Embrace the Pain

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Some years ago I suffered the terrible pain and disability associated with Frozen Shoulder.  At first I endured the symptoms unaware of what was happening.  After a few months of extraordinary pain and loss of sleep I sought out a highly respected team of Orthopedic Surgeons. 

The surgical team discerned in minutes that my condition was a "very severe case of Frozen Shoulder".  The doctors (all in their 50's) were amazed at how much loss of movement my case of F.S. had inflicted on me.

They were adamant that I start intensive P.T. at a well established P.T. facility.  The P.T. professional assigned to me was a no nonsense professional who had seen myriad cases of F.S. in her career in P.T..

She carefully measured my highly limited range of motion and then she came up with quite a number of daily stretches, exercises and movements that she and I did together.  Additionally, she gave me homework P.T. that I performed on my own as well at home.

She stretched my arm to the point of serious pain as she increased the range of motion and mobility of my arm.  She encouraged me to "embrace the pain" and see it as a positive thing that was hastening my cure and restoration of movement.

After four months of four workouts a week for one hour with her I had improved tremendously!  I did the same type of exercises and stretches at home after the P.T. sessions.

The pain in the P.T. sessions with the P.T. professional was intense!  I screamed and yelled everyday as she stretched my arm and encouraged me to work harder at increasing my limited range of movement.

Her motto and the same motto that my surgical team and nurses all told me was "No Pain--No Gain!!!  Wow! they were so right!  

The pain of stretching and intense P.T. sessions is not for the weak or faint of heart or those who are coddled but for me the No Pain--No Gain Mantra and reality was proven in just four months of painful workouts in the P.T. sessions!!

I encourage all who can tolerate pain to really workout hard and smile as your yell knowing that as my surgeons, nurses and P.T. professionals all told me, "No Pain--No Gain"!

Best of success to all my fellow F.S. sufferers and remember to "Embrace the Pain" and "Smile through the Pain" knowing that it does pay off with greatly improved range of motion and a faster restoration of your range of movement!

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10 Replies

  • Posted

    Glad you are better!

    Two years of Physical Therapy and everything else you can possibly think to try to get rid of Frozen Shoulder,  I have done it. Except the surgery.  I know one person who had their tendon torn in the FS surgery and another who's had the surgery three times, with no resolution.

    Glad the surgery works for some, but seems to dangerous to me.   Good luck to all who have this crazy condition.

    Ps. Embracing the pain is a bit much. I like to ignore it. You can learn to ignore anything after a while. 

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  • Posted

    Dear NoPainNoGain,

    I have to agree. I wrote months ago about my experience. In short, a small work-related shoulder strain, no sleep, reduced movement, the old joke about a guy who tells his doctor, it hurts when I raise my arm like this and the doctor responding, then don't raise your arm like that ringing in my ear...left me with a frozen shoulder. I could barely lift my arm, even 30 degrees from my leg! Fortunately, an orthopedic doctor saw me and gave me two choices: either endure pain now with these couple exercises or I can do surgery, put you under and basically rip the scar tissue for you. She showed me how to pretend I was throwing a bowling ball by using a lot of forward momentum to throw the ball up and over, then pretend to release it, then lift my hand to scratch the front of my shoulder. Seems nonsensical, but the last part was important! She also sent me to a physical therapist who showed me how to do band work to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder to strengthen it and keep the original injury from recurring.

    At first I tried the bowling ball throw and I would scream in pain. I broke out into a heavy sweat with each attempt. I thought of our wounded warriors who endured serious injuries and loss of limbs and who were enduring physical therapy and it made me feel ashamed of my complaints. I was in good company! If these men and women could do it, then as a civilian having lost nothing but mobility, so could I. I used the smooth tile wall as a tool to help support my still injured shoulder. As I threw the arm forward the first time my arm slid up that wet wall, I screamed. As days went by and I kept up this routine: 10 attempts up and over, scratch shoulder, the pain would centralize at the front and side and elbow, then dissipate. It was excruciating. I was determined to avoid surgery, so each time I leaned a little more against the wall, effectively raising my arm a lititle higher. I did the band exercises too. If you look up exercises to strengthen your shoulder after an injury, you'll find some good ones.

    I still get a twinge sometimes in that shoulder. Rather than keeping it still now, I start rotating my arms, stretching, and it loosens up again.

