Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Warm Out But My Shoulders Are Frozen!

Today I saw a physical therapist and learned about "frozen shoulders", which is what I have. Both of mine are at "stage 2" of 3 stages. The first stage is mostly pain and decreasing range of motion and the 2nd stage is less trouble with pain but substantially decreasing range of motion. The third stage should, hopefully, be "thawing". Last year I had been diagnosed with "impingement syndrome" in my right shoulder and a few gentle exercises solved the problem easily and completely. And then I started Arimidex and the problem came back. Impingement Syndrome can turn into Frozen Shoulder. Have I mentioned how much I hate that I was given Arimidex without being told about the possibilities of these side effects?!

Frozen shoulder is also called "Adhesive Capsulitis" because it involves inflammation and tightening of the "capsule" that is made up of tissues that cover the shoulder's rotator cuff ... at least that's how I understand it. I'm told it's not uncommon to get frozen shoulder after breast cancer surgery.

I can't believe how limited my range of motion has become! As I told Erin tonight, I've had a couple of incidents while I'm alone at home where I've got myself half into a shirt or jacket and then get stuck ... neither in nor out ... with both arms trapped! Somehow, eventually, I've wiggled my way out of the situation but there were some disconcerting moments for sure! I've learned to only wear items with "stretch" and leave structured clothes for when Kevin's home to help me in and out of them. It was very handy having him help me with jackets when we were in Kentucky.

I also learned that the pain in my left elbow is from nerve damage that begins in my neck, which also has very limited range of motion. I didn't realize how bad it was until I was asked to move my head to one side and then the other. I was immediately surprised that I couldn't move it further. Apparently, the nerves that originate in my neck and run through the shoulder and down the arm are restricted, probably from the radiation on the lymph nodes in my neck, and they need to be loosened up and regenerated. This will, I understand, take some time, but should be effective. My physical therapist thinks she can help me with the elbow nerve problem for sure. The frozen shoulder ... well, we'll see. At this point, we can't tell how much is physiological and how much is because of the Arimidex and Tamoxifen. If the problem is unrelated to the medications, we can probably fix it with physio over time. If the drugs are acerbating the problem, we should know that within the month, before my next appointment with my oncologist.

I'm very happy to have this diagnosed and to have a plan for improvements. The exercises I've been given are all very gentle stretching of my arms and neck, nothing at all strenuous or difficult or time consuming. I can handle this. I'm going to be marking the progress on the kitchen cupboards, of course ... because writing on kitchen cupboards is what we do at our house!

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