My shoulder hurts.
My left shoulder, and I suppose I should be grateful for that since I’m right-handed.
I would have to say that it hasn’t felt right since at least January of this year. That’s when I started to notice it. I finally got into a morning routine on the treadmill, with some stretching and push-ups afterward, and I found I had difficulty raising my left hand above my head while I was lying down. My left shoulder just felt kind of out of joint — not dislocated, nothing so painful — just off. I lived with it. It wasn’t that big of a deal.
Then, in May, a friend of mine and I got into a routine doing a weekly yoga class. It was hot vinyasa flow yoga, where you sweat buckets and really work your muscles. It was great, but one week, my shoulder really complained. I couldn’t get down into chaturanga (the low push-up pose) without pain. Hmm. The next week that movement wasn’t nearly so painful, so I kind of shrugged it off, if you will.
But still my shoulder felt off, and in a slightly worse way than before.
Eventually, I went to the doctor, who suggested an injection to reduce inflammation, if the x-rays came back negative. The x-rays came back negative. But I balked at the idea of a steroid shot and asked about physical therapy. I got a referral and started the end of June.
The physical therapist, a shoulder expert, examined my range of motion and tested my strength in various positions. She believes the problem is muscular, not due to a tear in my rotator cuff tendons, which I suppose is a good thing. I’ve been going to physical therapy for a few months now; sometimes twice a week, other times only once. It’s difficult to schedule because Jim has to either go in late to work or come home early to watch Liam while I go, and not surprisingly her early and late appointment times fill up quickly.
I have stretches and exercises I am supposed to do at home. I am not particularly consistent with them, but part of the reason for that is because I always seem to be doing something that tweaks my shoulder and sets it off. Then the last thing I want to do is stretch it or work it. I want to baby it because it hurts.
In the past three weeks, I’ve fallen twice. Once down the stairs and another time while hiking. Both times I’ve hurt my shoulder with my instinctive motions to catch myself or break my fall.
And then, let’s not forget the fact that I have a toddler. They are called toddlers for a reason. There have been several occasions where Liam was going to fall rather more seriously than his usual tumbles, where I reacted without thinking, intervening to prevent it. Never mind that I was reaching with my left arm and thereby hurt my shoulder again.
It is amazing how many actions I have unwittingly performed only to have them hurt me. Wafting away a bad diaper smell, reaching for dishes on a high shelf, putting my hair in a ponytail and having the elastic break. That one really hurt; it was so unexpected. Recently, I reached for Liam at swimming lessons, and I was biting back curses, my shoulder hurt so much.
This injury is frustrating, too, because there isn’t a motion that makes my shoulder feel better once I’ve hurt it. I can’t rub a certain spot and lessen the pain. I just have to endure until enough time passes that the hurt has dulled to an ache. I have been icing more often, using bags of peas or corn, and that helps somewhat.
Sometimes I think I’m imagining the pain or the decreased range of motion. Then I will hurt my shoulder with someone watching, and they will ask if I am all right, able to tell by the look on my face that something must be wrong. Or I will physically test myself using my right arm, to see if I really should be able to move a certain way. And every time, my right arm can move that way; my left shoulder should be permitting my left arm to move that way, too. There is, in fact, something wrong.
I think about chronic pain sufferers, people with arthritis or Crohn’s, fibromyalgia or migraines. I think about people living in less developed countries, where there might not be potable water or access to vaccinations, let alone a physical therapist. I think about people without health insurance who could not afford biweekly appointment costs. And I try to remember how lucky I am.
Because even though my shoulder hurts, I have a generally healthy body.
And even though my shoulder hurts, I am in a situation where I am able to address and hopefully correct this temporary malfunction.
So even though my shoulder hurts, I am thankful.