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Working Through The Pain

Shoulder Pain

I don’t know when it happened and I don’t know how.  But a couple of years ago I had seriously injured my right shoulder.  My shoulder would hurt from doing little, simple things like jumping down like from the bed of a truck to the ground.  If I let my right arm hang and do whatever the resulting jolt of pain would make it feel like someone was trying to pull my shoulder out of its socket.  The pain would be severe.  I could avoid the pain if I actually my shoulder muscles and kept my arm close to my body before sudden movements.  I would look like a stroke victim but the pain would be avoided.  If I used my right arm to pull open heavy doors my arm would pulse with eye watering pain.  Lifting heavy objects wasn’t a problem.  In that respect my right was as good as my left.  But extending my right arm and sudden movements had to be avoided and I’m right handed.

I will never forget the day I found a flying bug in the house.  The locals called them stink bugs and they were very prolific for the time of year.  One had managed to get in the house and I was going to get it before it could release its foul spray.  I rolled up the paper and moved in for the kill.  I slowly moved across the room and raised my bug killing arm, the right one.  I swung as if I was A. Rod on hypodermic delivered “vitamins”.   To say that my arm felt like it was on white flame, plasma fire doesn’t do the pain justice.  It was as if all the nerves in my teeth were being scrubbed with eighty grit sandpaper and all that pain was being focused to my shoulder.  I screamed like I’ve never screamed in my life.  My legs buckled and I lost my balance.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  The only thing I could think to do was to roll over on to my shoulder and use gravity to put pressure on my arm to put it back in its socket.  Everybody in the house came running.  I’m not sure but I think somebody came in the room with a bat thinking I was being attacked.  It took about fifteen minutes for the pain to go away.  And to top it all off I missed that freaking bug.  I wasn’t even close.

I was told to go to the doctor.  I had something that started with a B and sounded like bronchitis but escapes me at the moment.  Somebody knew some woman who had the same symptoms I exhibited.  That woman had to go the rest of her life getting occasional pain shots.  It was suggested that if I wanted the pain to go away I was going to have to get some cortisone injections.  The thought of getting pain shots for the rest of my life bothered me.  I wasn’t working at the time and I didn’t have anything that remotely resembled medical coverage.  A doctor’s visit was going to be an unwelcome expense.  But what was my main concern was having a preexisting condition as part of my medical record.  A doctor’s visit wasn’t totally out of the question.  But it was on the back burner.  I decided to try and work it out.  I had to get into a gym.

The apartment complex I stayed in had a workout center off the swimming pool with one of those multi station workout machines along with a complete range of dumbbells, a couple of treadmills, an ellipse machine, and an exercise bike.  When I would try to do something like a military press, where you’re sitting upright and lifting a barbell off the chest and straight up, it proved extremely difficult to perform.  Compared to my left shoulder my range of motion of my right arm was severely impacted.  When I would lift dumbbell weights in front of the mirror my right shoulder went through a series of distortions trying to keep up with the left.  It was quite disturbing.  While my left side was strong enough to do certain exercises with a thirty five pound dumbbell, my right side, supposedly the dominant side, was limited to about twenty five pounds.  I was mortified.  I used to do these exercises with twice that weight.  But a bum shoulder’s got to start somewhere.  After eight months I got stronger.  But working out in that little room at the complex my shoulder never completely healed itself.

I left that apartment complex and moved to an area that was much more convenient for me getting back into working out at the local Bally’s health and spa.  However, I stopped working out for a while.  After months of going without a job I had lost interest in working out.  Without a job and virtually penniless I couldn’t even afford the gas to go back and forth to the gym.  Even if I could afford it my head wasn’t straight and I had no energy.  I’m pretty sure it was depression.  I heard months of unemployment can do that to a person.

But when I started my new job it was like life bloomed again.  Suddenly, I had to go back to the gym just to be able to get back into my professional clothing.  I’m going to have to work off at least a couple of inches.  But regardless, going back to the Bally’s was like going back to an old friend.

