I began physical therapy at Stanford this week, for my shoulder and back. In addition to fibromyalgia and scoliosis I also have something called scapulothoracic syndrome, which is a fancy way of saying the muscles around my shoulder blades are atrophied and the muscles in my chest are really tight, so my posture slumps forward and pulls my shoulders out of place. There's also some rotator cuff inflammation in my shoulders, which is aggravated in the right shoulder by an injury to it about a year ago. And I have agonizing pain in my mid-back, right around one of the vertebrae. Nothing has shown up on any x-rays or MRI scans, so it is not a structural problem but a mechanical one, which theoretically will respond to physical therapy.
Being a ball-and-socket joint, the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and can move in all directions. But such mobility comes at a price of reduced stability. A possible complication for me is that my shoulders are pretty "loosey-goosey," as the physical therapist so colorfully put it -- they have a lot of play in them, which may make them more challenging to get stabilized.
Several months ago my primary care doctor suggested the herb devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), which has helped a lot. Devil's claw is a plant native to southern Africa; its name comes from the small hooks on the plant's fruit. The root is used to treat inflammation and pain. I also added boswellin when the devil's claw began to lose effectiveness at the maximum recommended dose. Boswellin is derived from an Ayurvedic herb called boswellia (Boswellia serrata). Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine native to India. In Sanskrit, ayur means science and veda means life, so Ayurveda is the science of life (as in how to keep healthy). Herbs such as these have helped me more than any medicine any western doctor ever recommended, so I've been able to keep off pain meds for all this time.
I have 5 exercises to practice at home: scapular retraction (squeezing my shoulder blades together); suboccipital stretch (to realign my head over my shoulders); corner stretch (to stretch my upper chest); thoracic self-mobilization (limbering my upper back), and pulling my navel in toward my backbone, to help tone my abs. I also have to ice my right shoulder 2 to 3 times per day to keep the inflammation in check.
Not only do I have to do all these things, but I also have to practice my deep breathing exercises several times a day for the pain management class, and I have to practice mental imagery to increase and decrease my pain a minimum of 10 minutes per day, 3 days per week for the rtfMRI chronic pain treatment study. Pursuing pain relief is turning into a full-time job. I have certain days in the coming weeks where I will have pain-related appointments for 6 hours straight that day. I must admit, the thought of that is quite daunting, especially since I'm supposed to be pacing myself.
Oh jeez, I just realized I'm not supposed to be thinking ahead of time that a situation is going to be daunting, because that's a cognitive distortion.
OK, I think I'll just go to bed right now.