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Rotator cuff ... thing. Talk to me, please.

(30 Posts)
DontCallMeBaby Mon 12-Nov-12 16:43:45

I say 'thing' because I don't have a definite diagnosis, and 'injury' sounds like I DID something to it, and I'm not in the least bit convinced I did. Physio (who I have only spoken to on the phone, not seen) reckons I over stretched as I told him the first time I noticed pain was doing backwards windmills as part of a gym work out, but it was a case of 'ooh, that's a bit sore' rather than anything going ping, snap, crunch, whatever.

Pain remained at that sort of level for a couple of months, kept going to the gym, and with the exception of a couple of stretches, wasn't really a problem. But I did miss my yoga class for six weeks, and when I went back to that practically everything hurt. At that point I figured I needed to see a doctor, and saw a very pleasant locum who said the words 'painful arc' which allowed me to consult Dr Google and get a few ideas.

She referred me to Physio Direct - called them and, stupidly, when asked if I wanted an appointment or to speak to someone on the phone, opted for the latter. So I did that, still no real diagnosis, unsurprisingly with hindsight, and a set of emailed exercises which I don't fully understand. I'm now booked in to actually see someone. Unfortunately it's the same chap I spoke to on the phone, and I'm not actually impressed with him - he told me swimming was 'nice gentle exercise', before thinking and amending this to 'well, maybe not front crawl'. Maybe?! Like an idiot, I tried it a couple of weeks ago and nearly passed out. Breaststroke wasn't all that much better, and fortunately I thought better of trying backstroke.

Shoulder is now getting worse all the time. Movement is becoming limited - I'm struggling to brush my hair, undo my bra, lots of things - it's my right shoulder and I am VERY right handed. The painful arc which was a little higher than the usual 60-120 degrees is now 60-180, with having my arm straight up being particular painful. I can just about still sleep on that side, but have to be very careful how I do it, I have to lie sort of on the back of the shoulder. If I sleep on my back I snore, on my front is uncomfortable (big boobs) and if I sleep ALL the time on my left I don't think that'll do my left shoulder much good! I will probably have to talk to occ health at work about the fact I can barely swipe my work pass from the car, and I'm really pissed off that I can barely exercise as 2.5 stone weight loss and hard-earned fitness are starting to melt away.

Oh, and particularly distressingly yesterday I was getting shooting pains and loss of function in the arm that nearly rendered me unable to drink my glass of wine (until I thought to switch hands). wink

Seriously, I'm not filled with confidence at the thought of my physio visit. Do I really just learn how to do the exercises properly, do them, be patient? Is there more I can do, or ask for? Any experiences anyone can share that might help me see a way forward?

digerd Mon 12-Nov-12 17:01:51

Shooting pains are nerves being touched by something that is out of its normal place, or swollen. Have you not had any x-rays or CT or MIR scans?
You not being able to use one arm reminded me of when I couldn't use my wrist, and doing hair, bra up etc was impossible and I was sobbing with the pain. But mine was just arthritis and just had to wait until it went away, which it did after 2 weeks.
Go to GP and insist on an MRI acan

Best of luck

Casserole Mon 12-Nov-12 17:53:47

The thing is there are loads of different things it could be. Without someone actually seeing you, laying their hands on you, and taking you through some orthopaedic and neurological testing, it's impossible to say what it would be - and potentially irresponsible too. I am really surprised that this physio company diagnoses people over the phone, I think that's awful.

You need to be seen by someone. A physio, a chiropractor, an osteopath, but get yourself actually SEEN and examined properly.

DontCallMeBaby Mon 12-Nov-12 18:15:46

Thank you. I could kick myself really over the telephone consult - I don't like to take time off work for anything as I'm part time AND term time, but it's looking like it'll turn out to have been hugely counter productive.

I'm seeing the physio next Wednesday, and if he doesn't refer me on I'll go back to the GP.

I do wonder if it's arthritis - I was told years ago that my clicky joints meant I may get arthritis early (I'm 40), plus over the last year I've had pain in both big toe joints and my left thumb.

