01 Mar 2010

Drawing in

Last Monday I finally saw a doctor regarding my shoulder. Actually, I saw a doctor for a number of reasons, none of which had anything to do with my shoulder. While there I casually mentioned that my shoulder had been hurty for the past two years. Whilst I have seen my doctor quite regularly during all that time, I never bothered to mention my shoulder until last week. Why did it take me so long? I don’t know. I suppose I thought if I ignored it, eventually it would just go away. Anyway, the doc asked me to get to my feet and pulled my arm this way and that, and then issued this diagnosis: a partially frozen shoulder. This is actually good news.

I had heard the term “frozen shoulder” before, but assumed it meant a shoulder frozen or locked into one position. Since my arm was capable of some movement, I never thought the term applied to me. Now, knowing it does means I have a whole new thing to research, and that’s what I’ve been doing this week.

It didn’t take a lot of Googling to discover Trigger Point massage. This is a technique I can use myself, in the relative quiet of my own home and one which apparently works more quickly than more traditional therapeutic routes. Which is good because I don’t think the “traditional route” will be open to me for a long time yet. Last week a letter arrived from the hospital telling me that when I get another letter, I can call and they will give me an appointment in another month. So it could be months before I see a specialist, let alone get any actual physical therapy which, according to what I’ve read, isn’t all that effective when it comes to frozen shoulders.

So. I ordered the book and the ball and the cane, and I waited anxiously for their arrival and, finally, on Friday they came. And now I’m on day four of my Trigger Point routine which, although somewhat painful to implement, actually seems to be working. Really. I have less pain in my shoulder than I did four days ago. Truly. It’s early days yet, of course, but I am feeling empowered and optimistic about my recovery. I love being in the driver’s seat of my own health care. Don’t ask why it took me so long to grab the wheel. I really don’t know.

Oddly, as the pain in my shoulder decreases, I now seem to be hurty everywhere else. The pain isn’t new, however. It’s probably been with me for a while. It’s just that my shoulder has been screaming so loudly for so long, I couldn’t hear anything else. The decrease in shoulder pain has made me more aware of the rest of my body. It’s also made me realize how much of myself I’ve lost, albeit slowly, over the two years I’ve been dealing with this pain.

It’s not rocket surgery. Pain limits movement, your body draws in on itself, you begin to do less and less, and your world gets smaller, so your muscles shorten and your body draws in. It’s a self perpetuating cycle, that usually happens so slowly you don’t even notice, until it’s too late, and then all you can do is look back at what you’ve lost.

Which brings me to this week’s Multi Media Monday video, People in Order. I’ve watched this little film many, many times, and it never fails to make me smile, and seems to teach me something new about the human condition every time I watch it. As I near the half century mark myself, it will probably come as no surprise that I pay particular attention to the last half of this film. In fact, I am fascinated by the last 25 or so people in this video, because among them I see evidence of drawing in, but also evidence that the last decades of one’s life can be robust ones. I don’t know about you, but I find the prospect of a robust latter life quite appealing.

All of this to say that there may be a point in midlife where one decides to make some changes and perhaps pay more attention to things like wellness and diet and exercise. Because the alternative – drawing in and the diminished little world that brings with it – really sucks. And if there is a point in life where one does that, I think I’ve reached it.

Posted on March 1, in Blog


  1. CityMinx wrote:

    oh i LOVE that short film! going to repost it if you don’t mind.

    glad to hear the shoulder’s better.

    Posted on 3.1.10 ·
  2. Sara wrote:

    that is FANTASTIC news re your shoulder, as well as the insights re “drawing in” and doing what you can to reverse that. Taking charge is awesome on so many levels – for one, it’s working – for another, the mental impact of that empowerment is great.

    If you can find a “rolfer” in your area I’d recommend a trial session to see if it’d help any of what you describe. Rolfers work on structural integration – releasing stuck areas of muscles and getting things realigned. It has changed my life – I no longer suffer frequent muscle spasms in my back, and it has changed my mechanics while on the ice (I’m an aging figure skater) – allowing things to happen that I just couldn’t do before. Many folks go to deal with an injury – and from what you describe, it’s worth a visit to see if it helps πŸ™‚ It also falls under the realm of non-traditional techniques.

    I’m so glad for this update!

    Posted on 3.1.10 ·
  3. Kelly wrote:

    Good luck with your self/medical treatments. I’m hoping hard for you. Hope you’re reading lots too.

