Tuesday, July 6, 2021


Have you ever had a frozen shoulder? It is caused by a thickening or inflammation of the capsule containing tissue in the shoulder, which restricts movement and causes pain. Sometimes it comes on gradually and other times people wake up one morning unable to move their arm. 

Chair from Hell example
My right shoulder froze up over a few months in 2006, to the point where I could not raise my hand high enough to brush my teeth, among other things. I had a manipulation under anesthesia (MUA), where the orthopedic surgeon moved the should to break the capsule and scar tissue free while I was under anesthesia. The afternoon of surgery a Continuous Passive Motion Machine (AKA the Chair from Hell) was delivered to my house, and I spent hours each day putting my shoulder through all kinds of different motions aided by the mechanics of the chair. 

The day following surgery I began physical therapy, which lasted several weeks. There were also numerous exercises I performed at home each day as well. I felt like all I did each day was some sort of therapy. However, I had a pretty good outcome from all of that, gaining back about 90% range of motion in the shoulder.

In March of this year I began experiencing pain in my left shoulder. Even though it has been 15 years, I felt like I knew what was going on. The left shoulder was freezing up. My range of motion in the arm has continued to decrease, while the pain has increased. In reading through some articles and watching YouTube videos by physical therapists, I decided to see if I could do some exercises at home and at our gym here to try to break the shoulder free on my own. Unfortunately, the condition has worsened, so on June 23rd I went to see an orthopedist who specializes in shoulders. They took a few quick x-rays so he could rule out other causes for the pain/limited mobility, and he said everything looks really good there.

We discussed my prior experience, and my options for treatment. He advised that they rarely perform MUAs anymore as it is too easy to break the shoulder. Instead the preferred treatment is arthroscopic surgery, where he will go in and break the adhesions or scarring up. Again I would begin physical therapy the day after surgery, but they no longer prescribe the Chair from Hell, thank goodness. 

Because they are saying my recovery period will be 6-8 weeks, I scheduled the surgery for August 3rd after my pickleball women's league finishes up. There is no reason to rush the surgery as far as the doctor is concerned, so I figured I might as well complete something I really enjoy doing. Fortunately this is not my dominant arm, or I would not have been able to wait on having the procedure done. As for now, I'm having fun (not!) completing the pre-surgery forms and answering all the questions from the various people who will play a part in my care. I feel very fortunate to have the option of surgery due to good medical insurance, so I'm not complaining. Instead I'll work on getting all the things done that I won't be able to do for awhile following the procedure.

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