    No pain, no re-gain. It hurt like nothing I've ever experienced (except childbirth) but it was worth the pain to get my mobility back. I got my second arm back! Thank you for your letter to encourage others to not shy away from the pain.

    -Christine

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  • Posted

    Dear NoPainNoGain,

    I have to agree. I wrote months ago about my experience. In short, a small work-related shoulder strain, no sleep, reduced movement, the old joke about a guy who tells his doctor, it hurts when I raise my arm like this and the doctor responding, then don't raise your arm like that ringing in my ear...left me with a frozen shoulder. I could barely lift my arm, even 30 degrees from my leg! Fortunately, an orthopedic doctor saw me and gave me two choices: either endure pain now with these couple exercises or I can do surgery, put you under and basically rip the scar tissue for you. She showed me how to pretend I was throwing a bowling ball by using a lot of forward momentum to throw the ball up and over, then pretend to release it, then lift my hand to scratch the front of my shoulder. Seems nonsensical, but the last part was important! She also sent me to a physical therapist who showed me how to do band work to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder to strengthen it and keep the original injury from recurring.

    At first I tried the bowling ball throw and I would scream in pain. I broke out into a heavy sweat with each attempt. I thought of our wounded warriors who endured serious injuries and loss of limbs and who were enduring physical therapy and it made me feel ashamed of my complaints. I was in good company! If these men and women could do it, then as a civilian having lost nothing but mobility, so could I. I used the smooth tile wall as a tool to help support my still injured shoulder. As I threw the arm forward the first time my arm slid up that wet wall, I screamed. As days went by and I kept up this routine: 10 attempts up and over, scratch shoulder, the pain would centralize at the front and side and elbow, then dissipate. It was excruciating. I was determined to avoid surgery, so each time I leaned a little more against the wall, effectively raising my arm a lititle higher. I did the band exercises too. If you look up exercises to strengthen your shoulder after an injury, you'll find some good ones.

    I still get a twinge sometimes in that shoulder. Rather than keeping it still now, I start rotating my arms, stretching, and it loosens up again.

    No pain, no re-gain. It hurt like nothing I've ever experienced (except childbirth) but it was worth the pain to get my mobility back. I got my second arm back! Thank you for your letter to encourage others to not shy away from the pain.

    -Christine

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    • Posted

      Dear NoPainNoGain,

      I just realized the 'wet tile wall' made no sense...I used the shower wall as a way to support my arm and 'unstick' my shoulder. After a couple weeks of shower 'stretches', I was able to do the bowling ball throw outside of the shower, though I had to return to the shower stretches a couple times when my shoulder seemed to re-harden. Good luck all!

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  • Posted

    While I'm glad you feel this worked for you, I'm going to have to disagree with you and urge caution to anyone wishing to try it - though I can't imagine there are very many.  I know there are many different approaches to treating frozen shoulders - especially it seems between the US and UK (I assume you're it the US, as you use the term PT) - but many specialists say there is no place for PT/physio  in the freezing or frozen stage and warn it can actually do more harm than good - irritating and tearing at already inflamed tissue and making things worse.

    I also chose not to go for surgery and for me, hydrodilatation did the trick.  It is much less invasive and involves no general anaesthetic or hospital stay.  For me, it took away the pain and allowed me to gradually regain my movement from a badly frozen shoulder - for some it releases the shoulder more immediately.  The pain from the shoulder was (as we all know) terrible and lack of sleep due to the pain, was playing havoc with all aspects of my physical and mentral health, so controlling that was essential to me.

     

    This has been discussed on here before with one discussion I remember calling those of us choosing not to take this route, wimps or similar.  I don't want this discussion to become as contentious as that - but had to put over the opposite, balanced view.

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    • Posted

      Dear Maria,

      That sounds like a much kinder way to the body. If it had been suggested to me, I would have taken the hydro route. We are all at the mercy of the healthcare system when it comes to pain and wanting ours to stop. While some will disagree with what my Orthopedic doctor told me to do, the alternative (that she gave me) was surgery. Naturally, I checked the internet for advice/suggestions. I found info on the surgery and exercises. I made my choice to avoid surgery.

