It's 2020 So Of Course I Developed a Frozen Shoulder

by - Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Friends, I can't even believe this is a blog post I'm writing. But hey, it's 2020 so maybe I shouldn't be surprised that I had a completely random injury/medical situation spring up out of nowhere. 

I have a frozen shoulder. 


What's a frozen shoulder? 

It's an incredibly painful condition that drastically reduces (or in my case basically eliminates) all range of motion in the shoulder joint. 

What causes it? 

Who know!? No seriously, my orthopedic doctor said there can be sometimes a link between diabetes or thyroid issues and frozen shoulders, but since I have neither of those things, I'm one of many mysterious cases where this just happens for no reason. 

What the heck happened?

That's a great question and honestly, I don't know. Sometime back in August, I realized it really hurt to tuck my arm under my head in bed. I used to read laying on my shoulder, and I just couldn't anymore. My arm would not move that way. 

That was weird, and kind of alarming, but I thought maybe I just overdid a workout or something. 

Well, the condition didn't improve. In fact, things got worse fast. Suddenly I couldn't really reach up over head anymore. And then I couldn't reach across my body. I yelped in pain one night on the sofa when I quickly turned to point at something out the window and hot flashes of pain and numbness flowed down my arm. 

The last, and perhaps most annoying, movement that disappeared was the ability to reach behind my back. It's a good thing we're in quarantine and I'm living the sports bra life because I physically cannot perform the movement necessary to fasten a regular bra. 

So yea, I'm in lots of pain and I'm incredibly frustrated. 

So how do you fix that?

Another great question.

In positive news, frozen shoulders typically resolve on their own. In negative news, it can takes as long as one to two years. Sometimes physical therapy can help. So I had my first PT session last night. My doctor warned me it would hurt, and he wasn't kidding. 

So now, I get to start every day with torturous stretches and exercises to try to force my joint to become unstuck. A couple of the exercises I can manage OK, but two of them literally bring tears to my eyes because my arms just can't move the way I need it to. 

I have to stick to this routine for 30 days and then we'll reassess. 

My doctor also offered me a cortisone shot to help with the pain and inflammation. I turned it down for now because I wanted to see if PT would help (and because I like to avoid needles at cost because they make me pass out). However, if in 30 days I'm not feeling great about how PT is going, I'll probably revisit that as an option. 

Of all the injuries I've had over the years, this is not the worst or the most debilitating, but it might be the most annoying in daily life. I've been frustrated every time I find a new movement I can't do, like picking up a dumbbell off the floor to put it away yesterday caused pain, but it didn't the day before. Opening the blinds in my living rooms is not something I can do with my right arm anymore because it involves reaching overhead and applying slight pressure to a piece of fabric. Simple every day tasks now either cause pain or force me to figure out a different way to do them. 

In the grand scheme of things, this is hardly the end of the world, but it's frustrating and it's so on brand for 2020.

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  1. My SO had a frozen shoulder several years ago but with a clearly identified cause and a medical treatment that may not have been suggested to you.
    The cause was a vaccination administered in a retail pharmacy - incorrect position, angle, and or depth. The typical injection site reaction gradually became more painful and the shoulder finally froze. It seems that the needle reached the bursa and caused an inflammation that grew worse, not better with time.
    The medical treatment was light anesthesia, physical manipulation of the shoulder (by a strong doctor), followed by some pain meds and stretching exercise. Way faster than 'letting it resolve' and a good outcome.
    Just thought this might add a useful option for you to consider.
    Wishing you a wildly wonderful holiday and a quick recovery in the new year.