Just a quick update to say that my shoulder is now 99% back to normal and I am once more doing gardening without any pain. I am trying to be a little careful as I believe shifting heavy rocks around probably caused the frozen shoulder in the first place, but other than that I feel great. The 1% that isn’t quite back to normal is because my ‘bad’ arm is still about one inch away from touching my left ear. Somehow I’m not worried. Please read on for my post procedure experiences.
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I have just had this treatment done and I thought I’d share the experience while it’s still very fresh in my mind. But first a bit of background.
The clinical description of adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder to us plebs, can be found here on wiki but I’ll give you the rather more colourful explanation given to me by the doctor. Apparently, inflammation or injury to the shoulder can cause spiderweb-like scar tissue to build up inside the joint. This restricts movement of the muscles and tendons attached to the joint and causes on-going inflammation which leads to even more restriction and pain. After a while even a grazing bump to the elbow on that side can cause sharp pain.
Yup, I have had all that for months but because it was my left shoulder and I’m right handed I kind of ignored it. There came a time though when I couldn’t ignore it any more because a) it was getting worse and b) I couldn’t do up a bra strap any more. Too much information? Moving on.
When I asked my GP what could have caused my frozen shoulder as I was not aware of any injury, she suggested it may have happened over a long period of time while I was happily building dry stone walls and terraces and regularly woman-handling rather large rocks. Oh. Apparently because I’m right dominant I was putting far more pressure on my left shoulder to compensate for my left arm being weaker. Oh, again.
Armed with my x-rays and ultrasound pictures I trotted off to see the specialist who cheerfully explained that for about 50% of his patients hydro dilation and follow-up exercise fixed the problem. For the other 50% an operation under general anaesthetic was required. And for some neither procedure was helpful. Oh dear.
I chose hydro dilation as the lesser of two evils and was feeling relatively confident until the specialist wrote me a prescription for Panadeine Forte and told me to take two of them about an hour before the hydro dilation. Being a clever little writer I immediately twigged that the Panadeine Forte was for pain relief. >>cue for laughter<< The specialist assured me that if I took my meds as instructed I’d be fine. Oh but I’d need someone to drive me home afterwards.
Do you have any idea how much I worried about the definition of ‘fine’ over the next week as I waited for my appointment? Not even close, sorry ; writers have such vivid imaginations….
And then today it was time to gird my loins, suck in my gut, square my shoulders… and take my meds. I made The Daughter stop off on the way in so I could buy some water to take the meds exactly one hour before the scheduled treatment. I was not taking any chances, no sirree.
Half an hour after taking the meds I began to feel rather spaced out. By the time I’d filled in forms and given my date of birth in triplicate I was feeling strangely relaxed and ready for a snooze.
The nurse tied one of those dinky hospital gowns under my left armpit and around my neck so my shoulder was exposed and then told me to lie down. The bed was positioned below some kind of x-ray device and I noticed that both the nurse and the doctor who would wield the needle had odd looking black aprons on.
To be fair both the nurse and the doctor were very nice and answered all my questions with practised kindness but the sight of those aprons kept reminding me of those old pictures of 18th? 19th? century battlefield surgeons with their sleeves rolled up and aprons covered in gore, hacking off limbs. Needleless to say I was blessing the Panadeine Forte and hoping it would live up to expectations.
The procedure itself was relatively short. First a swab to clean the skin then a pin-prick from the anaesthetic needle. Yes! Until then I thought I’d have to place all my faith in the Panadeine Forte. Such a relief to know there was more help at hand but I couldn’t help wondering why, if I was getting an anaesthetic into the shoulder, did I still need the Panadeine Forte?
The anaesthetic needle went deep and it wasn’t pleasant but honestly, it didn’t feel all that different to the needle you get at the dentist when you’re getting a root canal treatment done. The one obvious difference was that the needle stayed in so it could be used for the rest of the treatment which consisted of :
1. The injection of a steroid into the joint to stop the ‘spiderwebs’ from coming back and,
2. The injection of a liquid to force the spiderwebs to break up.
I may be remembering things through the prism of post-treatment relief but the steroid just felt like a bit of cold pressure. The hydro dilation however felt like a lump of wood being inflated inside the joint. The moment when the spiderweb burst or broke or whatever you want to call it was painful. BUT! It wasn’t that painful and it only lasted for a moment.
I was just beginning to screw my face up in a wince when the lovely doctor said, “That’s it!”
Being quick on the up-take I said, “Is it over?”
And then that lovely, dear man in the heavy black apron smiled a beatific smile and said that yes, it was all finished.
I will still have to do lots of small, gentle exercises and see my chiropractor for a few weeks but, just between you and me, I feel better already! And no, that’s not just the Panadeine Forte speaking. The post-treatment tenderness is gone like an inconsiderate lover and already I can feel a difference.
And now for the moral of my story. Don’t let fear of the treatment put you off! I’m not saying it was something I enjoyed but it was nowhere near as bad as my hyperactive imagination had made it out to be either. Don’t laugh but I cleaned the whole house over the weekend in anticipation of being some kind of an invalid for weeks. I stocked up on cat food because I was afraid The Daughter would forget to buy enough to tide us over. I even composed a very short blog. It was going to be something like ‘I am typing one handed so will be back when I’m better’. Luckily I stopped short of composing my last Will and Testament.
In hindsight I am very glad I followed instructions on the pre-meds and I would recommend them as a must-have for anyone out there also getting this procedure done. And yes, guys, I’m looking at you! Save the macho for football or cricket or something.
In conclusion I have to admit that I’m now feeling rather sheepish at being so apprehensive. The whole procedure was not that big a deal but the benefits are. I’m not doing handstands or anything silly like that but, as you can see, I am typing quite happily and feel great so if your shoulder is sore, don’t mess around. Go to your GP, get the condition diagnosed and get it fixed because the longer you wait the worse it will get and then the simpler, easier treatment options may not work. Besides, if a wimp like me can do it the rest of you have no excuses!
Courage mes amis!
p.s. I just realised this is my 100th post!