A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Almost three weeks ago, I attended a beginner’s yoga class. I’d attended that one a couple times before, along with some more advanced classes.

As always, I only did a few chatarangas and planks, backing off before shoulder pain set in. I took full wheel, which went smoothly (as usual).

Later that evening, my shoulder was in agony. The agony persisted to the next day. And the next. For almost two weeks.

The standard muscular soreness lasted a couple of days, as I’d expect. It was a workout for my shoulder, so I expected the tightness.

But the rest was weird. My shoulder kept clicking and thunking in the socket, and I couldn’t get it to sit right. (It’s done that at times in the last year or so when I overworked the shoulder, but typically not this painfully.) The familiar daily “pulling” pain was constant and present with a vengeance. By the end of each workday, I’d taken the max recommended 4000 mg of acetaminophen, which left my evenings… rough. It was difficult to keep schlepping up to the northern side of town twice or thrice a week for church board and committee meetings when I really just wanted to lie in bed–the best way to relieve the constant downward pull on my shoulder.

Over the last 3 years of this shoulder pain, I’ve made accommodations and found a new normal: wearing pants/jackets with pockets, keeping small pillows at desks, always using chairs with arms, doing rehab exercises, and daily “spoon” calculations. The pain was still present daily, but I could get through the workday without much issue most days.

Plus, I’ve found my perception of the pain has become… strange. The line between discomfort and pain is a blurry one for me now. There are times when I’m genuinely not sure if I’m just uncomfortable or in active pain; sometimes it’s whether I can’t sit still and I feel feverish (things that are out of my conscious control) that are the deciding factors. The fact that I still have an emotional/anxious reaction to incorrect joint behavior (e.g., feeling the shoulder not rotate smoothly in the socket) also complicates the issue.

But this renewed pain was worrying. So I “caved” and called the sports doctor I’d seen back in 2011. I’ve been pretty judgmental to myself over the years about this pain. I must have done “dumb” or “bad” things to cause the spur to develop. (Plus, I’ve never been particularly kind to my body.) I shouldn’t “whine” about the pain; just suck it up, especially at times like the Iceland trip where surely the awesomeness should totally outweigh the pain. (And it does… but ow.)

So when I went to the doc on Monday, I was surprised to hear them say I shouldn’t still be in so much pain. That the clicking/thunking/instability is likely a sign of a different issue, something that wouldn’t have shown on the normal MRI I had done in 2011.

They’ve scheduled an MRI with contrast and gave me some tramadol to help manage the pain, particularly with the upcoming Russia trip.

That was… a relief. I had assumed that I’d be stuck with that “normal” pain forever, with it only eventually worsening as I aged or did additional damage. I’d assumed that I was being weak by being hampered by this pain.

I’d assumed it was my due.

Now I’m faced with the idea that, if it’s what they think, surgery may be a viable and helpful option. Not that that would be painless, of course, and there’d be more focused rehab afterwards, but the idea that by the end of 2014 I might be pain-free? Pretty shocking.

My MRI is two days after I return from Russia, and my follow-up to go over the results is already scheduled for the Monday I return to work. For now, I’m enjoying the most pain-light/free time I’ve had in years.