A weight on my shoulders….

The weekend before this past one was horrendous. And I was quite frightened.

That is such a strong statement to make, and one that might leave you wondering what is going on?!?!

Around four and a half years ago I started to experience extreme chronic pain in my right shoulder. The pain quite quickly got worse and worse and I literally was in agony.

Of course I went to see my GP. Who gave me some pain killers and sent me on my way. The painkillers didn’t work and the pain got worse. Queue several repeat visits to the doctors until one finally told me that I had an issue with my rotator cuff which is at the end of the shoulder. He went on to prescribe a course of physiotherapy. 8 weeks of agonising pain which didn’t help me in any way at all.

I had my shoulder poked and prodded, rotated, pulled and even taped to the side of my body. Nothing worked and it was just getting worse, and so was my mental health too.

I was suffering so much with the pain that it was affecting every part of my life. I couldn’t do up my own bra. I couldn’t hold a knife to chop anything beyond 5 or 10 minutes as my whole right arm would go dead and I would lose the use of it. If I sat in the wrong kind of chair, my arm would start spasming and jumping outwards at quite a force.

I couldn’t drive any further than 30-40 minutes distance as again my arm would go numb and hang loosely at the side of me. I was being really incapacitated by the situation and it was impacting on my work and even my children’s lives.

I struggled to take them anywhere. If they wanted their hair plaiting or straightening, I couldn’t do it. I felt useless and angry. And still it was getting worse.

I had MRI scans, and Ultrasounds. I had acupuncture and went to hospital to be injected with a massive needle. The pain of the Cortisone injection going in is one I will never forget.

Yet nothing worked. The scans and MRI’s showed nothing wrong with my rotator cuff. But I was still in excrutiating pain.

I returned to the doctor time and time again. I was struggling even more now with everyday things. I stopped picking up boiling hot kettles or saucepans because I was unable to keep control of my arm. It was too dangerous to Iron, not to mention too painful.

On a drive down to Portsmouth with the husband doing 70 on the M1, my arm flew out hitting him in the face. Thankfully there was nothing in the other lane that he swerved into. But after that I sat in the back on long journeys.

I had a second course of physiotherapy with a new lady at our local hospital. It didn’t go well. In fact she managed to make the situation worse as she damaged a nerve in my neck which left me with something called paraesthesia in my ring and little finger on the left hand. So now I had an issue with both my right and left side!

I literally was at the end of my tether. My mental health had dropped to an great extent and I spent a lot of time in tears due to the pain and the futileness of the whole situation. I began to drink quite a lot to numb myself to the pain. It was not good.

I went back to the doctors yet again and saw a new doctor. She was lovely (or so I thought at the time) and explained that pain management literally was the only thing that they could do to help me, and prescribed a cocktail of drugs. I was still being told that the problem was the rotator cuff.

Now apart from ibuprofen for the pain I was in, I wasn’t currently on any other form of medication. I went to the pharmacy with a list as long as your arm.

Ever since I was a child, I had never been able to swallow tablets. I choked and gagged and spluttered. The only way I could take them was to hold each tablet between my index and middle finger and stick it right into the back of my throat the way you would a cat or dog.

I knew the medication was going to be a challenge, but I didn’t expect just how much of one.

The doctor had prescribed some heavy duty stuff including Amitriptyline.  This is an antidepressant which is used to relieve chronic (long-term) pain. Tramadol  which is prescribed to treat moderately severe pain and is a strong opiate. Diclofenac was the third and is used to treat  moderate pain. Bringing up the rear was 500mg of Co-codamol again another pain killing drug, in the highest dose possible.

All told I was on 20 tablets a day. 140 tablets a week. From zero to that amount is of course going to cause issues. For one, my throat was so sore from sticking my fingers down the back of it, that I soon learnt very quickly to be able to swallow them.

I was on the medication for around 6 months. It helped some, but not nearly enough and I would cry with the pain. I was still drinking to escape the pain, and I certainly shouldn’t have been mixing alcohol and medication. But there was no other way I could get through each day.

Every single day, the tablets helped less and less. But I was in for a bit of a nasty shock.

