Shouldering The Burden

By now most of you know I talk about everything and anything here, and much of it revolves around personal matters. Such is the case today, since 1. I have literally no ideas for posts, and 2. I’m looking for advice from you good people.

A few months ago, my left shoulder started bugging me. For years I would throw a football, baseball, or Frisbee to the kids, and my shoulder would hurt immediately. It’s like I would throw my shoulder out at the first toss. After a while the pain would subside, and I’d go on with my life.

When the gyms were open – thank you for nothing, Herr Wolf – I would experience some pain while shoulder presses. So, I’d either stop or adjust my body so the shoulder wasn’t a problem. I didn’t want to go to my primary doctor during the Chinese Wuhan Virus, because I figured they’d poo-poo it because of the “pandemic.”

Now the shoulder is worse. Shock, right?

If I fall asleep on my stomach, the shoulder moves overnight, and I wake up in a lot of pain. If the kids bump my shoulder, I’m in a lot of pain. If I pick up something heavy the wrong way, I want to scream. And believe me, I have a very high pain threshold.

I’m concerned it’s serious, and I told Mrs. Earp I could probably suck it up until 2024. I’m not sure I can get to my primary doctor before Christmas, but I’m beginning to think I need this taken care of.

My worry is this: if I need shoulder surgery, I may be out of work for a very long time. That would cost me a ton of my compiled sick time, which I could use to buy health insurance for a few years after I retire. I don’t know the usual recovery for something like this, but a coworker’s husband has been out nearly eight months already.

I can always go to work on limited duty status, and I only need one hand to type. (Of course, I’m left-handed and that’s the shoulder that’s messed up.) I’m not completely stupid – shut up – and I understand I need to at least get an MRI. I’m just wondering if it’s worse the hassle, or if I can actually suck this up until retirement.

Thoughts?

11 thoughts on “Shouldering The Burden

  1. Since I have no medical background, I have no advice. Well, other than maybe call Dr. Biden and ask her. Whoopi Goldberg wants her to be Surgeon General because she’s such a good doctor, so she may have good advice.

    I do know several people that had rotator cuff surgery. Most of them had long recoveries. Not what you want to hear though. I’ll keep you in my prayers and hope you find a solution.

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  2. Too early to think about worst case scenarios unless you already have some idea what it is. Could be arthrist, soft tissue injury, or a pinched this-that-other that is treatable with meds. The surgery you worry about might njot even be appropriate.

    As Monty Python says: “Always look on the bright side of life!”

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  3. My best advice is get it checked out. Early intervention can prevent later complications and pain. Get to a specialist if at all possible. My wife had shoulder issues (rotator cuff) and had her whole left joint replaced with titanium. She has a lot better life now than she had before surgery. Recovery does take time, but it’s an investment in a better life.

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  4. RG – I have nearly 1,900 sick hours accumulated, but if it has to be surgery, I’d want to get back to limited duty soon. Imagine being out for three months and how many jobs would be waiting.

    Loki – Kevin and Julia have been watching clips of Holy Grail. They’re hooked on it.

    Cathy – Are you new here? I worry about EVERYTHING!

    Bill – I’ve been to Rothman Orthopedics here for my knee. They’re great, but I think I’ll need an MRI first.

    Mikee47 – And, like Jesse Ventura in Predator, I’m a sexual tyrannosaurus, so I need to be in tip top shape.

