My ‘frozen shoulder’ tamed!

Scapula,abduction,flexion,mobilization,strengthening – these are not words taken from a movie like ‘Avatar’ or related to alien creatures from some distant planet. These are part of the technical jargon that I picked up as I went through the ordeal of physiotherapy sessions for my ‘frozen shoulder’.
It all started with a little muscular pain in my left hand. Within a few weeks,the pain graduated and spread to shoulders and prevented me from sleeping on the left side. And soon I had difficulty in lifting my hand either up or sideways,affecting simple functional tasks.(For instance,when my wife asked me to carry some weight on our weekly shopping trips,I simply could not shrug my ‘shoulder’ and say I can’t ‘shoulder’ this responsibility!).
I really panicked and saw my family doctor. He said quite casually it is a “frozen shoulder”. I asked again since I was hearing that expression for the first time. He explained that it is a condition in which the shoulder joint gets frozen limiting one’s range of motion and if neglected could become a big handicap. However,he reassured me that with certain specific exercises one could easily overcome the same gradually. I started doing exercises as directed and avoided going to a physiotherapist.
A couple of weeks passed without any sign of improvement. So I scouted around for a reliable Physio for help. One experienced Physio told me that about 60 sittings over a period of more than 2 months would be needed. He added a few additional conditions which put me off completely:Firstly,I would need to set aside at least 2 hours per day in his clinic and secondly,it would be an extremely painful process. Thirdly,it can relapse even if I skip a session in between or do not do exercises at home. And finally and most importantly,I was told that each session would cost a whopping 300 to 400 rupees,depending on the severity of the case. I realized that the problem was not something to be brushed aside any more. I decided to try out a good corporate hospital in our locality with the assumption that the rates would be high but there would be no undue exploitation in terms of fees or number of sessions(fees were no doubt high but surely standardized).
My physio followed a two pronged strategy for treatment: Initially a procedure technically known ‘Mobilization’ was followed,wherein the arms/shoulders/the collar bone and ‘Scapula’ were turned,twisted and pressurized to increase the range of motion. The idea was to somehow loosen up the otherwise stiff shoulder. This was followed by strengthening the muscles through exercises in order to retain the achieved range of motion.
After a month of treatment there was progress for sure but it was ‘painfully’ slow. The range of motion would increase hardly by a few degrees per session with no guarantee that this would be maintained the following day. After coaxing the shoulder and arms for a few days as above,the physiotherapists found the progress was not consistent. At this point,I casually told the doctors pointing to my shoulder,”Badmash ko chodna nahin till he confesses to all crimes”. As I explained to my physios later,the crime has to do with non-use and lack of exercise of the shoulder for a long period of time.They seemed to take my joke rather seriously as they resorted to what I call “third degree methods”. I was virtually at the mercy of my two physios who together manipulated my shoulder in a variety of angles completely ignoring my screams.
The new protocol from then on was to do violent and painful shoulder manipulation followed by rigorous exercises to strengthen the muscles. Eventually,this new approach started paying dividends. ‘No pain – no gain’,as they say.

As the strengthening exercises continued,I had a first hand experience of what I knew all along as a theory – that is,the mind can influence the body tremendously. This became evident when I was put on ‘resistance exercises’,meaning moving the shoulder / arm against a resistance to increase range of movement. Working against the resistance,initially the muscles would contract once and then give up the task. At this point the mind had to take over and force the muscles to focus only on contracting and relaxing repeatedly. And after several such cycles,the muscles would,quite amazingly,overcome the resistance and allow greater range of motion for the shoulder and arm.
It seems to me that the human mind and body respond beautifully only when they are appropriately challenged.

Ultimately,after 3 months of tough physical and mental battle,the shoulder has been tamed and the physiotherapists and myself are on the verge scoring a great victory!

Published in: on January 17, 2010 at 9:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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