Diagnosing Chronic Shoulder Pain

Practicing medicine is just that, practicing. Sometimes you have to fight for a diagnosis.

This post is long overdue, but I just couldn’t write it until I felt I had a positive update. As someone who lives with chronic pain from neck and back issues, alongside my fatigue and pain from fibromyalgia, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate a new pain from the same old aches and pains.

“Sometimes the curiosity can kill the soul but leave the pain.” ~Alice in Wonderland

Catch Me Up Again

Last year I wrote about my mysterious shoulder problem that was causing acute pain and numbness. I spent many dollars and had many tests trying to get a diagnosis. I learned many lessons along the way. And then I read about and started taking magnesium and the acute pain eased up.

At least for awhile.

Earlier this year the pain returned with a vengeance. At least I had already ruled out some things and had some earlier MRIs and tests as a baseline. Along the way, I had received a couple of possible diagnoses:

  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) according to the Mayo Clinic, Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib (thoracic outlet) are compressed. This can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers.
  • Bicep Tendinitis – according to OrthInfo, is an inflammation or irritation of the upper biceps tendon. Also called the long head of the biceps tendon, this strong, cord-like structure connects the biceps muscle to the bones in the shoulder. Pain in the front of the shoulder and weakness are common symptoms of biceps tendinitis.
  • Frozen Shoulder – according to the Mayo Clinic, Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. Signs and symptoms typically begin gradually, worsen over time and then resolve, usually within one to three years. It also happens to be on the list of the top 20 most painful conditions. Lucky me. Another one on that list.

And Now….

Over the summer an orthopedic surgeon treated me initially for Bicep Tendinitis with a cortisone injection. That seemed to calm the inflammation and pain considerably, but Physical Therapy was recommended to resolve the issue long-term. Frozen Shoulder is yet another one of those things with no test or diagnostic for diagnosis. So based on the range of motion and response during PT, the doctor changed the diagnosis to Frozen Shoulder.

While medication can help with short-term pain relief, it isn’t a cure. It can often mask the underlying source of pain. Physical therapy is an effective alternative to consider for long-lasting improvement with pain. So 6 weeks post-injection and 5 weeks of physical therapy, and I had progressively less pain and numbness.

“I felt like the weight of the entire world had been lifted from my shoulders.” Tom Scott

And then the pain returned….

A follow-up with the surgeon resulted in another cortisone shot and the reality that I cannot take a break from the at-home physical therapy while I travel or if I am feeling better. Because a few missed days and the pain returns. So here are 5 Natural Remedies for Frozen Shoulder by Dr. Axe that I follow, along with certain exercises that have been added in to my normal yoga routine a few times a week (see the YouTube videos linked below for the two I do regularly).

Going Forward

Practicing medicine is just that, practicing. Doctors have no crystal ball to see inside you. Sometimes you have to fight for a diagnosis. And once you have a diagnosis, medication and treatment doesn’t work the same for everyone.

If you’re faced with a situation similar to mine, I would encourage you to do some research, find a doctor who believes you and will help you diagnose the problem, and most of all don’t give up! Perseverance pays off. You can achieve some relief from your chronic pain.

Have you experienced something similar?  Do you have other exercises or treatments you recommend? Leave me a comment below.



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Author: Cynthia, My Inspired Fibro Life

Wife. Mom. Fibrowarrior. Joy seeker. Picture taker. Coffee drinker. Blogging about living with fibromyalgia and finding inspiration in every day life. Welcome to My Inspired Fibro Life.

10 thoughts on “Diagnosing Chronic Shoulder Pain”

  1. I had a frozen shoulder that turned into two. My doc said it would resolve in 18 months whether I did anything or not. I found a chiropractor who through deep tissue of my fore arms (between elbow and wrist) resolved the shoulder issue in three sessions. (I have fibro too, so this was excruciating, but worth it)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ugh, Cynthia, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this too. I had a frozen shoulder a few years ago, and it was excruciating. I went the physical therapy route (always my first choice), and before we could really start any real work, my PT referred me to Ortho, where I also received a cortisone injection. That reduced the pain enough for me to start the exercises, and I had exceptional results. Like you, though, I have to be intentional about moving my shoulder even now or I start to feel that pain starting again. Thanks for sharing this – sometimes it’s hard for those of us with fibromyalgia to differentiate between our “regular” pain and something new going on…. Pinning this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a similar experience with my hip.
    I went from being super activ to bed ridden within weeks because of high chronic pain in my hips. Came out of nowhere and it took me many, many doctor visits to find what it was.
    Once I knew what it was, one could choose the right way to proceed, also with cortisone injections, PT and eventually surgery.

    It takes persistence of the patient and also the right doctor, to get the right diagnosis and treatment, no matter if it’s the shoulder or the hip.
    This is my sixth year with hip issues, three hip surgeries down and hopefully good for a long time. Now it’s the shoulder that’s giving me grief.

    Thank you for your post. I hope you feel better soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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