Armuse's Blog


EMG
April 21, 2010, 1:03 pm
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EMG – electromagnetic gram. Testing of the nerves response, strength as indication of blood circulation.

First they tested reflex points by shocking different parts of my body to see how much they moved. The machine was broken so he couldn’t control how much shock pulse he was giving me. It was either too little or full blast.

The second part of the test he put needles into my nerve roots and asked me to move against resistance to see if the nerves fired. A low firing would explain low muscle strength ability. The test was painful. When testing the trapezius, he put the needle in several places and asked me to shrug against resistance. Shrugging is already not strong since my injury. He keep pushing down and telling me to shrug more, more, more. “Is that all you can do?” He moved the needle three times and asked me to repeat. On the last point it hurt so bad. I took a deep breath and tried to sigh it out but my voice started a low moan. I heard it get louder and louder. I was screaming and couldn’t stop. I could hear myself screaming and told myself to stop and breath it out but I couldn’t stop making such a loud audible sound. I never made up my mind to scream but I couldn’t stop. It felt he was in my jugular. I was expecting that I would see blood squirt up on the wall. My toes were curled up and my feet started climbing the wall. I was resembling a cat when they fight and bring their back legs up to scratch their opponent’s stomach. The test kept on going. I fatigued and couldn’t shrug anymore. “OK that’s enough for that one, now let’s test your deltoid.” Being someone searching for positive mind set through all of this, I thought maybe it’s good I could feel it. At least, I can hope, that nerve is working. We tested more with resistance similar to the ones that are hard for me in physical therapy. Those other ones hurt but a little less. The only one that didn’t’ hurt was to my Rhomboids. That nerve comes from c5c6 and that disk is degenerating I found out from the cervical xray. Also from the c5c6 is the nerve to the supraspinatus. Bingo. That is why all that physical therapy, a personal trainer, my own exercises, 2 years of being out of work and have been unable to use my arm. We’ll see what the doctors say but it seems like it explains a lot. I have a cervical MRI appointment schedule in the works. Then I am suppose to see the neurosurgeon.



Next Step
February 21, 2010, 6:33 pm
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After many attempts and messages I finally received an appointment with a doctor. Actually, I saw a physcian’s assistant. I gave him a letter that my P.T. wrote about my attempts of recovery, suggestions of what might be wrong and test that would help identify the problem. The Physicians Assistant left to talk with someone and returned saying they decided to send me for a cervical X Ray to see if something is out of place and pinching a nerve.  I got the  X ray done that day. Now I don’t have another appointment until March 30 th to hear what the X ray found.



Shoulder Test
December 7, 2009, 9:48 pm
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I have tried to post things other than the emotional struggle of dealing with this. I try to keep a hopeful attitude and think I will get better, but today I feel like sharing some reality of my situation.

It’s been 15 months and I still don’t have proper use of my arm. For Thanksgiving prep, I peeled 8 small potatoes and later held up a bowl up to see if the bottom of it said it was microwavable. That caused me 6 days of pain in front and behind my shoulder. Today I had an appointment with my Physical Therapist we put my injured arm in front of me positioned at perhaps a 30 degree angle and bent at the elbow so my hand was in front of me. We put my other hand on top of the injured shoulder hand and I had to try to rotate out toward the ceiling. I could not lift it. I tried. I looked at it. I flexed every muscle and tried, imagined, thought in my head, go, go, go, but it did not move.

My P.T. says that it’s clear the muscle is not firing. “There’s no go in that muscle.”  We have done so many exercises. My other muscles have gotten stronger but the supraspinatus is still not responding.  

He told me an EMG would see if the muscles are firing, if they are receiving an electrical charge from the nerve or not. It would help define if I have nerve damage or tears in my muscle. I had a MRI, they saw inflammation but no tears. But perhaps it wasn’t clear. The radiologist said it was hard to see my muscles since I am small. He had to do some shots twice. Perhaps the angle or inflammation covered any tears. I learned an arthrogram would see if I have tears. I hate hearing about all the cuts and surgeries and with undetermined success. I will do what takes to get better. I wish I would just heal, wish my muscle would wake up and work. I have done so many exercises at home and the gym, my other muscles got stronger but my supraspinatus still does not work.