About a couple months after I started working out at the gym with the peace of mind of a job, I suddenly realized that my shoulder restored itself.  I made a workout program that had me doing legs one day and chest, back, and shoulders another day.  Initially I thought I had lost some strength again.  I couldn’t even lift the weight I used back at my old apartment complex.  However, with a full gym at my disposal I was sure it would only be a matter of time before I was back to what I used to lift at the apartment.  And I thought it would be a month or two after that before I’m back to a comfortable body size or weight or strength that I will be happy with.  But that one morning I was working out and I realized that the stiffness and pain associated with extending my right arm was gone was like Christmas.  The distortions the right side of my body went through to keep up with the left were gone as well.  But the real test came when I simulated the jump from the bed of a truck.  I stood on the fourth step from the bottom and jumped to the landing.  No pain, big gain!

And I didn’t need any drugs.  When I made that swing to kill that bug and my pain receptors went bizerk I would not have refused one of those pain killing Star Trek hypo sprays out of a starship doctor’s futuristic black bag of tricks.  If I had medical coverage at the time I probably would’ve ran to the doctor as soon as I stopped seeing stars.  I would have gladly taken a cortisone shot and would have praised my doctor each and every subsequent visit to get another one.  But that wasn’t a very attractive option at the time and I had to do something a little different.  It took a few years, but I’m happy to put whatever was causing me so much pain off for at least another few years.  In the mean time I’ll keep going to the gym and do my best to keep arthritis at bay.  Where’s that freaking stink bug now?

Monday, July 27, 2009 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts, Universal Healthcare


  1. Hey Brother P,

    Glad to hear the shoulder doesn’t hurt like it did before. It always sucks wen a seemingly simple and easy task suddenly takes you down. I remember the time I tore a muscle in shoulder/neck area (the traps). I had been hurling baseballs from center field to homeplate all evening. I never gave it much thought, as I had been doing this for a couple years. (my dad eventually gave u playing adult softball after throwing his shoulder out doing the same thing) The next day my little sister and I got into a fight of sorts. I was straddled over her trying to shake her into compliance, when she grabed my arm and gave it a short simple jerk. NJext thing I know I can’t barely move my neck, and that hot searing pain you talked about shot through my neck, along the inside of my shoulder blade and up into my shoulder.

    I couldn’t even pick up a baseball, much less throw one in that night’s game. I cried pretty hard. First because of the pain, and also because I just got beat up by a girl, who also happened to be my LITTLE sister. And my dad and my “2nd dad” (my coach) made me tell my teammates EXACTLY why I couldn’t play in that last and very important little league game. Made me pay a lot more attention to what I do with my body for sure.

    Despite wanting the painkillers at the time, glad you let the body heal itself. I often think that those things make your body reliant on them, so that it requires them from then on out. Glad it worked itself out some without needing all the expensive modern miracles of medicine. (although it would’ve still been nice to know you had the insurance, I’m sure)

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Tuesday, July 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the feedback Mike Lovell,

    I tell you the more we talk the more we see that we’re a lot alike. I got my ass kicked by a bug without it even doing anything, your sister gets you right in your Achilles Arm. Does that make us both wimps?


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Tuesday, July 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. My mother had bursitis in her right shoulder and got those cortisone injections and finally surgery followed by physical therapy. She was fine for a while, but the end result — at age 93 — she doesn’t use this arm much and it stays close to her side.

    So this is what full medical treatment might have meant for you, although the jury is still out on how that arm will feel when you’re 93.

    Comment by Bettina Hansel | Tuesday, July 28, 2009 | Reply

  4. Brother P-

    Not only am I a wimp apparently, but I’m also being summoned to turn in my man card. My Supervisor and I were talking about certain buildings we go to nightly, or respond to alarms at, that give us the willies. So much for being big macho men!!

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | Reply

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