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Bill Gates touched my MacBook Pro

I Broke My Rotation Matrix

[ health ]

The clickbait title actually refers to my shoulder / rotator cuff. And it’s not actually broken, though it might be torn.

Phase Zero

I’ve had pain in my right arm down under the biceps for over a year. I thought it was a pinched nerve and hoped it would go away on its own. I did stretching and some light strength training. It didn’t seem to make anything worse, but didn’t help either. Finally, last September I talked to my doctor about it.

Turns out it’s my rotator cuff. I didn’t even know what a rotator cuff was. In case you don’t, it’s the term applied to the four muscles that come in over the front, back and top of your shoulder and stabilize the top of your upper arm bone (humerus). They attach to the head of that bone via tendons. These can become inflamed, or frayed, torn, or totally detached.

Phase One

First order of business was try to physical therapy. I did that from the beginning of October 2023 through mid-December. I’ve had a couple of really amazing experiences with PT in the past. This one was not great. I was actually in more pain when I finally quit. I continued doing some PT on my own until I saw my doctor again in January.

Phase Two

Phase two was to go to an orthopedic specialist. I did that in early February. She was great. Answered a lot of questions and gave me a choice:

  1. Get a cortisone shot and see how that plays out over the next couple of months. Cortisone reduces inflammation and can sometimes actually cure the condition if that’s all that’s going on.
  2. Get an MRI to see what’s going on. If there’s a tear, then we could be looking at surgery.

I opted to get the shot and see what that did for me. It helped a lot! For a couple of weeks. Then, week by week, it reverted to how it was before, and worse.

Sleeping is really bad. Most nights by 3 or 4 am I am awakened with throbbing pain. Sometimes I can get in a better position and go back to sleep. Other times I give up, get out of bed and go do an early dog walk. Moving around helps and sometimes I can even get another couple hours of sleep after that.

There are a lot of motions I do inadvertently with my right (dominant) arm that cause extreme pain. I can compare it to stubbing your toe really badly - where you just have to stop everything and close your eyes until it subsides. Some days I’ll just have shooting pains down from my shoulder to my elbow, twitches, and sudden weakness to the point of almost dropping things. Doing day to day activities like getting dressed, washing my hair, driving, getting things off a shelf are becoming increasingly difficult.

Phase Three

The next action comes in a couple of days (Friday) when I go back and get an MRI. Given my steadily worsening symptoms, I’m self-diagnosing that I’ve probably torn something in there. But we’ll see when I talk to the doctor again on the following Monday.

I’ve been educating myself on rotator cuff surgery and while it’s a relatively quick process - generally under an hour as an outpatient procedure - the recovery can be brutal. But again, we’ll see if that’s my path or not within the next week.

By the way, the header image above is actually my shoulder. When I went to see the orthopedic doctor, they did an xray to rule out any issues with the bones of the shoulder. All good there, but they can’t see the muscles and tendons with an xray.

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