It happened gradually and then all at once- the searing shoulder pain which lasted about 30 seconds if I reached too far under the table for a dropped pen, or abruptly braced for impact when my lunchbox fell off the top of the refrigerator, aiming at my head. Seemingly overnight, my chorus became, Oww oww oww oww oww, my f*cking shoulder!, oww oww oww.

After months of pain not resolving by my own methods of *trying to ignore the issue because I’m way too busy for anything else right now*, and then some more waiting for an appointment with an orthopedic specialist, the probable diagnosis, which I’d already suspected, was in: I likely have adhesive capsulitis in my dominant upper extremity, often referred to as “frozen shoulder”. Frozen shoulder is fairly common in people with diabetes, which is why I eventually took the prospect seriously. The doctor suspects that a slight, unnoticeable strain injury from the past has escalated with a vengeance, and did not immediately jump to blaming diabetes.

I must admit part of me is thankful for the specialist’s hypothesis, although I hate that my internal blame compass would even go there if diabetes were, or is, involved. I’ve lived with diabetes for over 30 years, using blunt, less-than-ideal instruments to manage an insidious condition which never takes a moment off. Of course, after the nonstop wear and tear on the body, things happen. I would never blame anyone with diabetes for any related health condition which arises; so much is out of our genetic control and handling diabetes all day, every day is an enormous, frustrating responsibility. Society is so quick to stigmatize “diabetes complications” and yet does not prescribe “complications” to most other health conditions, etc. If this were a complication of diabetes, I’d simply have to deal with it.

I suppose my larger relief with the doctor’s theory pointing away from diabetes is that I have zero patience left for the mansplaining of my own health, often by members of our own community. I celebrate empathy if you’ve gone through a similar ordeal. But frankly, I don’t want to hear anyone else’s 2 cents about my health unless I ask. I trust this doctor’s expertise and our gameplan, and really all that matters is finding a better way. I’m uncomfortable sharing this personal news here not so much because of the gravity of the situation, rather because I deserve to feel whatever I feel about it without others’ biases. Yet my transparency as an advocate, my willingness to tell it like it is for the sake of improving quality of life beyond my own, takes precedence in choosing to share here.

Regardless of the root cause of my shoulder woes, which we may never know, the intense pain is indescribable and I simply want long-term relief. I am grateful that, for now at least, the condition involves dull throbbing especially overnight and unbearable burning only for about 1 minute if I turn my arm the wrong way too swiftly. Predicting those movements is tough, though. For example, I was drinking from a glass on the couch and tried to regain my grasp as it slipped and spilled liquid everywhere. That unanticipated motion sent my pain into orbit.

For now per the doctor’s instructions, I will take anti-inflammatories and begin physical therapy exercises- easier said than done with long PT wait lists and trying to fit this into my already-overwhelming work / personal healthcare appointment schedule. I’m admittedly not a happy camper due to the time commitment involved here. But whether I like it or not, I need to be dedicated to doing all that I can to yield improvements for future quality of life. The speed with which the pain has been exacerbated over the past few months is alarming, and I hope with treatment that this will be the worst of it. Steroid injections are an option we’d like to avoid for now given the blood sugar hell involved with such treatments.

Like everything I’ve endured with my health over time, this is just another item to add to the overflowing plate of navigating healthcare survival. Pass the coffee.


4 thoughts on “Frozen

  1. Hi Ally

    It’s Amy’s mom – I’m so sorry you have to deal with this shoulder issue! I wanted to share with you that I also had this pain…it sounds exactly what I was dealing with for months. I blamed it on a fall down the stairs at Amy’s house. It was a dull throbbing at night unless I moved a certain way…then that sharp pain that made me think of those cartoons with bubbles of stars indicating a pain like no other. I was diagnosed with “rotator cuff injury” and did PT for a few months. I’m not sure it helped but after awhile the pain went away.
    I’m hoping yours will go away too! Be patient and hopeful.
    I’ll put you on my prayer list!


    1. Hi Anne!! So nice to hear from you- that made my day! Although so sorry to hear you went through similar shoulder pain. Seeing the cartoon stars is the perfect description! So glad you are feeling better now and hoping I have a similar course with PT and time!

      Hope to see you all sometime this fall!


  2. Make the best of the TP, it does help a lot. For me (I grabbed a tree while careening down a hill to an icy creak). I ignored it of course as men often do. (You have no idea the degree of discomfort I wm willing to overlook in order to not tell Sheryl I did something stupid). and I nursed it along for 10 years until my arm no longer worked. The PT gave it a big great yank and off we went. It took nine months, twice a week. Eventually, it came back.

    Yours will also come back and guess what you never have to admit any of this to Sheryl. She scares me.


    1. Thanks, Rick. Glad to hear some recovery with PT is possible, although sorry to hear you endured this pain, too! Sounds like we both owe Sheryl a Starbucks coffee again sometime!


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