I know how frustrating shoulder issues can be. And I know sometimes out of frustration people make bad choices. I know because I’ve made terrible choices with my shoulders, and I want to share the WORST mistake I ever made with my shoulder. If you'd like to watch the video version of this blog post, you can check it out here:
The context of my shoulder pain mistake
I was in college. I’d been having pain and instability in my shoulder for months, and nothing was helping. NOTHING. The right shoulder felt like it was out of place. It felt like it was stuck in a forward position, so I was trying to figure out ways to get it to sink back.
At night, I’d sleep face up with my spine on a body pillow and my shoulders hanging off. I thought maybe gravity would pull my shoulders back. This, sadly, didn’t work.
All I got from my doctor was more pain medication and advice to rest. He said bursitis would eventually go away. Well that didn’t really solve the problem.
A solution to my shoulder pain appears
I remembered seeing something when I was younger - a movie. I’m going to be dating myself a bit here, but it was one of the Lethal Weapon movies (I don’t remember which specifically). Mel Gibson had a trick shoulder. It would go out throughout the movie, and he would find a way to yank or jam his shoulder back into place.
In one scene, I remembered him ramming his shoulder into a door.
In another, I remembered him just grabbing his own arm and pulling the arm down and forward.
So i thought…”maybe I have a trick shoulder like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon.”
How did this shoulder pain solution turn out?
I tried the first method of ramming my shoulder into the door of my dorm room. I was at the end of the hall, so I don’t think anyone was passing by, but I’m pretty sure passers-by would’ve been confused by the sudden SLAMMING of the door and then “ow, damn it” coming from inside my room.
This technique was terrible. The door was heavy and stiff, and my shoulder was way too bony. I thought, “maybe I need to build more muscle on my shoulder and THEN try ramming my shoulder into the door.” And then I gave up on that. Because there was option number two - grabbing and yanking my arm.
So I still remember very clearly standing by the bunk bed my roommate and I had. I was alone. I was confident in my course of action. I grabbed my upper right arm, clenched, and then yanked down and forward.
There was a sound. A squelch. A wet, spongy, grinding sound.
There was a feeling. Sharp. Blinding.
My chest tightened and I stopped breathing.
And I fell onto my bed with a wheeze with tears welling up. “You idiot. You $#!#$#! idiot!” I thought to myself. I took quick shallow breaths waiting for the pain to subside.
My experiment with my home shoulder pain remedy failed miserably. Now, I was convinced, my shoulder was going to be messed up forever.
The aftermath of my shoulder pain remedy
That episode left me with just about the same amount of shoulder pain I’d had before, AND I now felt even less stable in the shoulder. The joint just felt loose and sloppy, and I still had trouble raising my arm up and out to the side.
I went to physical therapy a few times - got a few exercises for my rotator cuff and for scapular retraction - but it didn’t really seem to help much. I went to acupuncture, chiropractors, etc., and I just kept getting more and more frustrating. It’s a story that I detail more here, but I am happy to say eventually I did start to get things figured out.
Now I’m able to do things like this, and it’s because I took the time to learn how to stubbornly, gradually, and progressively retrain my shoulder for more mobility, flexibility, and strength.