I'm so cross, a year ago I felt like I was in the best form of my adult life, now I'm falling apart!

Mrsrobertduvallsaysboo Mon 12-Nov-12 20:56:30

I have a problem with my rotator cuff...impingement the physio calls it.
No reason why it's happened...I do weights but can't remember a particular moment it happened. I am 52...
Have been to the physio 5 times. After 2 visits, it felt better, but then I got a virus and it made it worse. Stopped 4 weeks ago after 4 visits. Had to go back today...last week had another virus and have felt arm is so painful, rather than shoulder.

It will take a while...annoying as I can't lie on my side in pilates with arm out, can't do bra up normally, have to sleep with pillow by side. Dh thinks it's an excuse grin

ettiketti Mon 12-Nov-12 21:00:00

My dad had untreated rotator cuff injury, refused to go for treatment, has now frozen shoulder argh!
Physio definitely helps, I still use some of the exercises now, you can YouTube them too, walking my hand up the wall works wonders when I feel mine getting stiff again.
They can inject into the joint as part of your physio if its v bad, ask your go and good luck, it's so debilitating and painful!

digerd Mon 12-Nov-12 21:46:28

There is an operation for rotator cuff, as one specialist diagnosed it and referred her to a specialist surgeon, who said it wasn't !!

digerd Mon 12-Nov-12 21:53:56


It does sound like arthritis, but my pain comes and goes apart from the ageing process of stiffness which is permanent now. Can't do the splits now !!

DontCallMeBaby Mon 12-Nov-12 21:55:53

It's deteriorating so fast! Last night I pulled bra down before unfastening just cost it hurt; just now I've realised I actually cannot reach up that far. I think I need to get ambidextrous, fast.

Stupid condition - use the joint and you're scraping tendon and bone together (which makes me queasy to think about), or don't use and hey presto frozen shoulder.

I am now going to peruse YouTube for exercises instead of loading the dishwasher ...

digerd Mon 12-Nov-12 22:09:24

You shouldn't be like that at 40. The crunching noises you hear are probably the cartilidges worn away. At your age I would see GP and you should have an MRI scan to see the soft tissues in your joints. If you were my age they wouldn't bother, and I accept it, but yours seems worse than mine, and I heard recently that artificial cartilidge has now been invented.
Do you mean you can't reach round to your back to undo your bra, neither can I as hurts my shoulders but don't wear one now.< small non bouncing boobies>

fridayfreedom Mon 12-Nov-12 22:13:39

sounds like me a year ago. came on slowly, noticed I could no longer reach to do my bra up, no pain at that stage.
Saw my chiropractor who gave me acupuncture which helped teh pain but not the movement.
Eventually developed a frozen shoulder. Saw the GP who gave me a steroid injection, didn't hurt but didn't do much good.
Couldn't lie on my front arm out to sleep or lie on my right shoulder , too painful. Used painkillers and gels to help with pain. Used to get shooting pains if I knocked it or reached out suddenly. On xmas day recahe dout and touched a hot lamp by mistake, with drew suddenly and nearly passed out with the pain and DM nearly passed out with the language!!
Saw a physio who prescribed stretching exercises and ultrasound.
Have done these regularly and after a few months am painfree and noticed yesterday that I can now lie with my arm stretched out again and even better can stretch my arm up to shave my arm pit properly again!!
Frozen shoulders can take about 18mths to recover which is my experience but am pleased to say that my shoulder definately feels nearly back to normal.
Would definately pursue the physio and sort out some pain relief in your shoes. good luck

DontCallMeBaby Mon 12-Nov-12 22:24:28

Actually you've reminded me that I had pretty horrendous crunching noises in that shoulder even before the pain started. My hips crunch as well, or at least did when I was doing yoga.

Left arm I can get around my back and about two inches above my bra fastening. Right arm, with effort, I can get to the small of my back, about four inches BELOW my bra fastening. confused

Bralessness is not an option, 32G!!

I'm hoping for something more productive from the physio next week - to be fair, when I saw the locum it was nowhere near as bad (I was going because it was lasting so long, rather than it being particularly bad), and the physio hasn't actually SEEN me. It was nowhere near as bad then either.

