Friday, 29 January 2016

impinged: shoulder pain and getting better

"I see people with this everyday." That's what the private physiotherapist said to me when I went to see her just before Christmas.

It did reassure me to know that what I had going on was pretty normal, because by that point the pain I'd been in since I pointed at an aeroplane in September (seriously - who knew that could be dangerous?), had built up to the point where I was beginning to wonder if something was horribly wrong.


This is the aeroplane that caused the problem. As you can see, no other fools are pointing at it.
But then I also wondered, if it's so common, why has it taken so long to get it diagnosed?

Because what happened was this...

Back in September, we watched this display, and I pointed out the aeroplane to one of my children. At that moment my shoulder suddenly hurt like hell, and I was grateful that there were other people there so they could look after my kids while I walked away and swore for a while. I wondered if I'd somehow managed to dislocate my shoulder by pointing at the sky, and swore some more about how stupid that would make me.

My shoulder stopped hurting like hell, and started just hurting a little bit, but every so often it would still hurt like hell.

I found that reaching for things would sometimes be really sore. Some aspects of getting dressed (I'm talking to you tights) were sometimes really sore, and doors could be absolute agony: car doors, cupboard doors, some evil genius had rendered a spell upon all doors and I could only now shut them with my right hand.

I tried to take it easy but keep moving, and I figured it'd get better by itself.

On the morning of my birthday in October, Miss 5 jumped into my outstretched arms and landed wrong, pushing my left arm, and sore shoulder back against the bed, which made me scream, cry, and nigh-on hurl with the pain of it. Enough was enough, my family declared, I needed to go to the doctor.

I went that very day, and saw a locum who got me to wave my arms about and push/pull against him. All very silly, but he looked a bit like Neil Gaiman, so was clearly a genius. He told me to take ibuprofen and do some exercises which he printed off for me.

I did that. Nothing much happened. 

I went back. The next doctor got me to wave my arms about a bit, she sat me up on the couch thingy, and poked around at my shoulder. She got me to push/pull against her, and then she washed her hands incredibly fastidiously, and told me to refer myself to a physiotherapist. I got a little card from reception with the details. I phoned up and self referred.

I kept doing the exercises from the print off, and nothing much happened. Nobody got back to me about the physio. The times when it was just really really sore kept on coming, and it was getting harder to dress, to stay comfy through the night, and doors, those freaking doors.

One morning I tried to open the door to Semi-Chem (other shops are available), and my hand slipped off the handle. It was chuffing agony. I doubled over in the street, sobbing with pain, and people politely walked around me, averting their gaze (for which I am profoundly grateful as I didn't have anything constructive to say). 

I went back to the doctor. This time to one I already knew. She's smart and efficient, and she looks a lot like my rather fabulous cousin Rochelle, so what's not to like?

Dr Rochelle got me to wave my arms, and pushed and pulled against me, and said that yeah, I had a sore shoulder, and there wasn't much she could do. She recommended ibuprofen, and sympathised about my not getting a phsio appointment yet. She told me it was taking months for physio appointments (seriously, 22 weeks was mentioned). I didn't cry at her, but I did think of a friend of mine who always cries in this doctor's office. "What can I do?" I wanted to know.

The doctor handed me a card for a private physiotherapist. I 'phoned her straight away and got an appointment that afternoon.

I sat in the physio's waiting room scared (because pain), angry (because there should be more NHS physios - which goes into the whole NHS funding and running gubbins which is enough to make anyone angry), hopeful, and more scared, because if you're in pain for months on end it's really hard not to believe that something is drastically, horribly wrong.

She was super nice though, and gentle while she pushed/pulled and prodded me and got me to wave my arms about. She explained to me how the shoulder works, which was chuffing marvellous because I am utterly clueless, and told me that I had a shoulder impingement, and then she stood there, and said "I see people with this everyday."

I went home a whole lot less scared, more hopeful, and with a long bit of yellow latex.

I did my exercises. All of them. Every day. Three times a day, as instructed. I am desperate for this chuffing shoulder to get better.

It got worse.

Now I sometimes needed help with dressing. I was waking up most nights in pain, and I was just worn out with it all, so I went back to the doctor. This time it was the one who 'phones people while you're there. I like him.

He got me to wave my arms about, and pushed and pulled me. He called the physio and confirmed I had ten weeks left on the waiting list. He got me put on the cancelation shortlist too. He told me that he couldn't refer me to a specialist until I'd seen the NHS physio. But he also suggested I go see the doctor at the practice who's trained to do cortisone injections. He told me to take ibuprofen three times a day for two weeks, so it builds up in my body and fulfills its anti-inflammatory function. Apparently it's pretty much like paracetamol if you just take it now and then.

Those two weeks ended earlier this week, and there was still lots of pain, so I went to see Dr Cortisone, who wears Doc Martens so is clearly awesome (he was also the one who talked me down a while ago when I was thinking some incredibly dark thoughts, so he's just marvellous). 

He got me to wave my arms about and pushed and pulled against me, and then said he thought cortisone might help.

He injected my shoulder on Wednesday. I'd heard that cortisone injections hurt, and I won't say that it was fun, but the worst part was the weird feeling of something being inside your body where it shouldn't be. I'm told that it can get sore after the injection, and has had its moments, especially at night, but mostly it's been marvellous. I still can't move my arm very much but it rarely hurts like hell.

Dr Cortisone told me to be careful though, not to do too much too soon, and he also told me he'd get me a physio appointment. I smiled gently, knowing he'd have a long time to wait.

I got the phone call an hour later.



I suspect Dr Cortisone is made of magic.

Not only has the cortisone made my shoulder lots better, but I've got a physio appointment to build on this wonder today! A mere two days after the injection. 

This is by no means cured. The cortisone is an anti-inflammatory that might work for a fortnight, but I feel like it gives me a chance to get things sorted without constantly hurting myself. I also feel like I'm going to get better, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm really glad about that.

Feeling glad, I spoke about what was going on on social media (because when I'm sad I don't talk), and lots of people told me they'd had it too. The physio wasn't lying to make me feel better, this is a common injury, and it's one that I can get better from, and I tell you what... 

When this bleeping shoulder gets better, I am going to keep working to make myself stronger in the hopes of avoiding this sort of nonsense happening again.

Because, as I may have mentioned before. Pain sucks.

Hope you're not in pain at the moment, and if you are, I hope there is a way forward for you. 

Bright blessings.