The Long Haul

On Friday morning I finally went to get my messed up shoulder looked at. By an actual sports doctor, as opposed to my husband, which is where I normally go for medical advice. (Quick sidebar: I am not the only one who does this by the way. At least once a week one of our karate students pulls Matthew aside and asks his advice about a body part that is hurting. He is a karate teacher people! Despite the fact that he has had a lot of experience with pain, he is not a member of the medical profession. Don't let that confident demeanor fool you, he knows nothing!)

Never stopped me though.

In any case, I had a very thorough physical exam in order to found out what I already know, I have overworked my shoulder muscles. Or to be more specific, the front of my upper body is very strong from years of exercise, but I have done little to build up the back. That, combined with years of martial arts training and carrying a heavy bag over one shoulder, has resulted in a whole mess of sore, tight trapezius muscles. 

You gotta love doctors though. Among the millions of questions I had to answer, was this awesome one: "How is your pain? Is Advil enough? Do you need something stronger?"

Really? Is that all it takes to get drugs nowadays? 

Um, what are you offering Doc? Cause I am sure you have something in there that I would like. 

Instead of embarking on a lovely Vicodin adventure,  I said I was doing ok in terms of medicine. They then offered me a cortisone shot, which I also declined. Listen I know that my shoulder hurts. And had I seen the doctor three weeks ago I would have taken every single painkiller he had. But now I mainly just want to fix my shoulder. Can you fix it? Not numb it with drugs but actually make it better? So it doesn't hurt again? 

So they gave me a sheet of exercises and stretches, things like move your neck from side to side multiple times and stick your palm in the middle of your forehead and stay that way for ten seconds. (I was doing the latter one this morning when my daughter walked into the room, a very confused expression on her face. "Mommy, what are you doing?" " Um, physical therapy." "That one is silly." )

From the mouths of babes.

I also went home with a topical cream for pain (cause apparently they won't let you leave the office without some kind of prescription) and an appointment with a physical therapist for something called myofascial release. (Sounds dirty doesn't it? I am pretty sure it involves fixing tight muscles, not mind-blowing orgasm. But one can always hope.)

And now, it is all about time, the long journey of waiting for an injury to get better. The journey that I was already on anyway, only now at least I have specific instructions. Training. Which means that in addition to arm bars and butterfly sweeps, I do neck bends and shoulder stretches, and hope that eventually something works.

In other words, my recovery is mostly up to me. 
Well, poop.

But all whining aside, I suppose I prefer it that way.

My totally-not-an-MD husband summed it up perfectly. "I don't go to the doctor for them to fix me. I go to the doctor to get a diagnosis so I can learn how to fix myself."

Yeah, he's one of those. 

But he has a good point. Barring the need for surgery, or medicine to treat a specific illness, all we really get from a medical checkup is a way to help your body do what it is hopefully already trying to do on its own; fix itself. Isn't it empowering to know that you usually have some control over your recovery? That, at least when it comes to strengthening the body, the harder you work, the faster you will improve? 

Of course not everyone feels this way. Which is why doctors are so quick to offer you drugs, any drugs.  They assume, and are usually correct, that if you sit in a waiting room for two hours, you expect to leave the office with something. People don't want to hear "Do this exercise every day, the one that hurts like hell, and after many many weeks, you'll feel better." They want a magic pill that fixes everything. They want someone to cure them. They want DRUGS.

And hey, I'm not knocking it. The muscle relaxers that I got a few weeks ago were the only reason I got any sleep. And when I had that god awful sinus infection I was thrilled to take my antibiotics. Overjoyed! Ecstatic! Who cares about all these annoying side effects, please just make the misery in my face go away!

Ah, the wonderful Z-Pak.

As far as this shoulder thing is concerned, I am just happy to have something to do. Its waiting, not work, that really stresses me out. I can do exercises all day if I think they will make me get better faster, even silly ones like this: 

Yup, that one on the bottom right is the one my child saw me doing. 

Perhaps I should have just taken the pills?


  1. I need to go to the sports med doctor for my shoulder as well. That's really cool that you had a good prognosis. I hope that you will be healed. Are you concerned about slacking off on it? Or do you have a plan in place to help you remember or check it off?

  2. I would love to say I have been super committed to the exercises. Lets just say I am doing ok. :-) I go through a bunch of the strengthening ones (the physical therapist added ones with an elastic band) about every other day and I do manage to stretch my neck and shoulders daily. I have also learned to trust my body and how it feels on any particular day.Some days my shoulder feels great and I can train full out with no trouble. But there are other days when I wake up very tight and sore and I know if I don't take it easy I will regret it later. But it is definitely getting better overall. When I get frustrated I try to remind myself that when it was at its worst I could not even stand up without pain! And now I am doing jiu-jitsu again.


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