I started to get very twitchy. I was not sleeping and having night sweats. My skin felt like I had ants crawling underneath it. I was having horrible nightmares, and I was scratching my skin raw.

Of course I knew I had to go back to my doctors. I was a total wreck. Shaking and jittery. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I thought I was starting to lose my mind.

I got an appointment with a different doctor. Dr E.

I sat down, in tears scratching at my arms. I literally begged him to help me. Sobbing I tried to explain to him what was happening and how I felt.

Dr E took one look at me and bold as brass stated “You are clucking like a Heroin addict in need of her next fix”

Basically I had become hooked on the cocktail of pills I had been taking and the dosages weren’t working. I was suffering from withdrawal symptoms as well as the chronic pain. The scratching and itching and sweats were all side effects of the withdrawal.

I was shocked. I had no idea what was going on, and this just felt like the final nail in the coffin. I burst into horrible racking snotty tears. I really was at rock bottom.

Little did I know that Dr E was going to save me. There and then.

He explained that he thought he knew what my issue was and wanted to do an experiment on me. He went onto say that it would be a little uncomfortable but would only last around 60 seconds, if I was agreeable.

Well of course I was and so he got me to stand up. He took his index and middle finger and pressed as hard as he could in the “empty” space behind the collarbone. Immediately my right arm flopped downwards and I lost control of it.

“Just as I expected” Dr E said.

He sat me down and got onto the internet. He told me that my issue wasn’t a shoulder issue at all. So why the hell was I in agony?

Showing me some charts online, he asked me if they showed exactly where I was having my pain. I was stunned to see that the diagrams were absolutely spot on.

sc3

My issue was something called Anterior Scalene Myofacia. Basically in the side of the neck is a set of three scalene muscles that form a sort of triangle.  They attach the neck to the first and second ribs. Which in turn connect to the shoulder.

When they become shortened for some reason, they pull the first and second ribs up, which pulls the shoulder up and out of alignment. This was why I was in so much pain.

The scalenes also can impinge the Brachial nerve, causing the numb lifeless arm or the pins and needles when held at a 90 degree angle. Every single thing he said was like music to my ears.

The physio, injections, acupuncture, scans and ultrasounds all hadn’t worked because they were totally in the wrong area!

Finally, a diagnosis!

Scalenes

The battle for recovery didn’t just start there though. I had the issue of an opiate addiction that I needed to deal with too. Dr E explained that I just couldn’t stop taking the medication that I was on. That I would need to wean myself off of the tablets over a course of several weeks.

All told, it took me 8 weeks to reduce the tablets to the point of stopping them. It was 8 weeks of hell as I suffered through withdrawal symptoms, but finally I was medication free. As for my shoulder/scalenes, what was going on there?

Dr E had been able to show me exercises and stretches that would assist in the extension and release of these shortened muscles. He advised me that in the long term, massage sessions and chiropractors would really be the only ones who could alleviate the pain for any length of time.

So, I started a programme of massage/chiropractor sessions. Immediately I could see the benefit and the issues started to decrease. The lessened and lessened until one day I woke up Pain Free!

I literally had no pain whatsover. This had been going on for nearly 3 years now. Constantly daily grinding tear inducing pain. Restricting everything that I wanted to do and even where I wanted to go.

Finally I was free. I started to enjoy my life again.

Jumping to the present day, I had been pretty much pain free for 18 months. Apart from the odd time when I was under a bit of pressure and I might have an off day or so.

Then this weekend happened. The deep grinding nagging aching pain started again last Saturday morning. My shoulder and neck is as hard as rock and the scalenes as tight as a violin string.

Exercises, stretches, deep heat and nurofen have lessened the pain a little. But my movements are already suffering and becoming restricted. I can’t sleep very well and my arm keeps going numb.

And that is why I am frightened. It is now 10 days into the pain and I am struggling. I hurt that much that I want to rip my own arm off. My life is starting to suffer once more.

I have an appointment to see the Chiropractor this week. I have been going every 4 weeks without fail, so that is not the reason this has come back with a vengeance.

The only thing I can put it down to is stress. Work and Home are causing me undue pressure and this is my bodies way of telling me that something has to give. What that may be though, I have no idea!

