Monday, November 21, 2011

Trauma equals traffic

I've been running this blog for over a decade now. In that time the second most trafficked post is Broken Wrist, Day 15. Still today, "broken wrist" features in two of the top ten keyword sets which bring traffic to To say I'm surprised would be an understatement.

But give the people what they want, right? So here's another story of personal medical trauma.

For four recent months I had no strength in my left shoulder and couldn't raise that elbow above shoulder height. It doesn't sound particularly awful but it interfered with even simple things like trying to put on a t-shirt, or carrying @thebeean in my left arm, or getting her in her car seat (inherently a left-handed activity). My shoulder would fall out of joint even with the weight of cradling Lux's head in my arm at bedtime.

It started with a fall down the stairs in early August: in socks, rushing down our polished wooden staircase one evening to comfort a crying @thebeean, I slipped and landed on my backside but also on my left hand. In medical circles, I later learned, they call this a "foosh": Fall Onto Out-Stretched Hand. My arm was straight and locked, and all the force went directly to my shoulder.

It was only a couple of weeks until I realized that the injury wasn't minor, and only a couple of weeks after that that I gave up waiting for it to get better on its own. I went to see my GP.

I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. At first he thought I had a sprained rotator cuff. He sent me for physiotherapy. I went to a bunch of appointments, did a slew of exercises at home, but there was really no improvement: after six weeks I still had severely restricted upward motion in my left arm. My physiotherapist sent me back to the orthopedic surgeon with a suspected torn labrum.

The surgeon took another look and decided it wasn't a labral tear and was indeed a sprained and inflamed rotator cuff. He explained my options: I could go for an MRI, or I could get a steroid shot into the joint. He also explained that the most likely outcome of the MRI would be that steroid shot. So hey, I opted for the shot, skipping the MRI.

It was unpleasant, no doubt about it. The doctor froze the flesh on the outside first—I couldn't feel the needle, it's true—but the cortisone burned and swelled and burned deep inside my shoulder joint. I certainly can't recommend it for the experience alone. He left the room and told me to gently move my arm around to spread the chemicals internally. He'd be back in five minutes.

You know what? During those five minutes I experienced what felt like nothing short of a healing miracle. By the time the doctor came back I'd got 170° of motion back into my left arm, up from a constant 110° over the last sixteen weeks. Right now, just over two weeks on, I'm using my arm fully again—including to carry Lux around. I can ride my bike again without discomfort; it's fantastic.

Here's the super gal I can now carry around properly:

Day 476
Overall I'd recommend the shot.

1 comment:

Eliane said...

I don't know how you managed for so long. I had calcined tendonitis in my right shoulder recently. Bloody agony! Could not move, no strength, in pain all the time. Had a steroid shot the day after I saw my doctor, and after my x-rays showed a strange cloudy lump where it shouldn't have been. Can't say it was miraculous immediately but I am all better and it was pretty quick. So happy you are also all better now.