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  5. Wyatt: Pain that wakes you up at night is almost certain a rotator cuff tear with impingement syndrome. An MRI will help delineate the underlying pathology, but most orthopods will immediately say you need surgery…(before you heal on your own)…but you can do exercises to help…I have rehabbed two rotator cuff injuries, and am now 100% recovered. You’ll need to do both sides, so both are strengthened equally. Start with baby weights, and ignore the looks in the gym. Use an incline board, hang a small weight to the floor and start doing gentle, ever enlarging circles, clockwise for twenty-five to fifty rotations, then counter-clockwise the same. If it hurts, do a couple more and then switch sides. Your goal is to do a few more each day. I started with 5# and now do 25#. Simple curls–work up your reps in the same way–I started with three pounds, and now use 20# for my whole routine. Shoulder shrugs-build your reps gradually–I started with 5 # and now do up to 700 with 20#. Standing triceps extensions (to the rear)–again build weights and reps gradually–I now do 50-100 with 20#, started with 5#. Internal/external rotation–hang weights straight down, gently turn them out, and then inwards–I touch the dumbbells in front, and then touch my posterior thighs with them–don’t try to overdo the weights, it is the motion, and rebuilding the joint surfaces you are after. Then, the most important, are broomstick exercises. These are passive at first, and then more active as you progress. Get a good quality broomstick at Lowes/Home Depot…cost about $5-6. There are some YouTube videos on these, but your goal is to put your shoulder joint through every range of motion possible. These are stretching, repetitive motion exercises, not strength building. Start with hands together in front and do forward and then backward rowing, with the affected side just holding on and going for a ride. (You can get more active with the affected side as you improve) Slide your hands out to the ends, and row with ever increasing circles, then return your hands to the middle, and then row the opposite direction–think of yourself as being on a paddleboard. Then simple lumbar twists, elevating the broomstick until your arms are skyward…start at waistline, then gradually go higher–this is a good lumbar stretch, and puts both shoulders through a good range of motion. Then put broomstick vertical in front of you, grasp at top, and do ever enlarging circles, left and then right, until you have made as large a circle as possible. Then in same position, flexion/extensions, pulling broomstick to you and then pushing away, angling away to each side 5-10 degrees each time, until you are pushing it almost backwards on each side. Then move stick to side, brace against your foot, extend your arm sideways, and do figure of eights, ever enlarging, until you’ve maxed them. Then, flexion/extension, pushing/pulling from front to rear. Do one side then the other. There are a few other exercises you may pick up from YouTube, but the idea is to do a complete range of motion, gradually building strength and remodeling your joint surface with repetitive motion. This routine has worked for me, several of my friends, and gym buddies, and we’ve avoided surgery. If this has been too confusing, shoot me an email, and maybe we can do a Facetime version. JR

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    1. Thanks Doc. I appreciate it. Gonna get an appointment with my primary then get an MRI. I’m not scared of surgery, but I worry about how long it’ll take to get back to work. (I’m weird like that.) If I have any questions, I’ll send you an email. Didn’t want to bother you during Christmas week.

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      1. No bother. Surgery + PT & rehab= 6-10 weeks. Try the conservative route first. Also diagnostic is pain on reaching up and forward to get something out of kitchen cabinets…I would recommend advil + tylenol ( 3 tabs + 2 capsules) once in morning, and if problems sleeping, repeat with 10 cc’s of Delsym cough syrup…works wonders…any questions, email…

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  6. Wyatt, if you wake up screaming in pain and it’s not Mrs. Earp doing the Lorena Bobbitt, you should get it checked. Pronto. Let a professional tell you the best course of treatment. And if it is surgery, probably better to take care of this while you’re still employed.
    Better the devil you know…

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  7. I’ve had muscle cramps from time to time. If I’m at home when I get one, I call my little Thai wife. Within a few minutes, she has located the spot that is causing the pain (it frequently is somewhere else, not the part that is hurting) and gets rid of it. She learned this from her mother, I think. While visiting her parents on the farm back in Thailand, I had an episode with in my ribcage. Her Mom had me lay down on my belly, and she started kneading my ankle, then began working her way up. Just before she made it to the back of my knee (thank God it was before!), suddenly it felt like fire was racing up my leg, past my sphincter (at that time it had reduced to a .05 mm diameter) and seared it’s way through the cramp. Whew! Painful as eating a live porcupine, but the relief was immediate and awesome.

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