Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Frozen Shoulder

The helplessness that comes with a frozen shoulder is frightening, but for a bodyworker it can incite panic. However, I was the same as anyone else when I woke up the day before my vacation and couldn't move my right arm at all without excruciating pain. I just wanted to know: how did this happen and how can I make it go away?

Although a frozen shoulder seems to come on suddenly, it’s usually the accumulation of many small injuries and a deprivation of healing. I could trace my initial injury to a day of weed whacking months before. I knew that I was doing too much, but I kept going to accomplish my goal. I remember telling my shoulder, "I know it hurts, but we need to get this done, and you'll recover." It did, but not completely. Then, about a week before my vacation, I strained it again dancing, worked for hours and hours using the computer mouse to finish editing the photographs for my book, and worked a heavier than usual schedule.

I learned how much I depend on my right arm. Even though I write with my left hand, I brush my hair, open doors, especially heavy ones, take things out of cupboards, and do all serious lifting with my right. It's entirely possible that my right shoulder was simply overworked and decided to unequivocally take a break.

I was fortunate to be able to give it true rest. It laid at my side for days and didn't lift anything including itself. My hair wasn't brushed well, because my left arm and hand are still developing the coordination to do so. I didn't lift a single bag on vacation. I didn’t open a door. My husband even dressed and undressed me. (While it may sound pleasant to be waited on hand and foot, my independent nature was often indignant.)

Rest was the first step in my healing process. Not the cheesy kind of rest that scales back 20 or 50%. Complete and total rest for four days. Also, I took ibuprofen twice a day for a week, even though I normally forgo medication, because it isn't “natural.”

I credit the warm, Mexican ocean with melting my rotator cuff. I stood in the water, up to my neck, and let the waves massage and mobilize my shoulder. I realize that most people won’t use the excuse of a sore shoulder to fly off to southern California, Mexico, or Hawaii (although it’s very good therapy), so I’ve researched some of our local, warm-water swimming pools. You can passively mobilize adhesions by walking in chest-deep water with limp arms. Check out these pools:

1) Bellevue Aquatic Center, 601 – 143rd St., Bellevue, 425-452-4444, therapy pool is 91 degrees.
2) St. Edwards Park Pool, 14445 Juanita Dr. NE, Kenmore, 425-823-6983, 84 degrees, discount given with prescription from physician,
3) Sammamish Club, 2115 NW Poplar Way, Issaquah, 425-313-3131, for members only, 83 degrees,

Rest and the warm, ocean waves were just what my shoulder needed to start healing. I’m not going to stop there. This time I’ll continue with physical therapy and Hellerwork until my range and strength is back to 100%. More importantly, this has given me the opportunity to create better balance in my body. I’m making a sincere effort to use my left arm to open doors and lift heavy objects, while being careful not to create the conditions for it to seize. Awareness and balance are resources that make injuries less frightening.

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