Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Portrait of a busted shoulder....

Long story short. Extended periods of boat driving without stretching afterwards has led to an repetetive strain injury in my left shoulder. Thankfully I'm right-handed or I'd be cack-handed. My shoulder has been sore the previous two summers but this last summer it couldn't take any more. Nothing dramatic, no popping sounds etc. I just couldn't lift my arm in front of me or sideways without sharp pain. First treatment: rest and cold pack, anti-inflammatory painkillers. After a couple of days, mobility returned but with pain. This was while we were still in the field. Back on the mainland, a visit to the work doctor got me a cortisone shot, more painkillers and an order to rest. And it helped, at least for a while...

Within a couple of months though the pain was back and slowly getting worse. Bugger! Tried a couple of visits to an osteopath as I figured if I went to the doc again I'd just get the cortisone, etc. treatment again. It was good and I enjoyed but it didn't really seem to help. I was still trying to train fencing normally, which didn't work so well. Push-ups were just about doable but dagger exercises were difficult. The worse the pain got the stiffer I became and so more pain. Hmmm.

Back to the work doctor and some really fast appointments later, which included x-ray and ultrasound, as well as a visit to an orthopedic doctor, it seems I have a small tear in one of my shoulder muscles (the supraspinatus apparently), inflammation in the tendons of my shoulder joint and a weakened rotator cuff. Prognosis for healing with physio 3-6 months if all goes well. If it doesn't, then I have keyhole surgery to look forward to.

Supraspinatus muscle

Because it's close to Christmas, it is difficult to get a time slot for the physio, so I'll have to wait until January until that visit. In the interim, I decided to visit an acupunturist as a stop-gap to try to deal with the pain and discomfort I'm experiencing now. I'm not anti-western medicine per se. It's just that I'm not too happy with popping painkillers like smarties, especially as I got two types prescribed for me after the last visit to the doctor. The mild ones are fine, they're the same as regular anidin/burana. The other one, Tradolan Retard (I know, if the cap fits...) are only 150mg but holy hell, I took one the other night and I was stoned off my tits for most of the night. This wasn't too bad but I got some not so pleasant side effects the following day including, light-headedness, waves of nausea, dizzyness and difficulty focussing. They weren't even that good in dulling the pain!

I did a bit of a search on the net for acupuncturists in the local area and finally found one. I've just now come back from the first session. Interestingly, I didn't get acupuncture at all but something called tui na. It's a sort of massage I suppose combined with acupressure points. Anyway after being twisted like a pretzel, my shoulder was much more loose and I could move the shoulder with noticeably less pain. Result!

 For anyone interested in tui na, here's a tui na massage on youtube. I had something like this today. I don't really know how it works beyond the basic idea of opening meridians so the chi and therefore blood can flow better to the affected area. I'll go again at the beginning of next year for a series of treatments and I'm looking forward to it! I will try to keep a record of how I progress.


  1. This is a bit too familiar for me. :D After some gruesome training and some incidents with a broken lawnmover I had a quite sore shoulder with quite the same symptoms as you (although not so severe). I finalised the condition of my shoulder by excessive shovel work fixing my house's blind drains. :(

    It's been six months when the trouble started and now it's getting a bit better. Three months before I could get my self to get some help and some not so do-good construction work in between. The best help so far has been rest and the visits to an OMT specialized physio therapist (I really recommend using ones with the OMT prefix as they usually know a _lot_ more).

    The treatment was quite like what you see in the video with some special stretches, even with the same kind of positive result. The biggest difference to what doctors and many other treatments is that you get a training regime to follow to fix the actual root of the problem. Mainly doing stretches and some special exercises with light weights and/or rubber bands.

    Your expected recovery time of 6 months sounds positive as I have a collegue of mine whose shoulder was busted for two years with several cortisone shots to the shoulder... Cortisone can really screw up your tendons if not used correctly in the absolute right place.

    I wish you a speedy recovery!

  2. Cheers man! Sorry to hear about your woes. I certainly know what you're going through. Thanks also for the tip about the physio. I'll look into that too.