    Posted on 3.1.10 ·
  4. meg wrote:

    Yoga my dear … try it … slowly at first … but try. See you soon … the moving is coming a pace.

    Posted on 3.1.10 ·
  5. Colleen wrote:

    That’s wonderful news! Perhaps this was the reason you had to stop knitting for a while–to pay some attention to yourself.

    Posted on 3.1.10 ·
  6. Carol wrote:

    Love the film – been doing my own ‘drawing in’ at around 50 – and trying not to.

    I agree with Meg – Yoga – slowly and gently (it’s not a competition). It will help all those aching body parts that might have been compensating. I haven’t been to the chiropractor for low back issues for over a year and a half. Started the yoga 2 years ago.

    Posted on 3.1.10 ·
  7. Joanne wrote:

    I wish that book was around when my shoulder froze up!

    I went to the specialist, went to pt and did all the exercises. It helped some. Then one spring day I just said the h with it I’m going kayaking – if it hurts too much I’ll stop. When I started paddling I felt this little pop in my shoulder and the pain was gone!

    My chiropractor also showed me an exercise when I thought it was freezing up again. His trick made it go away.

    Your medicine will do at least as much as the docs. Good luck!

    Posted on 3.1.10 ·
  8. kathleen wrote:

    Oh, I just love the film! My grandmother lived to be 97–I swear, as she grew older she gained strength from outliving people:) (Okay, she was Irish, and you know that dark sense of humor they have.)

    Anyhow, good thing you aren’t in the States–a couple of years ago my husband had a shoulder pain problem and his doc sent him to an orthopedic surgeon who, no surprise, wanted to operate, and even scheduled an operation before R left the office. (You know that phrase, to a hammer, everything is a nail?) After my husband had a chance to reflect he decided that was pretty drastic and got a second opinion from a non-surgeon who asked him “Did Dr. X even examine you?” (Well, he hadn’t, all he had done was look at an MRI.) So, anyhow, no surgery, a diagnosis of frozen shoulder, but a few months of PT (which, in this case worked.)

    It sounds like you have a really good doctor. πŸ™‚

    Take care. Be well.


    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  9. Naomi wrote:

    Brenda, that’s great news about your shoulder! I am so glad you are doing better. Even if recovery is slow, at least it is happening now. Best wishes!

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  10. Deb Demoney wrote:

    Just saw a commercial for a new scrubber sponge that is biodegradable, and that can be sanitized in the dishwasher and re-used. It’s called Scotch Brite Greener Cleaner. An answer to your scrubbing prayers, and you don’t have to make it yourself. They say it lasts as long as 60 rolls of paper towels, for what that’s worth. It looks as if the scrubby part is made from loofah.

    I doubt they’re available in Wales yet, but I’d be happy to send some to you if you like.

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  11. Jaimee wrote:

    Sending happy thoughts! Best of luck with everything!

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  12. M-H wrote:

    Sore shoulders are really common among women of ‘a certain age’, along with sore feet. But it looks as if you’ve discovered the secret: take charge! I see an osteopath frequently, and I’d third the vote for yoga (or pilates, or Tai Chi). Any gentle exercise that keeps you flexible.

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  13. Frozen shoulder is absolutely reversible! I SO wish I were there to poke holes in you and do my osteopathic tricks … I’ll try to do some out-of-body visiting tonight while I sleep. *grin*

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  14. Nik wrote:

    I think it’s excellent that your shoulder is “thawing out” from the frozen shoulder(My attempt at a joke). Please, continue to get better.

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  15. Rae Kaiser wrote:

    I have that cane and love it. This morning I went back to my hand weight work out. Years ago I worked with a personal trainer with the goal of getting a home hand weight work out. I feel better when I do it. Unfortunately with our last 2 moves my weights went in storage. But they are back and so am I. If you want me to send you the work out I will.

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  16. Deborah in NC, USA wrote:

    Yes, Brenda. I miss you too. And of course I wish you healing and ease and wellness and grieve for your loss of knitting and celebrate your (re)discovery of other creative expression…. But I wanted to say as others have that I personally would still most definitely love to hear another podcast from you regardless of the knitting. Not in a selfish “I need you to entertain me” sort of way, but in the way that I miss a close friend when I haven’t heard her voice in a while. Because you have become that for me and many others, I suspect. You’ve shared your frustrations, your sadness, your victories with me, your favorite songs, your hikes, your garden, your dinner, your whiskey, your children… You don’t know me, but I am your friend, and I miss you. First and foremost (of course) take care of yourself, dear. But if you feel up to recording something I’m sure there are lots of us who will be really truly very glad to hear from you.

