Frozen Shoulder

A.V. Walters

I’m struggling with a frozen shoulder. (No, it’s got nothing to do with this cold weather that’s keeping the tomatoes from ripening! Our usual September heat is late.) It’s the second time this has happened, so it’s not a big surprise. I’m thinking back, a couple of decades, and remember that both my parents had trouble with frozen shoulders in their fifties. It happened to my mom twice, my dad, just the once. So, I figure I’m both due, and genetically doomed.

What is it? It’s an excruciating condition causing pain in the shoulder. Initially, it’s just a twinge when you reach, slowly escalating, until your arm hangs uselessly and the pain keeps you awake at night. It will often resolve on it’s own, eventually reversing its painful course after a mere 18 to 30 months! With therapy it can reverse faster—and, with less loss of range of motion that characterizes this dread condition. A friend of mine informed me that, in Japan, the common name for this condition is ‘Fifties Shoulder.’ Thanks! Just what I needed—another reminder, beyond my presbyopia, letting me know I’m over the hill.

I live too far out of town to bother with formal therapy. Between the time, the drive (gas and all) and the copay, I’ll pass on that. It’s not my style, anyway. I’m enormously stubborn when it comes to this kind of medical event, and the inevitable call for “professional” intervention. My sister says I’m so stubborn, that I’d perform my own brain surgery! I’m not quite that bad. (But, it does make me wonder if she thinks there’s something wrong with my brain, and that I should operate.) Okay, I’m the first to admit, I am medically “difficult.” Just show me what I need to do and I’ll take care of it on my own. You can learn a lot from the internet. (And, if you think a little knowledge is a dangerous thing…)

I wouldn’t be so cocky if I hadn’t just beaten it, with my right shoulder. After months of pain, I finally decided to research the therapy. I checked the net and asked my mother about her therapy sessions. Over a decade ago I had a long recuperative period after an auto accident. During that time, I got a survey course in the various and sundry methods of physical treatments. So now, I have a pretty good idea of the objectives and the techniques available. In January, I earnestly set to fixing my bad shoulder. It was painful but, in a couple of weeks, I had substantially increased my range of motion, and decreased the pain. In three months, I had it whipped. This time, (now, the left shoulder) I’m not going to let it get as far advanced as it had, before. I’m getting on it, right away.

It makes you wonder though—what does this ailment mean in the bigger picture? It’s usually self-correcting, albeit, after a painful run. So, it’s not just the inevitable, relentless decline of age. What bodily mechanism decides to throw the shoe into the works, only to fix itself, all without explanation? Of course, I have a theory. (See previous post, Presbyopia.) I believe that it is a natural part of the human cycle of interaction. Only by temporarily immobilizing the independent, but nearly-geriatric, can you get them to ask for help. That may be the only way to get the stubborn among us to slow down enough to show the next generation what needs to be done. So, if you haven’t already shared your knowledge of gardening, sewing, weaving, cooking or building—now’s the time. If it has to, your body will force you to ask, because these things must be done. The seasons wait for no one.

Well, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. I’m also using heat, massage and stretching. I get up from the computer frequently to vary my activities. I’m increasing my water intake. I’m determined to get back to normal as soon as possible. As I’ve said before, I’m a far shot from being ready for the ice floe. Really, I’m not dead yet—feeling better all the time—think I’ll go for a walk

And now, back to the garden.