I wish my doctors would have been more involved in finding why I wasn’t healing. I kept getting passed from resident doctor to resident doctor. They would say, “Yes, this is a long time. You should be better by now. Come back in a couple of weeks or months.” No one took initiative to explore why I wasn’t better. Why it’s not healed, yes, this is a long time to be injured, help me.

I don’t know what will happen. I know I am very tired and frustrated with this duration.



SHOES
November 17, 2009, 7:43 pm
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 Tying shoe laces when you have a Rotator Cuff Injury feels like wadded up tissue paper being pulled apart. My muscles felt dry and brittle. I didn’t want to walk around with my shoe laces flopping about me, didn’t want to risk falling down and I wondered what germs, gross things and types of puddles my laces would flop through. The first couple of months I left my shoes tied and just daily shoved my foot in, creating accumulative tear down of the ankle cushion. I wondered what would happen first, the disintegration of my shoe ankle or healing of my shoulder. I’m not a sandal or flip flip wearer. I have skinny feet, especially ankles and heels. Finding a shoe that fits usually takes a long time and now with my injury, trying on shoes couldn’t be done. But there was one day shoes found me. The right shoes.

After having a frustrating week of increasing pain, daily struggles, doctors appointments and trying to figure out the disability papers I decided I needed to go for a walk to clear my head and seek peace. I needed a new feeling in my soul. I decided to ride the bus to Jack London Square and walk around the water front. There’s some benches out there with nice views. Sitting out in the sun and cool breeze would feel nice. My bus map with all the city lines on it showed that the 51 goes there, I thought. In reality the bus turns left at 7th street. When this happened I wondered if this is a detour, if we will return to Broadway and end at Jack London Square. Where does this bus go? I grab the 51 bus line map route I see on the bus. Without the mix of other bus lines that my map at home has, this bus route map clearly shows that the 51 does turn left and travels to Alameda.

That’s OK, Alameda has a street that leads to a beach walk and a yummy Mexican Food Restaurant that I adore. Park Ave. also has many fun shops; even though I can’t pick anything up, I could look around. That could be fun or frustrating, if I wanted to pick something up and it hurt. I would try to keep my mind frustration free.

The waterfront walk was nice. I enjoyed the different birds, the sun, the breeze and being out of my home– a constant reminder of things I can’t do. On my way back to the bus I passed a shoe store which reminded me of my need to find easier shoes to put on. In the window display, I saw some shoes I would like if both of my arms worked. I liked the colors and styles of many shoes. They were fun, different, comfortable looking also dressy enough to wear to a nice event. I was thinking I should continue walking and go home. I can’t try on shoes by myself. But something, I don’t know if it was my curiosity or avoidance of returning to daily struggles at home, I went in. Questioning myself for reasons of being there since I didn’t have the ability to try on shoes, I walked around the store slowly, lightly, uncertain as if I might just turn and leave on any whim. I saw more well crafted shoes, and pleasing colors, then I saw “It”. A shoe with no laces, just a draw string. The shoes were black, gray with powder blue stitching, a cute style, something I’d even wear if I wasn’t injured. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to put it on myself. I stood there looking at it, taking it in, wanting to try it on, and afraid I couldn’t do it myself. I had already had the last several days of struggle and defeat in every thing I had to do. Today was suppose to be different. Today I needed to experience a new energy for my soul, no roadblocks. I needed to give my frustration load a break. I kept standing there looking at the shoe and twice workers asked if I needed help. They probably thought I was weird or spacing out on drugs or something, just standing there in front of a shoe, yet not trying it on. I decided I should explain my situation if I get asked again. Right then a 3rd person asked, “Do you want to try on something?”