YouTube has confused me and I still need to do the dishwasher.

Lilymaid Mon 12-Nov-12 22:36:26

DH had a rotator cuff injury (detached a tendon when he tried to stop a fall). He had surgery to re-aatach it, but during his treatment we had a look at this website.

noseynoonoo Mon 12-Nov-12 23:01:48

You sound like me a few years ago. I ended up using my health care to see a shoulder specialist who diagnosed osteo-arthritis and suggested I have key-hole surgery - the best thing I have ever done in my life. I am a new woman.

I think you need to see a doctor and have an x-ray and go from there.

Good luck.

Jins Mon 12-Nov-12 23:08:17

Sounds like frozen shoulder with a tendonitis thrown in for good measure. sad

Steroid injection and physio. Takes a long time to unfreeze. Mine is just starting to unfreeze now a year on

digerd Tue 13-Nov-12 09:36:47


What was the procedure called that you had under keyhole surgery?

digerd Tue 13-Nov-12 09:41:49


Jealous - was always a tiny A cup! But now I'm older I am glad as makes life easier for me

noseynoonoo Tue 13-Nov-12 09:47:38

Digerd - it was an arthroscopy. The jagged bits in the ball and socket joint were smoothed off so that the shoulder could move freely and painlessly again. It took about 2-3 months of physio after that for all the pain to go.

I do have 3 small scars on my shoulder which are fading and I see them as a very small price to pay to get my life back again.

Casserole Tue 13-Nov-12 10:34:58

Again, my best advice (and this is my field) is get yourself seen and properly diagnosed before you start self diagnosing and prescribing yourself exercises via the internet. If you wrongly diagnose yourself you could be doing entirely the wrong exercises. I would ring the physio service and see if you can get seen faster. Or just ring a local chiro/osteo/physio and get seen in the next day or so.

A front fastening bra might help for now, just on a practical note.

Really hope you get it sorted soon.

Jins Tue 13-Nov-12 10:45:19

Absolutely agree with Casserole and I'm just a patient!

I spent a while doing exercises that a friend had been given by her physio and they aggravated the tendonitis. She had bursitis, I had frozen shoulder.

Specific exercises really make a difference but the tips you get, like using heat or cold, how to move without aggravating things are crucial as well. Don't go self diagnosing arthritis or something that requires surgical intervention because you'll tense up even more.

Front fastening bras are ace although I have migrated to genie bras which are even better for me as they seem to support my shoulder. Try one on in BHS

digerd Tue 13-Nov-12 11:33:12


Thank you. Do you have the medical term for what they did? My daughter has had pain for 6 years and eventually last year they diagnosed something, which I can't remember , but she had an op on her shoulder blade. She is still having pain in her shoulder on that side, which she said she had before the op despite months a year of physio, which they said would cure it.
It may not be what you have/had, but just clutching at straws.

digerd Tue 13-Nov-12 11:51:50

My daughter's op was called Excision of Superior Medial Pole and removal of Bursitis. Also under keyhole surgery which means Arthroscopy. Had that done to my knee.

noseynoonoo Tue 13-Nov-12 13:34:15

I'm sorry Digerd, I don't know all the details.

DontCallMeBaby Tue 13-Nov-12 16:30:30

I think I normally* have a pretty healthy attitude to self-diagnosis, just preferring to go in as an informed patient rather than completely wide-eyed and helpless. The YouTube thing was in the hope that I might find a decent demonstration of how to actually do the exercises prescribed - funnily enough a single scrappy diagram and a bit of text is no better a way to demonstrate an exercise than a phonecall is to diagnose a problem.

I'm okay with seeing the physio next Wednesday, I think. The only way I can see anyone earlier is with work, and I'm not sure how helpful that's going to be (it all seems SLIGHTLY woo).

* I am feeling rather not-normal right now so am stepping away from Google

digerd Tue 13-Nov-12 16:57:50

The only way you can be diagnosed - which you say you have not been- is to have an MRI scan. You need to have a diagnosis before appropriate treatment can be advised.

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