Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trouble below the neck, for a change

After more than a year of dealing with head-and-neck medical issues, it was almost refreshing for a crisis to erupt in another region of my body.

I've been experiencing sharp pains in my right arm for about a month —to the point I can't lift my right arm, reach for my wallet with my right hand or carry anything heavier than a Q-tip with my right arm.

For weeks, I just wished that the pain would go away, and compensated by substituting my left arm instead of my right. In the meantime I've been having a dickens of a time doing things like tucking in my shirt, shifting my car's gears from Park to Reverse and even typing.

Last week an internal medicine doctor at Kaiser told me that it looked like I sprained a muscle group in my right arm, and he referred me to Physical Therapy. My first appointment was on Wednesday morning, before I headed down to the oncology department for my second treatment with Erbitux.

The therapist asked me to doff my shirt —at 131 pounds, I won't be gaining any recruits from Team Jacob— and asked me to tell him when I felt pain as he maneuvered my arm. It didn't take him long to determine that rotator cuff was injured.

He worked on the arm for about a half hour and showed me two exercises to perform at home three times a day. More important, he said it was critical that I stop sleeping on my side, in order to allow the rotator cuff to heal.

How the injury happened —jeez, I have no idea. I got an H1N1 vaccine in my right arm one evening, and as I slept that night I remember hearing a pop in my shoulder region. From that point, the pain slowly escalated.

I'm counting on the arm beginning to heal, even if I have to learn how to sleep hanging upside-down in my closet, like a bat. I'll be seeing the therapist again in two weeks and I should see progress by then.

Meanwhile, it's nice to have a medical condition that can be treated without using radioactive voodoo or debilitating courses of chemotherapy.

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