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  17. Denyse wrote:

    I was recently diagnosed with frozen shoulder too. I’m the 4th vote for yoga along with acupuncture and moxa sticks. Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery! πŸ™‚

    Love & Gentle Hugs,

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  18. Lisa Jacobs wrote:

    When I turned 50 2 years ago I went through the ‘ok so what is really important for me to do now, not 2 years or 10 years from now, but now’ thought process brought on by a combination of little niggly health issues and the realisation that time on this earth is fleeting (brought home by a friend dying way too young and leaving 2 little girls). Once you get over the hump, you will feel free and I predict, happier than ever before. Yes, I have hurty knees everytime I get up from the table but that doesn’t stop me learning how to tap dance..something I’ve always wanted to do but somehow never found the time/had the opportunity to do previously.
    Anyway, glad to hear that your frozen shoulder is receiving the appropriate attention. Hope it improves presto pronto!

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  19. martha in mobile wrote:

    How wonderful that you have reached that point of decision so early in your middle years! My mother came to that point in her 70’s — she joined a women’s gym and hired a personal trainer. She broke her hip when she was 79 and made a perfect recovery. Hooray for the recognition that casual good health morphs into deliberately pursued health!

    Posted on 3.2.10 ·
  20. Terrie wrote:

    I’m glad your shoulder is starting to feel better! Best of luck with everything πŸ™‚

    Posted on 3.3.10 ·
  21. Jennifer wrote:

    I hope you find a treatment that works for you! I have fibromyalgia and years ago they thought some of my pain was a frozen shoulder. I remember in physio therapy they had me lie on my back with my arm straight up in the air and “write” out the alphabet in large letters with my whole arm. Maybe you could try that along with the trigger point massage while you wait for conventional treatment? Good luck!

    Posted on 3.3.10 ·
  22. Just wanted to let you know how much I miss your podcasts. You can change the format to make it easier on yourself – tell us what you’re not knitting! You get my point, right? By the way – I have ms and a bit of arthritis – not much – but I absolutely cannot knit with metal needles! (I think maybe your adi’s aren’t helping your condition!) Apparently the bamboo and knitpicks needles absorb the shock so it doesn’t flow to my hands. I hurt my shoulder and had a bit of a tear. Physical therapy help and now I’m fine – it did take quite a while, though. Put a nice, cozy bathrobe in the clothes dryer and wrap yourself up before you go to bed with your hot water bottle. Spring is coming!

    Posted on 3.3.10 ·
  23. Estyn wrote:

    Thanks so much for sharing this! And congratulations on telling the doc. May you be pain-free very very soon.

    Posted on 3.3.10 ·
  24. I’m hoping hard for you. Hope you’re reading lots too.

    Posted on 3.4.10 ·
  25. lily wrote:

    You can’t leave NOW. I have just discovered you! And knitting. AND I TOO HAVE HAD A FROZEN SHOULDER FOR THE PAST YEAR AND A HALF!

    I’m just going to have to wander through past podcasts, like a lone voice calling ‘ … is somebody there? …’

    YOGA is the answer.

    Posted on 3.4.10 ·
  26. Jen wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Trigger point therapy can be VERY effective. But it can also be very helpful to go get a relaxation massage (Swedish massage) to help with those other aches and pains and the compensating the rest of your body has been doing and to just give your body the chance to feel connected again and have an overall sense of well being. Good luck with everything and I hope you’re feeling well enough to come back soon!


    Posted on 3.5.10 ·
  27. Patricia wrote:

    Frankly, I don’t know what anyone else has said here. Glad to know an ETA, as I thorougly enjoyed your early January podcast and slightly deflated every time there was a “non-download.” Thoroughly trusted that there was a sensible reason but refused to come and investigate.

    You are the only reason I listen to any other knitting podcast. Sad but true. Your podcast, indirectly, provides the basis for all others. You are the Meta-knitting-podcast. Gee – I’d reduce frequency too!

    Here’s hoping your shoulder heals, and that you get just pissed off enough about *something* to tell us all about it, because while Ravelry is what got me here I am no longer a regular on Ravelry. Ravelry is awesome but online time takes away from my knitting and Ravely was killing me!

    Posted on 3.11.10 ·

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