I just need to work out what as I know that I cannot go through the living hell that I endured for 3 years.

I am just hoping and praying that this is a minor blip. Keep your fingers crossed for me?

Till next time

Tx

Leave a comment

  • ROBIN RUSH

    Thanks for sharing your journey. I am on a similar journey with carpal tunnel, shingles and now another possible hand/arm/shoulder diagnosis on the horizon. Never considered a chiropractor. May look into that.

    • You are welcome Robin, I hope that you get the diagnosis that helps and a chiropractor could help you. My appointment is tomorrow and I can’t wait!!! xx

  • Kacie Morgan

    Sorry to hear that you’re in pain again; let’s hope the doctors sort this out soon for you!

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thankfully a visit to the Chiropractor yesterday really has helped! x

  • Big hugs Tanya. I hope someone can help you soon. What an ordeal! xx

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you so much sweetheart xx

  • LaaLaa

    Blimey, I do hate how the GPs keep just prescribing painkillers to everyone thinking it’s a quick solution. That sounded like a nightmare, sorry you had to go through that. Hopefully this is minor blip and you’ll be all good again x

    • Tanya Brannan

      It really was a horrible time, but hopefully I am getting there again now x

  • Huge hugs, chronic pain is such a horrible thing. As you may remember my Daughter has a chronic illness, and she has recently gone ovre to Amitriptyline, but only a very low dose, as although it is an antidepressant it can help with neurological pain. I am so sorry your symptoms are starting up again x

    • Tanya Brannan

      It is, but to be honest it is a minor case, compared to what your daughter has to put up with. The chiropractor has helped me no end x

  • I’m sorry to hear about you pain, I hope you are ok. *big hug* . xx

    http://www.annanuttall.com

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Anna xxx

  • I am so sorry that you’re in pain again, I really hope it is just a blip and things go back to how they were before x

    • Tanya Brannan

      The Chiropractor yesterday has helped me out no end! x

  • Wait.. that is exactly like what I have, my shoulder is completely out of alignment and I have chronic back pain. I have physio but it seems to make it worse. The pain is the most acute on the right side and it is very painful. Sorry to hear about your pain but so glad you have a diagnosis now x

    • Tanya Brannan

      Mine is also the right side! It might be worth you checking out Anterior Scalene Myofascia a bit more and seeing if the stretches help you out?? xxx

  • So sorry to hear the pain is back, hopefully having had a diagnosis before you can get it sorted much faster this time xxx

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Emily, the Chiropractor I saw yesterday has helped me so much xx

  • wow I am so pleased this story has a happy ending – I bet you couldn’t believe it when your pain went away. I have my fingers crossed that this new pain is just a minor blip xx

    • Tanya Brannan

      I am hoping so too! Thank you honey xx

  • I’ll be praying for you! I hope that you heal quickly! You are too fabulous for this pain! Keep us updated!

    xoxo, Candice Nikeia
    http://www.candicenikeia.com

    • Tanya Brannan

      Awww what a lovely thing to say Candice Nikeia! I saw the Chiropractor yesterday and she has helped out so much. Already my pain has decreased by 50% xx

  • Oh wow, I’m glad your doctor was able to figure out the real source of the problem. I really hope you’re able to get rid of the pain quickly, now that it came back.

    • Tanya Brannan

      I am working on it Liz. The Chiropractor has reduced the pain by 50% already, so I am hoping for more improvement x

  • My goodness what an ordeal you have been through! I hope that the chiropractor is able to help you fairly quickly this time and that the stress at work and home reduces. Sending you strength!

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Elizabeth! The Chiropractor has worked wonders with only one visit so far! x

  • Charlotte

    Glad you have finally got a diagnosis and sorry you had to go through all that to get to the bottom of things! x

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Charlotte, it was a bit of a nightmare, but getting there now x

  • As a fellow chronic pain suffering, I hear ya!

    If you can, try to get some diazepam to relax the muscles, I found it easier to move with that. SSRI’s are also not good – if you’re on any antidepressant, it can actually make it worse so a change in prescription could be good. This is what I’ve found but YMMV. No matter what, I hope you get relief soon!

