Thursday, May 1, 2014

Shoulder Shenanigans

Well, it has officially been over 7 months (and counting) since I received my seasonal flu vaccine. Or, how I've fondly referred to the incident as the The Flu Shot From Hell. Seven months of not having a fully functional shoulder since getting the flu shot. The flu shot!

The last seven months have consisted of: 2 appointments with my PCP, numerous sessions of physical therapy, 1 shoulder MRI, 1 appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, 2 appointments with a shoulder physiatrist, 2 EMG tests, and 2 appointments with a neurologist.

All of this nonsense because on September 28th I got a flu shot that was placed at the top of my shoulder, into the joint, instead of into the deltoid. Since then, I have been accumulating diagnoses: rotator cuff injury secondary to a vaccine, bursitis, tendinitis, traumatic bone injury to the humeral head, neuralgic amyotrophy of the brachial plexus, parsonage turner syndrome, brachial neuritis, adhesive capsulitis, and shoulder restriction. Basically that all means that my left shoulder has kind of sucked and been out of commission the past 7 months. Throughout this time, I have been doing range of motion exercises and all my other PT exercises.

The good news is, after a second EMG test that was done recently (my first was in November), my neurologist found that my axillary nerve that innervates the deltoid muscle is now basically normal. Woohoo! My deltoid muscle is still pretty atrophied, but hopefully the muscle will start to come back over time.

My infraspinatus muscle showed 2+, and in November it was 4+. Normal is 0+. This means that my suprascapular nerve (which innervates the infraspinatus and supraspinatus muscles) is still damaged, but has improved. Both the infraspinatus and supraspinatus muscles also showed a "reduced pattern."

So basically, since I don't totally 100% understand all the EMG/nerve jargon, bottom line, truth be told: my nerves are starting to come back! Huzzah! Slowly but surely! My neurologist and a shoulder physiatrist both said I now have "mechanical" problems, shoulder restriction, and continued muscle weakness. So the nerves are getting better but my shoulder still causes me significant pain and doesn't work correctly. Back to physical therapy I go!

I should stop here and apologize: this is to some degree an overly whiny update. I am fine.

This whole shoulder situation has been more aggravating and annoying and frustrating than anything. Yes, I have had daily pain as well as the inability to raise my arm forward past 90 degrees and to the side past 45 degrees since September. Thank goodness I have one good arm! In all seriousness, I think the past 6 months has given me a lot more compassion for people who live with chronic pain and physical limitations to a much, much, much more significant degree. I cannot imagine that. Hopefully, in time, my shoulder will make a full recovery.

The thing is, I think if I got a shoulder injury...I don't know...for example, tripping down the stairs in the parking garage on the way to the flu shot...or falling down while crossing the street on the way to get the flu shot...or falling out of the chair while getting the flu shot...maybe I might feel differently about the whole situation. But alas, such is life.

I've been contemplating how I am going to manage getting any future shots into my arm. My neurologist recommended any subsequent shots be taken into my other shoulder. Not sure how I feel about that. I need one good arm! I was thinking maybe some sort of marking on my shoulders will hopefully ensure future LPNs/RNs correctly place the shots.

I thought this might be a possibility. Draw back is that while this tattoo shows the deltoid nicely, the vaccine location placement is not explicitly pinpointed. Or needlepointed I should say.

This tat I thought was pretty simple. Just aim for the middle of the circular snake!

Well, in reality I am not a tattoo fan, so I think my plan will be to bring in some sort of diagram to ensure proper placement prior to vaccine administration. 

Suffice it to say, I am going to skip the flu shot next fall...


  1. Being annoyed and frustrated is an understandable feeling, because seven months of not having a fully-functional shoulder is really painful and a hindrance. I hope all the physical therapy and other medical appointments you had was helpful in getting you back to perfect health. How are you doing now, btw?

    Mark Wallace @ Chiropractic Memphis

  2. That was a bothering list of diagnosis, Elizabeth! Your frustration and depression for seven months of shoulder shenanigans are understandable, since I can imagine the hassle and the pain that you’ve had to endure during that time. How are you doing, by the way? I wish that you’re feeling better by this time, after all the physical therapy sessions that you’ve had.

    Tyrone Bryant @ McIver CC