A year ago, my resolutions for 2015 included continuing to practice yoga, possibly even participate in a teacher training program. I swam laps on my lunch break, ran on the treadmill every other day and ate healthily. My pursuit of photography as a serious hobby was picking up steam. I'd upgraded to new camera equipment and took several advanced, online classes to learn the intricacies of Photoshop and Lightroom. I launched this website so I could share pictures I took at events with others in the yoga community.
Plans to pursue future goals came to a screeching halt when I started to notice a nagging pain in the front of my right shoulder. No specific injury caused it that I could remember. Initially, I treated it like all the other times something ached. I scaled back my exercise regimen, applied ice regularly, took ibuprofen and let it rest. That course of action didn't make things better this time. The simplest of tasks like raising my camera to snap a picture became painful. Something was seriously amiss. I needed a professional opinion.
I never had to visit a doctor for a 'not-operating-correctly' body part before. My biggest worry wasn't the thought of having to go through an operation; no, my main concern was in having to navigate the health system for the first time. Like anyone, I've had things scheduled for repair - cars, electronics and parts of my house. Half the time, the thing's pronounced fixed when it hasn't really been fixed at all, which is extremely frustrating. Could that happen with my shoulder? What if it never gets set right and I have to forego my active lifestyle? These negative prospects were scary. Going to the first orthopedic specialist recommended by my primary care physician didn't alleviate my fears. Right out of the gate, several things with his manner bothered me and I knew I'd have to do some research to find a different doctor if the prognosis came to needing an operation. After going through initial physical therapy that didn't do anything to help, my insurance company finally agreed to pay for an MRI.
By this time, the pain in my shoulder was no longer constrained to just the one spot. Severe discomfort had begun to move down my right arm when doing routine tasks like tucking in my shirt or reaching to put on a seatbelt. The area began aching even when at rest. With these developments, an operation was deemed necessary - the one so commonly referred to as 'rotator cuff surgery'. Wanting a second opinion, I next had to figure out how to gather references and reviews on medical specialists. I quickly learned that finding a good doctor isn't the easiest thing to accomplish! I turned to friends, co-workers and the web for help and finally discovered someone I felt comfortable performing the procedure.
That took place in September. My new doctor was very straightforward, which I appreciated. He explained that an MRI doesn't capture a perfect interior picture. They wouldn't be able to tell for sure exactly what was wrong until they opened me up. He also explained that a vast majority of people my age who've been physically active show tears on an MRI, making diagnosis difficult. Even healthy people with no shoulder soreness can show signs of degeneration. True to my suspicions, it turned out my condition was pretty severe. Some major work was done to repair a muscle tear, inflammation and a tendon rupture. After a couple weeks, physical therapy was scheduled to start.
Recognizing how important this was going to be on the path to healing, I donned my researchers hat again to find an expert in this area. The physical therapy group my first doctor referred me to was lackluster in performance to say the least. At each appointment I went to at that location, I saw a different therapist and I received very little individual attention. That didn't seem right. During this entire process, one thing I've learned is to follow my intuition and how to be a strong advocate for my own good care.
With three months of weekly physical therapy appointments in the books, I'm more aware now than ever how important yoga is to my vitality. Many of the exercises and movements my therapist has me performing remind me of yoga postures. In addition, the stretching and reworking of my arm to regain its full motion was greatly helped by knowing how to breath into muscle tightness to coax relaxation. I'm starting to revisit some of the old, familiar postures and the shoulder's feeling pretty good. I've missed the great group of yoga instructors I've been so privileged to learn from here in Kansas City. I can't wait to roll out my mat at one of the several studios I love to visit and flow through a complete class, unencumbered by soreness, focusing instead on how grateful I am to be blessed with a healthy, fully functional body again.
Have a rotator cuff story to share? Add a comment, I'd love to hear about your experience!