      Please, everyone who reads this, I'm not a doctor. My experience is mine alone. The pain I experienced 'unfreezing' my shoulder with the 'bowling ball/scratch your shoulder' was excruciating. I am not exaggerating. It was so painful. For me, it worked. As the shoulder unfroze, I added very gentle band exercises to support the shoulder area by strengthening the muscles. Everything hurt. I reported back to my orthopedic doctor and physical therapist (yes, I'm in the USA).

      As the shoulder released, I was able to sleep better and finally after many months, I stopped thinking about my shoulder hurting. It was good to once again be able to take it for granted (only a little tongue in cheek).

      I'm not advocating the 'no pain, no re-gain' as the approach anyone else should try. It was frustrating to me that I couldn't look inside my own shoulder and figure out which of the complex parts was hurt. The physical therapist I saw was unfortunately not the empathetic sort. She was disbelieving of the pain I was in as she manipulated my shoulder, telling me it shouldn't hurt that bad. (She admitted she'd never had a frozen shoulder.)

      At a different physical therapist's office that I attended to get back mobility in a severely broken/sprained ankle and knee, I saw a fellow patient doing 'finger walks' - where she gently walked her frozen shoulder arm fingers up the wall, after hands after a bike warm-up, multiple gently done machine weight bearing exercises, then hands on physical therapy by an excellent PT.

      Frozen shoulder sufferers out there, I wish you the very best in your recovery. As I said, I'm no doctor. I can't advocate for my experience over a gentler or even a surgical alternative. Your shoulder injury may be different than mine! It is a very complicated joint. I did not communicate on this forum to call anyone a wimp. The pain of a frozen shoulder is not wimpy, nor is trying to find a solution that does not make it worse. Good luck to all of you.

      Christine

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    • Posted

      Hi Christine, We're all at the mercy of the doctors and specialists we encounter in our healthcare - and unfortunately there is currently little agreement as to how to treat this painful condition.  My own GP was little help - offered me painkillers (which didn't help much) and a 3 month waiting list for physio.  I was able to shortcut the waiting list as I am lucky enough to have access to private healthcare (BUPA) through my husband's job.  To cut a long story short, the second physio I saw recommended a consultant (a leading shoulder specialist, who also lectures worldwide) and hydrodilatation.  It worked for me first time and so when when I started to develop it in my other shoulder, I recognised the signs much earlier and went for early hydrodilatation.  I went back to the same physio practice, as they work closely with my consultant and seem very good.  The physio I'm seeing at the moment is excellent and as she's had a frozen shoulder herself, understands exactly what I've been through.  I feel that her treatment and exercises have helped me - without putting me through unnecessary pain.  I spoke to her about the "no pain no gain" attitude that I'd heard about on this forum and she was horrified.

      I realise that I've been lucky with my treatment, finding the right consultant and physio - I just wish other specialists were so enlightened.  Good luck to all those suffering from this awful condition and I hope you can find treatment that works for you.

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  • Posted

    Glad you are feeling better and happy that the surgery route worked for you. However, I also opted NOT to have the surgery. Being a Diabetic, apparently it is highly likely that the scar tissue grows back and the surgery/PT has to be repeated SEVERAL times, that was confirmed by two different Orthopedic doctors. Not for me personally.

    I too have tried western medicine (four doctors), acupuncture, Physical Therapy (four months), the gym, stretch bands, changed my diet, noninflammatory diet, homemade acupressure contraptions my acupuncturist recommended, still frozen, for over a year and a half.  Seems the more I do, the worse it gets, so I go to massage 2x a month and do my gentle PT routine and walk a lot daily to keep my blood flowing. Lost 30 pounds, so that's a plus..

    Otherwise, I think we have to wait this out... Just seems to go away as slowly as FS came on..

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    • Posted

      PS. I would rather not "embrace the pain."  Like April, I learned to ignore it until....Until I can't stand it and I have to take a pain pill. I am stubborn, but not trying to be overly hard on my body either.  Frankly, that sounds like an excuse for the medical community not really knowing how to treat the condition, because they sure don't! The treatment varies WIDELY, at least from what i have read on this forum..Glad you are better tho!

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  • Posted

    I thought we had heard the last of no pain no gain, it is just barbaric. If I saw any doctor that could tell in minutes that I had FS I would immediately find one who would do a proper examination. The PT would also be never seen again. I wonder what your real diagnosis would have been if you had seen a much older experianced orthopaedist.
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