It has now been 2 months since I fell down a hole and dislocated my arm. At first it seemed I was healing pretty fast, but then I had one set-back after another. When I finally started my physical therapy things were going well, but then I had a mysterious pain in my upper left shoulder just in front of the joint and just left of my collar bone. Suddenly I could not move my arm without pain. When I first started physical therapy I could almost raise my arm above shoulder height when extended in front of me. Now I could not raise it to elbow height. It soon became apparent that we were wasting time in PT and an MRI was ordered. It took over a week to get insurance approval and to get the MRI scheduled. My doctor’s appoint was for 8 days after that. On the weekend that my MRI was done, I developed pain and swelling in the joint of my left hand and wrist. It came on so suddenly and was so painful that I could not even tap the screen on my smart phone. It hurt to even pull my shirt sleeve over my hand when I got undressed at night. What was going on?
At this point I got quite discouraged. I could tell with each passing day that my shoulder was getting more and more stiff and I was losing my range of motion, but until I heard the MRI results I was afraid to do anything for fear I would tear a ligament, tendon, or muscle. By the time I finally saw the doctor last Monday I had developed Adhesive Capsulitis from my lack of using the joint. The funny thing is, the MRI did not show any tears or impingement. So what was going on? No one seems to know, but it was time to start PT again. However, there were no appointments available until this week. I was not going to wait for another 8 days and let my shoulder get even worse!
The doctor told me I was in no fear of dislocating the shoulder again. Now the fear was that the joint capsule was collapsing and adhering to the other side. She told me I could move it in whatever direction I felt I could as far as my arm would let me. She also thinks I may have had gout in my hand. The doctor wanted to give me a steroid shot in my joint just so I would start using my arm if the pain was too bad. She knows I do not like to use drugs. But, I told her if the pain was the only reason she was going to give me the shot, that I could push through the pain as long as I knew I was not going to tear anything lose.
I started moving my shoulder that very day. I started doing shoulder rolls and I could hear cracking and popping in the joint. That lasted about 24 hours. Since then I have continued to stretch the arm and reach for things. One of the worst things is not being able to reach behind my back. Just try to pull up your pants without reaching behind your back! I can put my right hand into my back left pocket by reaching around my back, but I cannot get my left hand into my back left pocket! And to raise my arm above my head would be a miracle right about now!
Since injuring my shoulder, I have been amazed to discover just how much your shoulder is involved in using your arm every day. When you push on a door to open it, you use your shoulder. When you open or close a jar, you use your shoulder muscles. When you pull up your pants or put on your socks, you are using your shoulder! Try cutting a piece of steak without using your shoulder. It just doesn’t work! When I first injured myself, I couldn’t use my arm at all, but soon I can use it from the elbow down. But after i started having pain I developed a protective style that involved pinning my upper arm to my side and only using my left forearm. If I needed to reach fro something I had to move my whole torso forward and only reach with my hand. But keeping my upper arm pinned to my side and only using the lower arm has not done me any favors. I cannot roll over in bed and pull the covers over me using my left arm. I cannot reach up to put dishes away in the cupboard. When I get in the car I have to turn and pull the door closed with my right hand and arm. Every task I want to do is so frustrating! I have tried to keep a good attitude, but I must admit there have been days in the last two weeks when I broke down in tears. I do not want to be this helpless! I find it extremely embarrassing to have to ask for help in the grocery store to reach something or lift something. I had to ask a clerk to put a case of water in my cart because it was on the bottom shelf and I could not lift it into my cart. At the bird seed store I had to ask someone to carry a 20 pound bag of seed out to the car because I could not do it. I use to be able to do these things! I do not want to stay this way! So, I have made it my mission to get well! I need my arm to go birding again!
Ever since last I saw the doctor last Monday I have continued to do what I can. So, I looked up some exercises online, as well as doing the two easy ones I had learned in PT before. I use my right hand to lift my left arm and stretch it up as far as I can. I have seen some increase in my range of motion and my strength. I start PT again on Tuesday. I hope to go in better than when the doctor saw me last week. I hope to make good progress. I hope that soon I will be able to raise my arms above my head again in an expression of joy and gratitude. I hope to be ME again. I need the use of my left arm. I am a left-handed person. It is part of my identity. I need to be able to use my left arm.
In one strange benefit from this accident I have suddenly regained some of my fine motor control that was lost from a car accident I was in back in 2003. Ever since then I have had a difficult time writing or forming any letters that loop around. My hand would get fatigued and I would have to quit writing after a page or two. But in the last couple of weeks I seem to be able to write as long as I want to without fatigue and I seem to be able to form letters without the pen squiggling out of control. I cannot explain this. I can only report it. So, maybe there is a silver lining after all. The last two week have been very hard for me, but I am starting to hope again that this broken wing will heal and I will be able to fly once again.
Wings are so amazing!
Hold Fast to your dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.-Langston Hughes
- Adhesive Capsulitis-Wiki article