I decided to be brave and just say it. “Yes, this one, but….uh..i,…may need help…putting it on…and taking it… off.” I quickly looked down and felt the warmth of embarrassment in my face. “I have a rotator cuff injury.”

I’m 39 and I need help putting on my shoes. I mentally chastise myself.

Sure, I can help you if you need , but this shoe was designed by someone who has had a rotator cuff injury. Healing from surgery he designed this since it’s easier to put on.”

Wow, what a cosmic score!!! I misread my bus map, wound up in Alameda where I, still got to walk by water, ate at my favorite Mexican Food Restaurant, and now found a shoe that works for me. It’s called the Alameda made right here in Alameda. How cool is that? Wow! It’s comfortable and I can put it on and take it off by myself AND WITHOUT pain, no crinkly tissue paper feeling in my shoulder. I am still wearing it today. Ah, this day was good. 🙂



HOW TO….EAT
October 26, 2009, 8:36 pm
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There are so many things that are daily struggles when living with a rotator cuff injury. Everything from feeding myself, hygiene, and getting dressed involved a mental challenge of dealing with obstacles and planning movements of the right and left arm.

I had to find a new way to do everything, even sleeping. It can seem overwhelming when every day, all day is the boggle of efforts and guesses, planning and settling. Having a need, such as to eat or use the bathroom or hold the phone, can be wearisome tasks.

I have tried to remember some of the ways I discovered that helped me so I could share and perhaps help someone else who is wondering how to ….EAT.

Scissors

The best thing I discovered was the helpful uses of a sharp pair of scissors. I still use them to cut open everything.

Bags of cereal, veggies, rice, croûtons, apples, carrots, and paper towels, toilet paper…anything that I used to be able to open by pulling, now I use scissors.

—————-(and to cut open the mail at one side)————–

Easy Open pre-made food like sushi or sandwiches to go or anything in a plastic container sealed with a sticker. The seal can be easily cut with the scissors. And wah-la, food ready to eat without the strain and heavy lifting of cooking or clean up.

They are helpful for opening the toothpaste box and anything in a box. I use my scissors all the time. It helps.

Pasta Sauce

I found the kind that has four sides, I think it’s Classico. I first loosened the vacuum pack by turning it upside down and tapping it on the floor with several firm taps. Then I could use my hip to press it against the side of the counter and twist it open. Wew! Couldn’t do that with the round jars.

Draining of pasta

To put water into a pot, I would lift the empty pot with one hand onto the burner, then fill with water a coffee cup or something I could lift easily and proceed with many trips to the stove.

(Water on the floor, well I couldn’t use a mop with one working arm, so I went through more paper towels. It’s better than slipping and having another injury).

I am sure many of you with a rotator cuff injury would shriek about the thought of turning your hands over to drain pasta. That thought alone would almost hurt me, it still makes me uncomfortable and I haven’t dared to try it yet, I don’t think I’m ready. For many of us, that movement is impossible while having acute or near acute pain. I needed to buy a spaghetti grabber so I could lift the pasta out of the water. Eventually it was tiring to my right arm which was doing all the work. I switched to eating pre-made frozen ravioli, which is lighter when draining with the spaghetti grabber. 

Microwave food

Of course, it’s easy to open using those scissors, but how many microwave meals can we eat? There’s not enough flavors to get us through the healing time. But when you’re hungry and your arm is not working and other options are out, microwave food is an appreciated meal.

Pre-cut veggies

They are found in the produce aisle or the frozen section. Cutting vegetables, I couldn’t do it and still can’t. I tried to cut a carrot and hardly any of it was left on the cutting board since I couldn’t pull the knife out of the carrot. I had to keep chopping and carrot pieces went flying everywhere. The scene reminded me of watching those pigeons eating off the sidewalk. They picked up a food scrap in their beak and took a bite while they flipped the piece overhead, out of their mouth, then quickly run over to the food scrap and repeat. What a pain in the A** way to eat. Well, I didn’t run to the carrots slices on the floor and continue to chop. But the carrots thrown on the floor was similar to the art work of pigeons eating, so hooray for pre-cut vegetables!

