If you, or someone you know has received a Frozen ShoulderA condition where shoulder movement becomes very limited and painful. The cause is often unknown, bu More Diagnosis, do not despair. There are helpful professionals and excellent resources, but most of all there is hope. With patience, persistence, and time, you will begin to heal. I know this to be true.
Adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder is a debilitating and painful medical condition. Discomfort and reduced mobility significantly disrupt activities of daily life. The three phases consisting of freezing, frozen, and thawing are well documented. Recovery can be slow, painful, costly, and filled with uncertainty.
It happened to me. I experienced frozen shoulder lasting over two years. It began in my left arm. I suffered, worked hard at getting better, and eventually began to heal.
What follows is an uncomfortable, unedited, and true account of my new life with frozen shoulder. The first few months.
Image by Janice Tovey 2020
The Beginning of Frozen Shoulder
I was no stranger to pain. Having experienced the typical strains and discomforts associated with aging, I thought I was pretty tough. Stuff like childbirth, migraines, and the odd sports related injury. A little kayaking was one of my favorite activities. The feeling of being one with the water was rejuvenating. That was at least until a pesky new breed of pain reared its ugly head.
In late 2019, an unrelenting dull ache would rouse me from sleep. I puffed up pillows, rolled onto one side, and naively assumed that this too would pass.
It did not.
Two weeks into my new life, I started popping anti-inflammatories. The insidious pain chipped away at my mental and physical health. A sleep deprived body burned with so many questions. My tired brain was falling behind.
I was a stranger in my own skin. The left shoulder was in phase one. It was starting to freeze.
I didn’t understand what was happening. I had been just fine. It was now late November 2019. I was busy preparing for the holidays. I was doing things I enjoyed. Shopping, sewing, wrapping, baking, and decorating. I needed this unwelcome intruder to go away.
I was fairly active. This shouldn’t be happening to me. I walked five times a week, practiced beginner yoga, and performed some basic stretches.
I worked at a public library. Admittingly, there was considerable lifting, pushing, bending, and computer work. My arms and back were occasionally sore, but this was different somehow.
My New Reality
Over the ensuing month, I became witness to a steady decrease in my range of motion. I gradually lost the ability to move my left arm and shoulder. I did my best with gentle stretches and hot showers. Pencil marks on our kitchen wall were a sobering reminder of my declining agility. The bathroom mirror became my constant companion. The distance of my reach seemed to be my new obsession.
Frozen shoulder is idiopathic. The cause is often unknown. This did little for my confidence.
Predisposing factors may include: being female, diabetes, stroke,
mastectomy, rotator cuffThe rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that attach the shoulder blade to the upper arm b More injuries, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, age, and stress. I was female, over forty, and like all of us, had stress.
I needed help. A month of unrelenting discomfort forced me to the doctor. She recommended physiotherapy.
I was treated with ice, heat, cupping, laser, and gentle stretches. This provided temporary relief at best.
I declined a cortisone injection. Having done a significant amount of research, I decided this was not the best option for me. It didn’t feel right.
It was getting closer to the New Year. I was not improving. The pain woke me nightly. My nerves were frayed and my emotions on the brink of collapse. Nothing seemed to help. I could feel myself getting worse.
Another month passed. I returned to my doctor feeling depressed, anxious, and just a little desperate. The range of motion in my left arm was now severely restricted. The constant pain felt almost inhumane.
Frozen shoulder had never been on my radar. I had heard of bursitis, rotator cuff injuries, and tendonitis. Not this.
Happy New Year?
As the dawn of another New Year was ushered in, “stuff” hit the proverbial fan.
I was attempting to towel dry after a shower. I was unable to reach behind my back. My left arm was no longer functional. The pain in my shoulder, neck, and arm was, well, “disarming.”
After greetings of a Happy 2020, my physiotherapist confirmed that my left arm was indeed frozen. I was devastated. I thought of those little pencil marks on my kitchen wall. The faint scratches that confirmed my ever diminishing mobility.
There was nothing left to measure.
My house was becoming a mess. I could not vacuum, reach to clean, do washing, open the dishwasher, shower, wash or dry my hair, fasten a seatbelt, drive a car, put on a coat, pick up my little dog, or dress myself. A poncho was my best friend.
My husband had to pitch in, a lot. My frozen shoulder took a toll on him, our children, our family, and our life.
I remember overhearing a comment from a stranger, “some people will do almost anything to get out of housework eh?” I felt demoralized and misunderstood.
Feeling isolated, alone, and in pain, I began declining social invitations.
Fast Forward Two Months
In late January, I was really not feeling well. In most cases, pain ceases when a shoulder freezes. I was the exception.
In an attempt to raise my sagging spirits, I was assured that a frozen shoulder does not usually occur twice in the same arm. Whew! That was something at least. However, my therapist continued, strategically avoiding eye contact, there is always the remote possibility of your other arm freezing.
And that dear friend, is the beginning of a whole other story.
You can read Janice’s next blog here- Freezing, Frozen & Thawing – My 3 Phases of Frozen Shoulder.
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