About a year-and-a-half ago, I noticed my right shoulder hurt a little. It didn’t really get any worse for a long time and I mostly ignored it, but last December, I decided I didn’t want it to hurt anymore. So, I went to see an orthopedist. He diagnosed me with rotator cuff tendonitis and said, “Here’s some Naprosyn (essentially script strength Aleve). Take this twice a day and come back in a month.”
A month later, no improvement, Doc said, “Let’s try a cortisone shot.” I revealed myself as the major needle-phobic weenie that I am and said, “Let’s not. How about another 30 days of Naprosyn?”
“It probably won’t help if it hasn’t helped so far, but there’s no harm in trying it.”
In late January, I tried out for a play. The appointment I had made ended up being the afternoon of opening night. I cancelled with the intention of (since he was right and the 2nd month of Naprosen hadn’t helped) coordinating the next appointment with my husband so he could hold my hand while the GIANT needle was administered. (“It’s not the length of the needle that matters, it’s the gauge,” said Doc. HA!)
The following week, Mother fell on the sidewalk while going out to get the mail. Twenty-four stitches, five days in hospital, four weeks in a rehab facility, and four weeks of various therapies (during which I could only work half-time) later, BOTH shoulders hurt.
Then our dog got sick and had to be put down.
It was not a great spring. If I weren’t so stubborn and so Southern, I might begin to lose faith in black-eyed peas. But I digress.
I finally made an appointment in June to face the needles (yes, now multiple needles because multiple shoulders were in pain.) My wonderful husband went with me, held my hand, and I was mostly OK, not getting fainty until after the second injection. In an effort at levity, DH made a joke about the size of the needle. I did not laugh.
All the stories I’d heard about how miraculous a cortisone injection can be couldn’t even produce a placebo effect for me. My shoulders still hurt. At my follow-up, Doc said something to the effect of: “Well the next step is an MRI to see how what we need to do for surgery.” I said, “What about another set of cortisone shots?”
“The efficacy rate for a second round of shots after the first round didn’t help is only about 40%, but it’s certainly worth a try if that’s what you want to do.” Without anyone there to hold my hand, I bravely submitted myself to two more injections with GIANT NEEDLES INTO MY SHOULDERS! (I really was very brave. I would have given myself a sucker, had I had one.)
And…they didn’t help. At all.
After much internal debate, I made an appointment with my friendly, neighborhood acupuncturist. My husband said, “You know what acupuncturists do, right?” With great bravado, I told him that after facing two rounds of giant needles, I should be able to handle a few little ones.
It turns out that sometimes, when energy whats-its aren’t flowing properly, those little tiny needles can really sting! After my prescribed number of sessions with little improvement, the acupuncturist told me that I should have seen a marked reduction in pain and she felt it would be prudent to refer me to an orthopedist.
I’m scheduled for a double-MRI next week. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.