This is not going to be a sexy post. Stay tuned as MrsL is getting home Sunday and I am planning quite the welcome home for her. This is one of those boring medical post about the ongoing issues with my shoulder.
I have dealt with right shoulder pain since 1986 when as a strapping young 20 year old I shipped off to Fort Lewis Washington, south of Seattle, for U.S. Army ROTC Advanced Camp. This was a mandatory 8 week training event the summer prior to your last year of ROTC before being commissioned as an officer. It was my first trip to the Pacific northwest and I fell in love with the area. So much so that when the opportunity to move my family out there as a private citizen presented itself with my job I jumped at the chance. While we all loved the area…MrsL and the boys were very homesick and we moved back to the southeast at the first chance. Anyway, back to the reason for this post…sorry.
About 5 weeks in to the training my platoon was running a timed multiple obstacle training course with our M16 and full gear complete with rucksack for added torment. Picture if you will a military version of an American Ninja Warrior course with military style obstacles: cargo net climb/descend, numerous jumping obstacles staggered along the way, low crawl pits under barbed wire, and my nemesis obstacle a rope crossing above the ground. I have always had balance issues. Sure I can balance on my bike but that is about it. So, this ten yards of extra thick hemp rope strung eight feet above a pit of sawdust stopped me dead in my tracks as I bolted out of the tree line from the previous obstacle.
I was in the shape of my life and could hold my own running the course and doing any of the other obstacles. However, this rope crossing proved my undoing this day. I quickly scampered up the wooden steps to the platform. The technique to be used was balancing on top of the rope on your stomach hooking one foot on to the rope and using your free leg to help keep centered as you shimmied across. This was done so as not to overtax your hands and shoulders. As I said, I have always had balance issues so after pulling myself out on to the rope and getting my foot hooked I began the hand over hand pull. Well let me tell you…the balance gremlins didn’t take long to strike and I flipped over and tried to pull myself across underneath the rope. My feet slipped off first and I found myself dangling by my hands in seconds. I dropped the remaining few feet and rolled through a perfect PLF (parachute landing fall…feet, calves, thighs, buttocks, then upper body). I thought I would simply move on to the next obstacle…wrong!
Of course, the soldiers from Ft. Lewis along with all of the ROTC training cadre staffing the course were on me in seconds emphatically and lovingly encouraging me to get back on the rope. There were two identical rope crossings so I decided to give the other one a go. I got back up on the platform and inched my self out on the rope. As I inched out again, my balance appeared to be holding. My technique was perfect…until…my M16 rolled off my back and over the side of my body just dangling there below the rope. I lost my concentration and, of course, my balance. This time there was no catching myself! As I flipped over my hands gave out and I fell the eight feet to the sawdust…oh it wasn’t very soft either. I landed on my right side and felt a jolt in my right shoulder and collar bone. A couple of my platoon mates came running over and helped me to my feet…sending searing pain through my shoulder. Luckily, this was the last obstacle on the course and we finished under the allotted time…barely. The reward…a weekend pass to Seattle.
Our platoon training officer had the medics come over to check out my shoulder before we left the course. It was a rudimentary check with some ROM checks and “feeling” along my collar bone for a break. There was, thankfully, not a break in the collar bone (or so I thought) and I lied about the pain in the range of motion test so they wouldn’t send me to the hospital for further evaluation and possibly a recycle to a later session or even worse being sent home to come back the next year. Since we had already passed the mandatory physical fitness test I coasted through the final three weeks of morning PT but knew something was not quite right.
Fast forward 18 months: I received my commission and was serving in a local reserve unit until I graduated. I was having ongoing and persistent numbness and tingling in my arm that my local ortho diagnosed as biceps tendonitis. This was before the days of MRI’s…or at least my Dad’s insurance didn’t pay for them…so I agreed to surgery to “release the tension” on the biceps tendon. After the surgery, nothing was said about potential breaks or hairline fractures.
Since then, I have had ongoing dull pain and limited range of motion. Until I started CrossFit, I always did overhead lifting and it was always painful. 26 played baseball from the time he was five until he graduated high school so I must have thrown a million balls to him and his teammates over the years for batting practice. Anything with repetitive motion, like stirring while cooking, cleaning/sweeping/vacuuming etc. always creates a great deal of throbbing pain. Of course, my CF coaches limited my overhead lifting but they let me sign up for a local competition where the first event was bar over hand release burpees and thrusters I did my fair share of both. I know…not smart.
Well, the past two weeks I have been miserable so I decided to finally give in and go see a shoulder specialist. As he was going through the x-rays and explaining that he didn’t see any arthritis he flipped to this one and said “I have rarely seen this…”
Right in the center of the circle is a nasty little bone spur. Based on his ROM test and my description of when the pain really ramps up he is quite certain I have a partial rotator cuff tear and would not rule out a full tear. Basically, his believe is this little bone spur is either from a hairline fracture from the fall that didn’t heal correctly or a byproduct of the first surgery. Now I am not a doctor nor do I play one on t.v. and I NEVER stay at a Holiday Inn Express (shameless bad humor) but it sure looks like something might have been fractured or creased ever so slightly at some point creating that little spur? Who knows.
The doctor also said he has operated on people who have full tears of the rotator cuff and had been “compensating” for the lack of shoulder strength by using other muscles, speculating I was one of those people. In a week I have a MRI to see what, if any, damage this spur has done to my rotator cuff. If it is only a partial tear he wants to try cortisone shots and therapy. Again, I’m not a doctor but how will cortisone clean up a bone spur? If it is a full tear…well…I guess I better start getting used to doing things with my left hand pretty quickly. That, in and of itself, scares me more than the surgery since I can’t do ANYTHING with my left hand now. I am hoping for not having to have surgery but at some point that bone spur is going to have be dealt with. We shall see!