It hasn’t just been kitchen renos and leaky toilets around here lately, just so you know. As a matter of fact, I have also been coping with a wonky right shoulder, too. Yep, renos and toilets and shoulders – oh my!
As you may recall, way back in October, my shoulder kind of seized up for some still-unknown reason. I literally could not lift my arm sideways more than about 10 cms. Everyday life was suddenly quite severely compromised.
I first went to my chiropractor. He thought it was bursitis and adjusted me a few times, but this seemed to make no difference to my shoulder. I still couldn’t move it much. I asked him if he thought maybe a massage would help. He thought it would, so I made an appointment with the massage therapist in the same clinic. (He also encouraged me to keep coming in for chiropractic treatments. I did not.)
The massage therapist wasn’t at all sure it was bursitis. He felt my symptoms were more of the rotator cuff nature, and a few were even those of a frozen shoulder. Either way, he was sure that regular massage would help me.
So I began weekly massage treatments. Sometimes twice weekly. I did this from the beginning of November last year till mid-March this year. And it did help. My movement was returning, a little more every time I went in. I also had some home exercises to do, which I did not do totally religiously, but let’s say semi-religiously.
But came a time when my massage therapist said, “You know, there is something there that I can’t get at with massage. I have done all that I know to do with your shoulder, but you still don’t have full and painless range of motion. I think you need to try something else. Let me tell you about this technique called dry needling.”
Which he then proceeded to do. He even gave me the name of a physiotherapy clinic where it was done. He said he had a number of patients who had done this dry needling and had had fantastic, almost immediate results.
“Okay”, I said, not having truly heard a word he said. “I’ll think about it.” Then I went home and googled it. I discovered that this technique is properly called intramuscular stimulation (IMS), and it is quite similar to acupuncture, except that the needle is inserted into the trigger point of a shortened muscle, which causes the muscle to twitch, then release and lengthen. It’s that muscle release that facilitates the instant mobility improvement.
This sounded promising, except for the whole needle thing. I’m not afraid of needles, per se, but I’ve never had acupuncture and so I was quite apprehensive. Did it actually hurt? How did it feel to have a thin needle sticking out of your body for a while? Did it ache afterwards? And most importantly, did it work?
So I did what any normal person would do: I polled all my friends and acquaintances.
And it was very soon apparent that I was the only person in my circle who hadn’t ever had acupuncture.
Well, my decision immediately got easier. I called that physio clinic and made that appointment. I certainly wasn’t going to be left out, oh no, not me!
My first visit was needle-free. My physio, a calm young woman called Naomi, carefully ran her (thankfully) warm hands over and around my shoulder to feel where the problem areas were, and said that yes, this was definitely a rotator cuff issue. She had me do a bunch of movements, and gave me some to practice at home. She assured me that all that massage had done me a world of good, and had, in fact, made her job easier. She also felt that the IMS would work quite well for me, but if I was very nervous about it, we could first do a session of straight acupuncture to see how well I tolerated it.
Tolerate?! This is something that must be tolerated?! Poor choice of words, I thought, but my second appointment was all about the acupuncture. And I seem to have tolerated it quite well. With flying colours, one might say.
There was just one needle, placed between my thumb and index finger that made my hand jump. It was an odd sensation, not exactly pain, but definitely a strong reaction. It was uncomfortable, a bit like a small zap of electricity, but of short duration. Naomi said that was pretty much what the IMS would be like. Again, I was concerned, because I didn’t really like that feeling.
But this morning, I went back for the actual IMS. Naomi stuck a needle into a specific muscle around my shoulder, wiggled it briefly, then pulled it out and did it with another muscle. She did this on six different muscles. And I barely felt any of it. It was absolutely nothing like that first jolt in my hand. This was a cinch!
And it worked. Now I can put my hands on my hips. I can put my right arm behind my back. I can lay down on my back and cradle my head in my hands.
And I am going back for more next week.