I would like to suggest, for the record, that you NOT attempt to stand on a foot which has fallen asleep. Ever.
Even at two in the morning when the tingling wakes you up and it seems to make perfect sense.
It is important to make this decision now while you are awake. The decisions you make between the fog of sleep and the panic induced by malfunctioning limbs are not the best.
Plus, explaining to the doctor later exactly why having absolutely no control over your foot made you think you should get up and walk on it . . . well, it’s just easier not to ever have to do this.
And also, most likely, you’ll fall. And reach for whatever is there to break your fall. Except your shoulder isn’t really designed to take the full weight of large falling objects (you) as they flail about in wild attempts not to do so.
When I did this almost three weeks ago, I heard lots of popping. Like someone popping popcorn, only muffled. The grab for the railing did nothing more to prevent the fall than flip me on my back. And as I lay there on the floor, I was struck by two almost simultaneous thoughts.
Thought one: “Hey, I can feel my toes!”
Thought two: “My shoulder doesn’t hurt!”
I was quite relieved. So I just lay there for a moment relishing my relief and waiting for my foot to regain all of its feeling. Then I tried to get up. And it felt like someone had just stabbed me in the shoulder. And I thrashed about, yelled and panicked and they kept doing it until I stopped thrashing about. Then the pain stopped.
And I just lay there, wondering what life was going to be like now that I was forever stuck on my back in the front room. But with the new found information that it didn’t actually hurt if I didn’t actually move it, I figured whatever damage I did could wait until Monday.
Two days away, because almost all health related judgment calls happen late Friday night. I was lucky because at least it happened early Saturday morning.
So anyway, at the doctor’s office, I only got a minor eyebrow raise at the description of how I fell. They’re well-trained like that. I then told him all the things that caused discomfort, all the things that caused pain and all the things that caused the crazy lady with the knife to attack.
He then took my arm and told me to relax and proceeded to do all those things to my poor shoulder. I wanted to scream in protest, except that I was quite amazed to see my arm go all the way out to 90 degrees from my body before I had any real need to scream. He suspected soft tissue damage, most likely rotator cuff tear.
Now, me and Dr. Google had already gotten that far. There was a brief moment of feeling good that a) searching symptoms on Google had actually yielded something useful and b) neither Google not the doctor thought this would kill me in the next six months. That passed quickly when I realized I actually had a torn rotator cuff and I didn’t actually like anything about that particular injury.
- It doesn’t really heal on its own.
- Surgery means six to eight weeks of an immobilized shoulder.
- And weeks of passive therapy where you just sit there and let the therapist move your arm around.
- And months of therapy as you try to regain your strength and range of motion.
- And, if all goes well, in a year or two, you might have something approximating normal function.
I’m already dealing with that with my hip. I don’t need it in my shoulder, too.
After the X-ray showed nothing significant other than a shoulder resting a little high in the joint, the doctor advised me of the dangers of immobilizing the shoulder and how unfun frozen shoulder is. I thought, “Yeah, that sounds bad. But so does crumpling to the ground with extreme pain.” But what do I know? I stood up on a dead foot to get myself into this mess and I had a feeling the doctor would have advised against that. So I listened to the advice to lose the sling that had provided much relief through the weekend, took note of the exercises and planned to be back in two weeks.
And what a fun two weeks it was. I couldn’t change a diaper. Or carry water. Or do dishes. Or type two handed. Getting dressed was a painful challenge, as was using the restroom. In between being uncomfortable and feeling somewhat useless, I stewed over my less than ideal prognosis.
And two weeks later, there wasn’t much improvement. The crazy lady had stopped stabbing me with every flinch of my muscles, but the general pain was worse. It ached all the time. So he ordered an MRI to see if I needed surgery.
For thirty minutes, I daydreamed about my garden amongst all the clicks, and didn’t once consider whether it would be challenging to start off the planting season with a shoulder recovering from surgery.
It was nice. It isn’t very often I get thirty minutes for anything.
And the results?
No torn rotator cuff. Not even an itty bitty one. It hadn’t given way, but right there where the humerus attaches to it was a small fracture.
And I don’t think that poor doctor or either of those poor nurses had ever seen anyone quite so excited about a broken bone. He showed me where it was and I was like, “Really? That’s cool!.”
The nurse showed me how to put the sling on and I had trouble holding in the laughter.
He told me to come back in a week for some X-rays to see how the bone was knitting and mentioned starting some therapy after that. Where I sit and let the therapist move my arm to keep the range of movement. I felt like dancing.
And a week or two after that, I should be able to take off this sling and resume normal activities. I’ll have to work on building the strength and flexibility back up, but bones heal so much more neatly than tissue.
And I’m so very happy.
But I still would definitely recommend against walking on limbs which have fallen asleep.