Last year I messed up my left shoulder. I remember exactly how and when I did it, although at the time, it didn’t seem too bad. I had some flat packed office furniture delivered for the home office. Signed for it and then decided to carry it upstairs. Being impatient to see the new stuff in situ I decided to carry it on my own rather than wait for any help.
The chair was easy, the bookcase wasn’t too bad but by the time I got to the desk, my body was telling me to slow down, but I carried on anyway. It was an awkward shape so I ended up taking all the weight in my left hand and steadying it with my right. Half way up the stairs I felt a pain in my left shoulder, managed to get to the top but had to put it down and drag it the rest of the way.
I rubbed my shoulder, the pain went away and I thought nothing of it.
The next day the pain was back and worse, the day after it was worse still and within a week I had severely restricted movement in my shoulder. Trying to lift my arm out to the side resulted in a stabbing pain in my shoulder joint, reach behind me and I regretted it instantly. About two weeks after my desk arrived I trod on the pet cat. You know how they always run criss-cross in front of you around the house, especially on the stairs for some strange reason.
Well Tommy managed to get right under my feet this time and I trod on her. (Yep, Tommy is a girl. Ask my five year old son who named her) As my foot came down, I realised that there was something soft and large underneath it so threw my weight to one side to stop me hurting her, lost my balance and fell, putting out my hand to stop myself. Yes the left hand.
My wife said that I went completely white. She thought I was having a heart attack. So did I for a moment. The pain was unbelievable. Possibly worse than childbirth!
The next day I went to the doctor. This wasn’t going to get better on its own.
Torn rotator cuff was the diagnosis, confirmed by an MRI scan. With impingement of the Supraspinatus . I was given a steroid injection in the hope that this would settle things down and after a couple of weeks it seemed better, but then after a few more weeks it came back. My second visit to the specialist confirmed that surgery was the answer. Fortunately, living in the UK there was a waiting list of up to three months. Why fortunately, because of what happened next.
Being a keen swimmer, golfer and squash player, left handed of course, I wanted to get my shoulder back to pre injury standard as soon as possible. I could putt but not drive, squash was just not going to happen and swimming was fine as long as I didn’t try crawl, which was of course my favourite stroke.
So rather than waiting for surgery, which I was very nervous about, I started researching the injury on the internet to see if there was anything that I could do to improve things in the meantime.
I found out a great deal about how the rotator cuff is made up and certainly understood my injury a lot better than I originally had.
Basically there are four muscles that hold your shoulder joint together and also help it to move. Without them, your shoulder would simply fall apart. One of the reasons that it is relatively easy to dislocate a shoulder is that it is an open ball and socket joint rather than an enclosed joint like the hip joint.
If you damage any of these muscles the shoulder starts to work less effectively often putting extra strain on the remaining three muscles.
In my case I had damaged one of the tendons of the Supraspinatus muscle. This muscle runs under the clavicle or collar bone and this was what was causing me problems. Where the tendon was damaged it was enflamed and swollen so no longer fitted comfortably into its normal position. Every time I was moving the shoulder it was getting trapped and pinched, hence the pain.
The steroid injection had helped short term by reducing the swelling but as it wore off the pain returned.
What I also discovered is that surgery, although necessary in some cases, can be avoided through careful exercise. So with one month still to go until my operation date I am now pain free, swimming and starting to play golf again. As for Squash , I am beginning to think that it is a game for younger men than me so maybe even though I’m confident that I could play again I think I’ll just retire gracefully and focus on my Golf handicap.