One morning I woke up to a clicking sound in my shoulder, within days I couldn’t move my arm more than a few inches from my side. Overnight it was impossible to lift a coffee cup, put my hand over my head, get dressed, and the deep joint pain kept me up during the night. I couldn’t do most things with my left arm that I could, without effort, before this malady struck. The diagnosis after seeking the advice of two orthopedists and an MRI: Frozen Shoulder.
I did everything I could to fix it: Two rounds of physical therapy, vitamins and supplements, yoga, acupuncture, massage, laser treatments, cortisone shots, and nothing brought about a cure. Instead, some of what I did caused my condition to get worse. There are no known causes, just a few theories, but nothing concrete. It remains a mystery in the medical field and the hard reality is; sufferers need to just ride it out. Those afflicted with this condition are woman over the age 40, mostly in their 50s and 60s. It has a fancy medical name called Adhesive Capsulitis and it can hang around up to 4 years or more.
Even so, I thought it would be different for me. I had glimmers of hope at times, when the pain would subside, but it never lasted. As my second month came and went, it became apparent, healing was not going to happen on my terms. As my range of motion decreased, my frustration grew. There were days I couldn’t move my arm more than 3-4 inches from my body. It was stuck to me and if I made a sudden movement, pushing the arm out from where it hung, unbearable pain would strike. Sufferers call this sudden pain, zingers. These zingers would bring me to my knees.
This condition took a mental toll as well. I focused on all the things I couldn’t do, this increased my stress and pain. Sleep for the first four months was nearly non-existent as the constricting and pulling of the shoulder muscles took place around the clock. I learned to take naps when the pain subsided, even if temporarily. My BFF was my recliner and an ice sleeve left over from the days when my son, a college pitcher, played baseball. I couldn’t take pain meds, they affect my heart rhythm, and surgery was not an option.
I like to be in control, (don’t we all?) so not having an ounce of control over this, or when it would get better, I had to accept.
I normally don’t go to Dr. Google, but on this, I did. I had exhausted my medical options, so I researched emotional healing. It was like the dam burst. I landed on the blog of Christiane Northrup, M.D. She has documented how healing your emotions can heal your shoulder pain. As a former sufferer herself and since recovered, she says, “Some common emotional patterns associated with frozen shoulder include feeling the need to carry the ‘weight of the world on your shoulders.’” She has found that too much negative self-talk can impact the condition or even bring it on.
I had no idea how much dis-ease we can cause ourselves, I suspected I played a role in this. Stress is a well-documented killer, and I noticed a correlation between stress episodes and pain. Also interesting was the side of the body it settled into, my left side. According to emotional healing, pain in the left shoulder relates to female relationships. Our bodies, according to Northrup, are made of energy, pinpointing the origin of your pain, and exploring your mental, emotional and energetic patterns may provide important steps towards healing. The exact location of your shoulder pain, she says, can be a clue to what is not working in your life.
What the pain was telling me was something I needed to address. But I also had to surrender to it and start thinking about what I could still physically do. My first step, was to stop worrying about it and start praying about it. I truly believed that this condition, which stopped me in my tracks for months, was something God wanted me to take notice of. If emotions and relationships needed review, this was the time to do it.
I went to work facing the unhealthy relationships in my life and the degree of control I had over them. None. I needed to change old patterns and my favorite prayer for this is the Serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. –Reinhold Niebuhr
I recognized how destructive my negative self-talk was and my obsession to control outcomes. This was a running theme in my life. Having a frozen shoulder forced me to give that up, but not without a fight. After months of trying to bring about change, I threw in the towel, wisdom had set in. I let go and I stopped focusing on it. If I was in pain, I would just breath through it and say to myself, “oh well.” I didn’t give it anymore power. I started to feel better.
I had learned the gentle art of acceptance. I made a list of what I could do and dove into those activities. This included writing, I started this blog a few months into my FS, along with joining a yoga studio, daily prayer meditations and long walks with the dog and a good friend. I gave up on the stress of willing myself better, and complaining about it; the pathway to peace.
I am now entering my seventh month and things are getting better. Healing is happening and the lessons I was meant to learn during this time, I hope I am learning. When I look back at where I was when this episode first happened, I realize I wasn’t listening to myself. Emotions were driving my life. I have come to accept that this condition was meant to happen; I needed to slow down. This was the reset that I needed but couldn’t do for myself, so my body took control and said enough.
Instead of feeling frozen and hopeless, I now look at it as a gentle reminder that I needed to hit pause, breath and let life unfold as it is meant to.
If you suffer from Frozen Shoulder, here are some helpful resources:
Christiane Northrup, M.D, What is Frozen Shoulder? 12 Ways to Heal. Click Here.
Anthony Williams, Medical Medium Blog, Click Here.
Psychology Today, The Mind-Body Connection, Click Here.
On Facebook check out Frozen Shoulder Friends, a wonderful and supportive community of people from around the world.
I wish you much healing.