Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Doing the Rotator-Cuff Rumble

I've had some real ups and downs regarding my shoulder injury. My physiotherapist (Liz) has pretty much decided that there's some torn cartilage in there, but we can't know for sure until my MRI is scheduled (which, apparently, can take about eighty-five years).

But in the meantime we've been doing some pretty crazy things. The first step was simply to gain strength in my arm, which had atrophied from several months of coddling. I started by lifting a small bottle of water at work, over and over again, and eventually I graduated to an antique tape-dispensing machine. Do you know how hard it is to find objects which weigh about four pounds, but are easy to grasp and don't wobble around?

Anyway, now my arm is strong enough that I no longer shake while lifting a spoon to my mouth. In the meantime I've been doing daily exercises simply to get my shoulder loosened up again, and in the process we've learned two things.

First, my shoulder simply won't rotate outwards. If I hold out both my arms and turn my palms up, my right palm will only go 3/4 of the way and -- even more disconcerting -- my elbow tilts crazily inwards. If I try to rotate my palm any further it simply doesn't work, because the problem isn't with my wrist or with my elbow, it's with my shoulder.

Second, I sweat a lot, which is weird because my exercises are not particularly strenuous (though they do hurt). As a result my deodorant wears off halfway through the day and I've had a sudden rash of acne across my forehead. I've been trying to narrow this problem down by gradually removing environmental stimuli -- Advil, peanut butter, rolled-down toque, coffee, etc. -- but I'm forced to conclude that this "social problem" is due to either exercise, stress, or pain-wracked interrupted sleep.

So I've upgraded my deodorant and I've started using an acne face wash. Sigh.

This brings me to the most recent development. Last week, Liz got a wild hair and decided to stop pussyfooting around. She belted my arm to her waist again -- which last time caused such agony -- and just started pulling at it. I yelped, she waited, and then she pulled again...and my arm went a little bit further.

We continued this for ten minutes or so -- she'd pull, I'd yelp, she'd tell me to push back, then she'd pull further -- and by the end of that time my arm had moved two inches in a direction that previously had proved impossible...AND some of the non-stop pain and stiffness was gone! She said something about the pain reaction of tendons but all I could think was: time to push into the pain.

So that's what I've been doing. I put my arm into a position that hurts, then I push it a bit, sweat, moan, and wait for the pain to stop. Then I push further. I have become intimately familiar with my walls, because I can push against them and they don't move away. Doors are even better because I can hold them still with my leg and sort of curl around them. It hurts something terrible but I gain a centimeter of pain-free movement each day...and it continues to work the following day!

The downside of this is the intense, shooting agony in my bicep and forearm, which really comes into its own when I try to sleep at night. But obviously I'm making some sort of progress and that can only be a good thing.

PS: If you have an injury, I AM NOT SUGGESTING YOU TRY THIS.

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