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Susanna, The Chiropractor has already worked wonders with just one visit xx

  • Hope you feel better soon! I have family members with chronic pain. It’s awful to experience.

    Ashleigh x

    http://www.beingashleigh.com – UK fashion, lifestyle and travel blog

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Ashleigh, I hope they find some relief too xx

  • I’m sure you’ve tried everything, but I’ll tell you my experience with my neck/jaw issues.

    I have TMJ disorder which causes pain that extends down my neck, in to my back and sometimes in to my collar bone and even in to my teeth giving me phantom tooth ache. After tons of appointments and hospital visits I gave up. Now, I was in no where near as much pain as you are, but it was enough to have to take ibuprofen every day.

    Anyway, when I moved home I finally sussed out that it was being caused by sitting at a desk for long periods. Something about the way I was sitting and holding my mouse for years on end was shifting my posture.

    We waiting 2 weeks for our internet to be installed and I felt like a new woman – no more jaw clunking and neck swelling/pain. Of course, I wasn’t going to give up my desk forever. After a few months of sitting at a desk again though the pains and discomfort have started to come back slightly.

    I have made a few changed though. I keep a yoga mat next to my desk and do stretches, and I hold my mouse and keyboard as close to my body as possible in a more natural position.

    It’s amazing how such a minor thing can cause so many problems. I hope you find the course of your issues soon xx

    • Tanya Brannan

      I know just what you mean Angela! I too sit at a desk for 9 hrs at a time, and it really takes it toll. I have a special keyboard and chair and this certainly has helped. The Chiropractor will make it all a lot better too I hope x

  • Oh dear, what you have been trough sounds simply awful, I can only imagine what you had gone through. I’m trilled for you that you managed to finally get an answer that you were all along searching for! I hope nothing but good things for you x

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you so much Sabina xxx

  • Hungry_Healthy_Happy

    Oh god, how awful and scary too. I hope you start to feel better soon.

    • Tanya Brannan

      I hope that The Chiropractor will work her magic fingers and sort me out x

  • Amy

    This sounds horrendous, and so scary. I hope you get it sorted and best wishes for your health x

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you so much Amy xx

  • oh honey, as a fellow chronic pain sufferer my heart goes out to you, it’s so much worse when you’ve had respite for a little while. Sending you all my love and good vibes <3

    • Tanya Brannan

      Isn’t that the truth! You get used to everything going back to normal, and it feels twice as bad. Sending loads of love back to you!!! xxx

  • Beth

    Oh wow! Sounds so bad lovely. Hope you feel better soon x

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Beth xxx

  • Stan Hope

    Tanya I am sorry for your past experiences and the time it took to get a diagnosis. You had a truly tough time. I do hope this time it can be resolved without all the paikillers. Keep your spirits up!

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Stan, I will not be going near those painkillers again! 😀 x

  • Laura

    Oh gosh it sounds as though you’ve really had it tough. I hope that this time you’re able to get it sorted quicker as I know how awful it feels to live with chronic pain xxx

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Laura… I think I need a week at a spa…. I wonder if work would pay for it! x

  • Hannah Heartss ❄️⛄️

    So sorry lovely – I hope you feel better soon x

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you so Much Hannah xxx

  • Ali

    Oh what a horrible journey you have been on bless you. I can’t believe it went on for so long undiagnosed. At least you know what it is this time and hopefully you can remember all the exercises you need to do. I’m hopeful for you x

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Ali, I am stretching like mad at the moment! xx

  • Oh, this sounds awful! It’s crazy that it went so long undiagnosed too. I hope it can all be resolved for you soon.

    • Tanya Brannan

      Me too Jemma – The chiropractor worked wonders on Tuesday x

  • Mandi

    Sounds like its been a very agonising journey, our body does have a way of telling us to slow down, so if the pain has started to come back, something needs adjusting slightly, i’m so sorry to read that it took so long for the correct diagnosis, hoping it improves again very soon x

    • Tanya Brannan

      I have to stop burning the candle at both ends, I think! It is already a little better, so I am optimistic. x

  • Melanie Edjourian

    Glad to hear the treatment helped to relieve the pain, hope you feel better soon x

    • Tanya Brannan

      Thank you Melanie – I really am x