Pre-made salads

I am happy there are those bags of salad that come with everything: the salad, the pecans, the cheese, the cranberries,  and the dressing. All you need is a pair of scissors, a bowl and a fork.

Other easy things to make

Rice, some rice comes in a bag that cooks in the microwave in a minute. One less pot to clean!

Cous cous, millet, quinoa, any grain like that where you can leave in the pot. No draining needed.

Protein

There is cooked meat in the frozen section sometimes already cut into smaller pieces for stir frys, so that makes it easy to get into the mouth. I found I couldn’t cut my food so I needed things already cut. The deli has sliced meats.

Can Opener

An electric one would be great, I imagine. I didn’t have one, but I found I could open a can using a simple, cheap store bought hand held can opener if I held the can low so I could get leverage over it. The fancy, more expensive one was too heavy and hurt my shoulder to use it.

Cans are great because of soups and pre-cooked beans.

Getting the groceries to your home.

Wow, Carrying groceries is painful. I can’t do it if I buy a couple of heavy things like milk, a can of beans and say, a large block of sliced cheese. That’s too heavy and hurts most times, even though I use my right arm. The pull on my neck ends up hurting my left shoulder. And my poor right arm is overworked and starting to be cranky and sometimes pops.

I used to live by a grocery store so I would make several trips back and forth to the store to carry small batches home. Going back and forth took considerable time, like all things do with a rotator cuff injury.

I recently learned that some grocery stores deliver. I wish I knew that a long time ago. Wow.

Anyway. Safeway is one that delivers if you order $50.00 or more. The delivery charge is between 6.95-12.95 if I remember correctly. I am going to do this.

Costco also delivers, but you have to be a member and I have not looked into what the minimal order has to be.

There may be more grocery stores that deliver.

If carrying groceries hurts, I suggest ordering delivery. That also eliminates another painful experience of fastening the seatbelt and turning the wheel.

That’s it for today. I will be posting other How To’s for daily life.

I wish you all well. 🙂



Meeting another

One day I met a lady at the hospital who also has a shoulder injury. Also about my age, early 40’s I would guess. We ended up sitting in the waiting room together while waiting for paperwork. We began talking, realized we both had injuries in our left shoulders, we started talking about the many aspects this injury has changed in our lives.

 We shared how we used to be able to do so many things, felt in charge of our lives, we are the sole bread winners of our lives and could work, were good at our jobs, loved our careers, could pay our bills, make plans, go out, now simple things like shaving armpits and washing our hair, we need help.

 Here’s a small recap of part of our conversation.

 “Now I can’t shave my armpits,” she says.

I was there, I had to get my partner to hold up my arm so I could shave and wash my hair for me. Now most days I can do it myself.”

And sleeping hurts, I can’t get comfortable. I am a stomach sleeper.”

Me too and I can’t do that and I can’t sleep on the injured side or even the other side because the shoulder rolls forward and pulls.”

Yeah, I get throbbing pain in my arm.”

Yeah, me too. I would lie on my side and after 5-7 minutes pain would shoot up my arm to my shoulder. I had to get used to sleeping on my back,” I say.

That’s hard, I can’t fall asleep like that.”

It took months of trying and now I can finally sleep on my back. I still can’t cut vegetables,” I say.

Me neither, I am used to cooking. I am a certified chef,” she says.

At the grocery store I would see those precut vegetables and think, people are so lazy or think they’re too busy to cut vegetables. Now I am so happy those exist. Thank God they exist,” I say.

 We talked about the struggle with the injury, crying, feeling scared, frustrated, not knowing when this will end, being so worried about our finances and the tremendous effort of daily life. We talk about learning that we have to ask for help and letting people help us.

 “Sometimes I think there is something to learn from this. It’s like everything is going along good in life and then it stops with this and I wonder what I am suppose to learn,” she says.

