RyanBlog:entry:Mar 18, 2012

Technically, I *am* root for the home team. Weird, huh?
(I need a new pun here, huh...)

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March 18, 2012

Arm Report

I've been complaining a bunch on twitter and here, in little bits, about my arm. I've finally got some actual movement towards doing something about it, and thought I'd share.

I've basically been unable to use my left arm for much since Christmas. The pain started around November, when I was traveling a ton (altitude seemed to irritate it, some), and then it progressively got more painful until a weekend in December when I could no longer sleep in any position, or, like wash my own hair (I'm left-handed, and I used to sleep my left side) I had to go to UCSF urgent care (that's kind of a emergency-room-lite where I can go and wait to see a doctor TODAY.)

The guy I saw after a 3 hour wait twisted me around a bit thought I had an impinged biceps tendon, and gave me the same strong anti-inflammatory drugs I'd gotten last year (for the time that my left hand puffed up like a mitten). Last time they worked pretty well (like, overnight). This time, they didn't do much, the pain persisted, and I made an appointment with my regular doctor.

Later that weekend, while friends were over (one of whom's a doctor), I was wrestling with the cats, and reflexively yanked my hand back to avoid being scratched, and I about passed out from the surge of pain. My freakout kind of startled my friends, who left for home shortly afterwards... It's hard to be a decent host when I'm balled up on the couch, cradling my wing.

The next day, while trying to get my jacket off, I had another issue where something "popped", and I had another flash of intense "ouch". After an hour or so, however, I noticed that suddenly had somewhat greater range of motion. I could reach my hat again without too much pain, and what pain remained seemed to be out in the "meat" of my shoulder, as opposed to down inside the bone and socket. Around that time, I also started seeing a physical therapist, who told me I pretty clearly have what's called a "frozen shoulder", and should *not* put it in a sling, but rather keep moving it, even though it hurts like hell.

The next week, I finally saw my Doctor, who gave me a prescription for Vicodin, and an appointment to see an orthopedic doctor, 5 weeks later. The vicodin prescription was for 2 pills every 6 hours as needed for pain. No refills. If I took half a dose in the morning, and half a dose at night, I'd be out of pills in 17 days. I had another appointment with that doctor in three weeks, and I toughed it out. He had me pass a drug screen to ensure I wasn't on any street drugs, (I passed!), and a few days later, I had another stingy prescription for pain pills.

My travel schedule put me in Europe when I was supposed to see the orthopedist, so I rescheduled to see a physician's assistant a week earlier. She thought I might also have rotator cuff tear, and scheduled an MRI for another three weeks later. And she (the physician's assistant) said that I'd need to ask my primary physician for an extension of the pain meds. I called my doctor, whose office treated me like I was a junkie begging for smack. They gave me a prescription that wouldn't be valid until I returned from another trip to Europe. I spent that trip icing the shoulder in the hotel. A european hotel, by the way, where there's not an ice machine at the end of the hall. The hotel staff were great about helping me out, though.

Last Friday, I finally got my appointment, and went off to UCSF, where they injected some metal-containing fluid into my shoulder, (along with some anesthetic, which was temporarily great), while I was under a flouroscope (which is a seemingly-olde-timey cartoon xray, where the display is live, like you'd see some skeleton dancing to "dem bones" behind it), to see where the needle was going in my shoulder joint. It was pretty cool.

Finally, about half an hour later, they stuffed me into a tube, and I got the MRI. The tech said I kept moving around, even though I was keeping as still as I could. It took about 40 minutes of staying still in a loud tube, while my arm was twisted in a painful direction. I think the movement was just my breathing (lungs of a trombone player), and the fact that my shoulder is kind of attached to my rib cage.

I asked if I could take some cameraphone pictures of the xray/flouroscope and of the MRI screen, but they told me to just "ask for the CD", so I filled out a form, and we'll see what kind of data they send next week. I like cool pictures of my skeleton to post to Flickr, like a weird internet internal-exhibitionist.

On the ride home from the MRI, I got a call from the handlers of the "real orthopedic surgeon that I've never actually met yet", and they wanted to schedule a follow-up, which, miraculously, is only 6 days away. Maybe that means they see something terrifying, or maybe I just finally get some 'roid shots in my arm, but either way, I'll finally get some action-items for this stupid limb.

It's approaching 5 months now, and it's pissing me off.


| Comments (1) - Posted by ryan at 07:03 PM