I'd give my right arm for an answer...
May 10, 2011 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Should I just wait for my arm to get better?

YANAD and I'm not seeking medical advice. About a month ago, I carried a heavy briefcase on and off all day. The next day my arm and shoulder hurt. I figured, you know, unused muscles, it'll go away and ignored it but, now 4 weeks later:

* it hurts to brush my hair
* it hurts a lot to shrug on my backpack (which I bought because the briefcase thing was clearly not working out)
* after a long day slaving over a hot mouse, my upper arm hurts (and I resort to painkillers in order to keep working)

I am not a person known for sports or exercising. It's possible that there's some very obvious thing to do. Like exercise more. Wave my arms around like I just don't care. Or sleep more. Or, maybe it's obvious that I've broken an anatomy widget. If this is the case, what are some possible treatments (just out of interest - I promise I won't try them at home).

Or if I am to google it myself, what words should I be looking for?
posted by b33j to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might have done something to a ligament/tendon in your shoulder. Get it looked at. If it's a tear, you're making it worse...
posted by Capt.DooDooFace at 3:18 PM on May 10, 2011

First things first. Go to an orthopedic doc to see what it is not.

Once it is clearly defined as to what it is if you can begin taking the next step.
posted by goalyeehah at 3:20 PM on May 10, 2011

Try Googling for "frozen shoulder". Both of my shoulders went through this a few years ago, over lapping by about a year. It took about three years total for it to go away. Physical therapy may or may not have helped. I'm diabetic and approximately 30% of the people who get frozen shoulder are diabetics. I still don't have all my flexibility back, but that's my fault for not following-up on therapy and/or exercises.

For your sake, I hope it's something simpler.
posted by deborah at 3:22 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go see a physical therapist.
posted by TheBones at 3:48 PM on May 10, 2011

usually the pains i get from carrying something too heavy or at a weird angle goes away in less than a week. i hate this answer on mefi, but i'd say it's time to make an appt with a orthopod.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 4:05 PM on May 10, 2011

Is it possible that it triggered something like RSI? Try switching the mouse to the other hand (it really really is possible!), if possible see a medical professional to get a diagnosis of either a)something complicated as mentioned above, or b)here, have a large packet of diclofenac TAKE THEM IN THE MIDDLE OF MEALS.

Whatever it is, switching the mouse hand is not going to make it worse.
posted by Lebannen at 4:08 PM on May 10, 2011

Find a physical therapist or licensed massage therapists who knows what trigger points are and what to do about them. And if that doesn't work, go see the orthopedist. Please note: IANAD, just someone who has suffered from various aches and pains and found relief using the self-massage method outlined in Clair Davies' book.
posted by tuesdayschild at 4:52 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go see a physical therapist. I'm going through something like this now (with my hip) and man I wish I had not tried to tough it out on my own. Read through this article on bursitis and see if any of it sounds familiar. If I'd seen it 2 months ago I'd probably be feeling fine by now.
posted by desjardins at 4:53 PM on May 10, 2011

Get it looked at, but you might also pick up a $12 tennis elbow/IT band brace (you want one with a distinct pad in it so it'll press down). If you get any tangible relief within a day of putting it on, that'll be data you can give your doctor.

I did mine in lifting a car battery, and it wasn't a "it hurts when I bend my elbow" thing. It didn't really matter if I bent anything, my forearm and shoulder ached almost constantly. Lifting things, especially things that required a grip (frying pan, purse handle) was really painful all the way up.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:21 PM on May 10, 2011

My guess would be rotator cuff problems (surprise surprise, I'm guessing that it's something i have personal experience with). Sounds like you're having trouble lifting your arm above shoulder-level. Are you protecting the arm by resting it on things more often? Do you have instability in the shoulder joint? Signs of this include 'clicking' and shifting of the joint when you move the shoulder. This might be more evident when you're asleep/first thing in the morning, when your shoulder muscles are relaxed.

If you've hurt the rotator cuff, then you obviously should see a physical therapist. Failing that, if you feel like a sling would help, then it probably will (though obviously you want to get out of it in the next few weeks). A bit of gentle probing around the shoulder muscles should give you some idea of which muscles are injured. Is there one or two specific muscles (they're quite small in that area), or are there more general problems in the shoulder? Rotator cuff muscles take a fair while to heal, and you need to exercise them to get your strength back. I do things like the resistance band exercises mentioned here. If you're going to exercise, you want a single rep to be relatively easy, but to do many reps, until your shoulder is burning (in a good way).

Above all, be careful what you do until you get it sorted out, and don't assume that it's completely healed when it stops hurting (it will probably be weak, and require strengthening). Having an unstable shoulder can lead to dislocation and other nasty things that you want to avoid. Don't carry more heavy things until you're healed.

Good luck. Memail me if this sounds accurate and you want more advice.
posted by nml at 5:59 PM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Take it from someone who is in week 13 of post rotator cuff surgery... sounds just like the symptoms I had.

I would recommend seeing an ortho surgeon first. Let them do the tests and determine if there's a tear. Until you know what damage is done, you don't know how to treat it.
posted by tomswift at 6:56 PM on May 10, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'll go see my GP and take her (medical) advice on which specialist to see after that whether a physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon etc. Bummer. She's going to demand a pap & breast squish as well, I know it.

(for those following my intensely boring saga - my fridge is returning to the vendor for the weekend to fix a problem as well and the guitar bridge seems damaged beyond repair - no, I don't play, yet - but I'm over the food poisoning, and have replaced the microwave and video card after they blew up too.)
posted by b33j at 8:02 PM on May 10, 2011

I'm also guessing rotator cuff. For most folks, it's a strain of muscles and weakness that makes it painful/hard to raise above the shoulder level, and bodywork + trigger point therapy can do a lot to give you immediate results.

That said, long term results require minimal exercise to strengthen the muscles to avoid this in the future. The simplest exercise is simply holding the pushup position, in the "up" position without necessarily doing pushups. You can find a lot of exercises for shoulder stabilizers and rotator cuffs with a few google searches and youtube- most only require the weight of a can of beans or a book to do.
posted by yeloson at 11:03 AM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: Bursitis fixed with one steroid injection into the soft tissue.
posted by b33j at 10:14 PM on September 7, 2011

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