I've been having weird pain issues since last Christmas, starting with an aching tension in my cheeks and jaw and then nerve pain radiating around the back of my shoulder and down my arm into the fingers. I'd also had some bad (though short-lived) shoulder pain last August after carrying a heavy chair across camp. So it's taken me a long time, even after months of physiotherapy and an ultrasound, to discover that when I slipped on the ice and fell back at the end of January, I tore my rotator cuff tendon and that, not typing or lifting or bad form doing push-ups, is the real reason why I haven't been able to sleep without pain for the last six months.

I can't lie on my side -- either side -- because it hurts my shoulder, and I can't lie totally flat either, so I have to lie partially propped up on pillows with another pillow underneath my arm. Even at that, I sometimes wake up stiff and sore and have to get up for an ice pack two or even three times a night. During the day I can't lift anything heavier than five pounds with my right hand, or I'll pay for it (which means Monday nights are always bad for me, because that's the day I get groceries). I can't spend much time on the computer either, because mousing and even typing is uncomfortable.

It's frustrating, because before this happened I'd worked so hard to get my arms in shape. As a lifelong non-athlete, I was proud that over the course of the past two years I'd gone from not being able to do even one modified push-up to doing 22 military push-ups in a row. Now I can't do any kind of arm exercise without worrying that I'm damaging myself (and judging by the pain I have at night if I do anything more than the stretches my physio gave me, that fear isn't unwarranted).

The ultrasound shows a partial thickness tear, only 4 mm, but it's not getting better despite months of TENS, acupuncture, ice packs, and dutifully doing the exercises my physio gave me to strengthen the surrounding muscles. And today I found out that these kinds of tears don't heal on their own, so if I want a chance of recovery rather than just trying to manage the symptoms, I'm looking at surgery and at least six weeks with my arm in a sling.

I don't really want surgery -- I don't even know how I would manage if I had it. It would be hard on my whole family, not just me. But I'm so tired of being in pain and not sleeping properly. I'm tired of painkillers not working at all, and even ice only helping sometimes. I would love to believe that if I can do this, if I can get through this, I might be able to get back to something like my old state of health and fitness (even if I still have to be careful about how I move or how much I lift sometimes).

But then, there's no guarantees even if I do have the surgery. 80% success rate is good, but there's always that 20%.

I don't know.


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September 2017

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