect the not-so-innocent