Frozen Shoulder, Why Hello Again.

Once again, I'm going to have to put my dreams of competing on American Ninja Warrior on hold. I've been diagnosed with frozen shoulder. Again. 

My first bout of frozen shoulder occurred pre-pandemic, five falls ago to be exact. It started with minor pain and stiffness, but within two months, I had lost all ability to raise or rotate my right arm, making daily tasks like getting dressed, washing my hair, or sleeping a painful challenge.

For the sake of diversity, this time my left shoulder is affected. In good news: I'm right-handed, so I can still use my prominent arm freely. This is a plus, although with my left arm out of commission, I'm unable to normally reach for my seatbelt or, as I discovered last week, to pay the hourly fee at a parking garage kiosk without first opening my door and climbing out of the car.

Over the holidays, I had a conversation at a college football function with friends of ours, a former NFL player and his wife. He shared how he recently strained his shoulder while lifting heavy equipment into his truck bed. I winced, asked what his diagnosis was, and told him that I had frozen shoulder. He replied, "Frozen shoulder? I don't know how to say this, but that sounds not real."

I get this. The phrasing sounds benign, but saying adhesive capsulitisis, the official term, not only sounds fake but also pretentious, so I'll stick with the colloquial "frozen shoulder," as if Elsa accidentally "let it go" with a chilly blast toward me.

The internet hasn't made me feel better, either. A quick Google search on "frozen shoulder recovery timeline" shares depressing things like this:

Stage 1 (Freezing): Slow onset of pain last from 6 weeks to 9 months. As pain worsens and radiates down the arm, the shoulder loses motion, hindering mobility and daily activities.

Stage 2 (Frozen):
Slow improvement in pain, but immobility remains 4 to 9 months.

Stage 3 (Thawing): Shoulder motion slowly returns to normal over a 5 to 26 month period.

Essentially, given where I currently am in this freeze-thaw process, if I level out immediately, I could "return to normal" as soon as November or at some point 39 months from now, which will be right around when my college freshman is a college graduate. 

Give or take, of course.

When I saw an orthopedist last month, he asked if my pain stemmed from a sports injury. I was tempted to quip, "More like a sports bra injury," but given that he was a young male doctor, I didn't think he'd find my womanly perimenopausal humor funny, or even understandable, but gah, have you ever tried to put on a sports bra with frozen shoulder? Impossible.

So now I stay the course. I move more gingerly than I'd like to move. I see an excellent physical therapist twice a week, do exercises morning and evening, and have a nightly appointment with a heating pad before awkwardly propping myself up on pillows to attempt sleep. I also I remember the valuable lessons I learned last time and sweet moments of care, knowing that all things, including frozen shoulder, are temporary.

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