Asking For Help

Most of time I get into a bind it’s because I won’t ask for help. I take too long trying to fix it myself. I hurt my right shoulder last June, before the two knee surgeries, when I fell in the garage after cycling. It turns out I injured it way more than I suspected at the time.

I should have known I was in serious trouble when I couldn’t raise my right arm above horizontal without using my left arm to lift it. I couldn’t turn on light switches, push the garage door opener, put my keys into the ignition, adjust the radio, or reach across the table for chips and salsa. It was pathetic. However, in spite of the pain and inconvenience, I assumed it was merely a bruised or strained the muscle and would get better with a little time.

Two months later, after mid-summer distractions of knee surgeries, I finally asked Cyndi what I should do about it and if she knew anyone who could help. She sent me to Paul Hamels at GreenTree Day Spa, who specializes in neuromuscular therapy.

He said, You don’t have a torn rotator cuff because you’re too young, you haven’t been in an auto accident, and you aren’t a professional athlete, and you don’t have any broken bones since there’s no swelling. He knew exactly what was wrong with me. The long-head bicep tendon had slipped out of its groove in my shoulder, leaving my bicep without the leverage necessary for my arm to function.

shoulder tendonsUsing his hands, he pulled the tendon back into place, a procedure that sounds more painful than it was, and I regained my range of motion immediately. My shoulder was still sore due to the lingering trauma, but my arm worked. He told me to ice it and be careful.

So I started working out in the gym and apparently pulled the tendon out of place again. And again I waited too long before recognizing the seriousness of the problem and returning to Paul to fix it. I finally went back, and he put me back into place. Again.

I went back to working out as usual and, I hate to admit this but, it seems I pulled the tendon out a third time. I went to Paul in December and he fixed me again as well as lecturing about strengthening it slowly and now that I’m older it takes longer to heal whether I like it or not. You will not heal this with willpower, he said. Bummer.

I uncharacteristically followed his instructions this time because I didn’t want to waste another six months. I stayed completely away from Pump class, the one that Cyndi teaches, and worked my biceps at home with only five pounds each arm, just like Paul told me.

My next follow-up visit was better; the tendon was still in place. So by mid-January I eased back into Pump class using only five pound weights. If felt silly to have so little weight on my bar, hardly worth the drive to the gym. Even with squats and chest I kept the five pounds since I had to use my shoulders to hoist the bar. For flys and shoulders I used only 2-1/2-pound weights.

After I got over my embarrassment from working out with unmanly weights, I discovered I felt great the rest of day. I was finally on the road to recovery.

Then I went to yoga for the first time in forever. In fact, it was only my third class since new knees. I had been nervous about putting my knees on the floor, which happens a lot in yoga, but I decided I was babying myself too much and it was time to get over it. The yoga class was hard, and everything we did hurt because it had been so long since I’d tried, but I enjoyed it and felt better afterwards than I expected I would.

So the next morning I went to Pump class again. Three workouts in three days, something I hadn’t done in months. I kept the low weights, deciding my manhood could stand this for a few weeks longer.

It has now been a full month and I’ve gradually increased weight and my tendon has stayed in place. Even Paul Hamels said he was proud of me.

The reason I’m writing about this is to point out how my shoulder injury was exaggerated and even encouraged by my failure to take it seriously sooner. I should have realized right away it was a debilitating injury and gone for help. Has something like that ever happened to you?

Why did I make such a mess of this simple injury? Because I didn’t ask for help sooner. I should’ve learned better by now after all these years.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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