I often think that also! I want to hurry up and learn whatever it is so I can move on.” We both laugh.

Me too. I feel the same way.” We both laugh again.

I let out a deep breath. “This takes patience. I guess that’s what were learning.” I say. We laugh. Great, I’ve learned it, now ready to move on,” I say. More laughter.

 It’s amazing how much we have experienced similar emotions and thoughts. We could talk and laugh about it. The laughing was that we pretty much were saying yep, uh huh, me too, me too, yep, uh huh. One person would say something and the other one could completely identify with it.

I thought of the progress I have made. Sometimes I’m able to do minimal things, only minimal things, but that’s better than the days of purposely dehydrating myself because it hurt to pull up my pants and it was too cold too wear a skirt. There were days I couldn’t eat, make food or bring it up to my mouth so I often just didn’t eat. I didn’t bathe or change my clothes because that hurt too much and caused throbbing, tingling and made me feel like I would never get better. I have made progress, slowly, but progress. I encouraged her to keep believing that she’ll get through this. It is a slow process, but eventually, there is improvement.

Stay happy, have a good mental energy. That feels a lot better. I spent the first 9 months of my injury depressed, worried, stressed out about it. I was driving myself crazy. I needed to have some happiness in me. I started reading for the enjoyment of reading, mostly on the web or things I could lay flat since holding open a book hurt. I began watching movies and comedy. Months ago I decided I can’t use my left arm, but I can walk.”

Yes! I walked 5 miles this morning,” she says.

Right on.”

We agreed that getting out, walking, breathing, listening to the birds, seeing the trees is good for the mind. It gives a chance to feel happy, notice the beauty around us. There is so much to appreciate.

Keep your mind and energy strong. We will make it. We WILL make it.”

She was called to get her paperwork.

Good luck, so nice to meet you,” we both said.

We wish each other well with big smiles. We both seemed a lot happier. I actually left the hospital in a good mood. Uplifted.

I hope the best for both of us and for all injured people. Going through a set back is a process of the mind, soul, identity, pride, and so many things. As we learn a new attitude of how to deal with daily obstacles, getting used to having a different ability, practicing emotional nurturing and rooting ourselves on, I guess it makes us better people. We will have something we understand about set backs, looking inside, and finding an additional strength.

 



Rotator Cuff Injury
October 22, 2009, 6:45 pm
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I have a rotator cuff injury and these take a long time to heal. A mind numbingly long time. After waiting, hoping, massaging, doing exercises and still not getting better, I had to put my pride and earnest impatience aside. Life has something different for me to learn. I guess I will learn it through this injury.

 

I am used to being strong. I was a massage therapist. I could massage big, strong people, lift things, I could easily pick up heavy boxes, arm wrestle people, I could lift and carry people, surprising them with the strength that I had in my little body. I never had to worry about hurting myself. I had an inner source of physical strength. But that has ended from having reemerging complications from getting hit by a car four years ago. I’m in my 15th month of attempted recovery.

 

With my ability gone and daily life being a tiring chore I can only coach myself through my frustrations, set backs, and make sure I notice with glee, any gains I make. I have to tell myself I will get better. I have to have hope and patience, pray, meditate, allow myself to cry but also tell myself to have fun, enjoy myself, go for a walk, read comedy, explore the things that make me happy.

 

I wonder what I will do next. I loved massaging and I was good at it. I probably won’t be able to return to my career since picking up a dish, making a sandwich, getting dressed sometimes hurts my shoulder to the point that I can’t use my left arm for a couple of days. Maybe I can find something that I can physically, mentally and in all ways enjoy. Maybe I can feel fully alive again. I try to focus on the everyday, present moment of keeping a happy, healthy mindset, enjoying life in the way that it is now in this stage of my life.

 

I will be sharing some of my experiences and would love to hear from others, especially rotator cuff injury survivors and those still in healing. I hope this blog can be a place that we can share our experiences and feel the strength of all of us and our power.