Thursday, August 12, 2010


About 4 years ago, I experienced an acute case of shoulder pain. I mean, holy crap this shit hurts kind of pain. I couldn't lay on my right side and I could barely lift my right arm above my head. But after a week, the pain began to improve so I didn't go to the doctor and I only told a few people about my shoulder pain. I am ashamed over my lack of action, especially since I'm the one who advises and nags people to go to the doctor when they are sick or need medical attention. But I was afraid of the surgery potential. The event occurred during the summer, right at the height of the mist netting season. I didn't want to be slowed down by surgery and well frankly, I was afraid of surgery.

Since then I have had shoulder pain off and on, but taking advil or alleve for a few days usually cured the problem. Until this past spring. The pain began as an ache and I couldn't lay on my right side. As in the past, I babied my shoulder, tried to stop laying on my right side as best I could (sometimes I would wake up on my right side, or my right arm would be flung over my head) but this time time around non-steroidal inflammatory meds (Alleve, Advil etc) were contraindicated with the medication I was on and I had to rely on Tylenol, which did NOT work.

During all of spring and most of the summer I was still able to participate in all of my usual activities; FitCamp, Yoga, mist netting, hiking and the like but the pain got progressively worse and was occurring on a daily basis causing me to fess up to Exercise Sunshine. I confided in her partly because she was my yoga instructor and it would be difficult to do some of the yoga poses, but mostly because she had become a friend and I knew she would keep after me to see the doctor. And that she did. I think she emailed me or got after me on Facebook on a weekly basis.

So yesterday was my appointment. Danno went with me because I drive a car with manual transmission and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to drive myself home. I was already assuming the doctor would give me the much dreaded cortisone shot. When I finally broke down and told my friends and family how much my shoulder was bothering me, all the horror stories revolving around cortisone shots came to the surface and they reminded me of the women I've known in my life who relate the birthing horror stories they've heard or experienced.

One friend relayed his story like a fisherman

"Chickadee, I swear the needle was this big" he said, indicating the length of the needle with his thumb and middle finger. "And it hurt like a mother&#@%er." (naughty word edited. this is a family blog you know)

My mother-in-law's story was the least frightening. "The needle won't actually hurt that bad, but the medicine will sting for about 5 seconds before the numbing stuff they give you beforehand kicks in."

With the horror stories in mind, I sat in the waiting room and was led to the examination room. I no sooner sat down when an x-ray technician came for me. After 3 x-rays, I made my way back to the exam room. I sat there wondering how big the needle was for a cortisone shot. To my left was a sharps disposal container sitting in a wire basket screwed to the wall. The container was transparent, allowing me a view of all the disposed syringes and needles in the box. There were some long needles in that box, but the needles were not as long as I envisioned. What disturbed me was the diameter of those needles. They weren't the thin needles used for TB tests, nor were they the size you're used to seeing when you get an antibiotic or tetanus shot either.

I tried to read the book I brought with me, but my gaze kept returning to the sharps container. My feelings waffled between impatience at being kept so long waiting for the doctor and anxiety over this whole ordeal. How painful was this going to be?

The orthopedic doctor finally came in and my first impression was that she was a woman suited to the job. She was thin with an athletic build and I could imagine how this field of medicine appealed to her. I could picture her playing golf or tennis.

I was sitting in the chair next to the exam table and asked her if she preferred me on the table to which she replied no and wheeled next to me. She showed me my x-rays and was pleased to report there were no bone spurs or visible tears. She then took my arm and through a series of lifting, rotating, holding and pulling, asked me where the pain was, when it began and the like. I went in to the office with my shoulder mildly aching, but by the time she finished it felt like someone was repeatedly punching it. She told me I had bursitis and proceeded to explain to me on a poster filled with illustrations of shoulders, arms, wrists, elbows what bursitis was and gave me the option of a month of NSAIDs (the aforementioned advil and alleve, which was out of the question because of my medication), a cortisone shot and a series of exercises which I needed to do daily, or, if none of the above worked, physical therapy. Since the NSAID option was out and I was in too much pain at the moment and losing sleep, the shot was the way to go.

She left and promised to return in a moment to give me the shot. But what happened instead was the nurse came in with a bottle of Lidocaine, a pair of sterile gloves and the syringe filled with cortisone. She happily chirped the doctor would be in in just a moment to give me my shot. But in the meantime, you can stare at this syringe. (No, she didn't say that last part. That was in my head)

The doctor returned within 15 minutes and explained she was going to numb my shoulder with the Lidocaine and poke the needle in. It would probably burn for about 5 seconds but the lidocaine would kick in and I wouldn't feel the burn (just like my mother-in-law said). She sprayed the lidocaine on my shoulder and just when the cold feeling on my shoulder turned into a burn, she put the needle in. The injection itself didn't hurt but oh my gawd did it burn. It burned bad, worse than the burn that accompanies a tetanus shot.

"Wow, that does burn" I squeaked, "Ow ow ow ow."

I laughed and tried to concentrate on breathing because when she pulled the needle out, I felt like I was going to pass out. I knew this might happen. I get squeamish when I have procedures done and usually its not until after the procedure is finished that I get into trouble.

She immediately started talking to me about what I needed to do in the weeks following the cortisone shot. I nodded, though I didn't hear much outside of the "Don'tpassoutDon'tpassoutDon'tpassout" mantra I was screaming in my head as she spoke. I could feel the desire to collapse but by sheer force of will I kept it at bay.

She ended with "The nurse will be in to give you that sheet of exercises and you're good to go."

When she left I let out a whoosh and rubbed my forehead. Hurry the hell up nurse so I can get out of here and pass out in the privacy of my car.

In the end I didn't pass out. I felt fine when I left the exam room.

I need to see her again about my knees. They've been giving me trouble the last year. I hope to God I don't need more cortisone shots. I don't know if my will is strong enough to get me through another episode that involves a big fat needle.


  1. OK, now that you've had your shot, let me tell you about HH and his knee cortisone shot. I went along with him because he's not good at repeating what the doctor tells him.

    That needle was huge, about 8 inches long, though not so long as the needle they used on my amniocentesis. But needles don't bother me. Or so I thought.

    HH didn't watch. He laid down on the exam table, with his knee bent and foot flat on the table. I'm all sciency and have that thirst for knowledge, so I watched. Once the doctor put in the needle, he twisted it to another position, squirted the cortisone, and twisted it again. That went on and on until all the cortisone was gone. It was like twisting a straw around in a shake or Cherry Diet Coke, to get to all of the round corners of the bottom of the cup.

    I thought I was going to pass out.

    I'm glad you're feeling better. If you have to have another shot, maybe Danno can go in with you for moral support. Or to help you if you feel like passing out. Lean over and put your head down.

    The lidocaine is what makes me dizzy. It messes with my blood pressure in some freakish sensitivity that is not an allergy. I even went to Wash U to get tested for it.

    I hope you're on the mend, and that the exercises keep you from having to go through another cortisone shot. ;)

  2. Hillbilly Mom I've missed you! But I'm back in the blogging world (at least for a little while). I was actually afraid that's what the doctor was going to do, twist it around and push it in further because one of my other friends recently got a cortisone shot in her FOOT and that's what the doc did.

    And I have the same problem with lidocaine when I go to the dentist and they inject that crap into my gums. Apparently the topical lidocaine doesn't agree with my body either.