After years of warning myself that if I stopped paddling regularly I would become unable to paddle, I slacked off paddling for the Fall 2011 school term. I had a heavy load and paddled only once every two weeks. I was proud of myself for perfecting my new stroke which maximized torso rotation and minimized shoulder and arm movement. When I did paddle I had to take it easy because paddling ferociously like I used to was hurting my neck, and I usually had friends or family along anyway.
By mid-November my left shoulder froze up. I suddenly lost my range of motion and it became so painful that a sneeze or a yawn could trigger a spasm I thought was close to making me pass out. I kept paddling but couldn’t put in at the high docks anymore and had to start using a beach put-in nearby. I avoided challenging water for safety reasons. I also devised a new way to get my boat back onto my van. The hardest part was fastening my spray skirt behind me.
Each day the first 15-20 minutes of paddling hurt my shoulder and I could sense something popping inside it. But then it would warm up and feel much better for a few hours. I was still proud of my new stroke, without which I would have been unable to paddle at all. When various pains began radiating down my arm, and it began to feel like I was injuring my elbow and wrist, I quit paddling. Now over 5 months later, this is the longest stretch of non-paddling I’ve had since starting 7 years ago.
The MRI shows that I never injured my rotator cuff. That’s the good news. The bad news is that adhesive capsulitis can be triggered by muscle imbalances in the neck and shoulders that set up tensions among the four sets of muscles that compose the rotator cuff. The other bad news is that the pain levels become intense when the body goes horizontal to sleep at night. Soon an orthopedic surgeon will break it all loose while I’m under a general anesthetic. Then there will be some fairly intense physical therapy followed by a lifetime of taking better care of both shoulders, as well as other moving parts, not to mention the constant self-reminder that once past 50 life becomes a “use it or lose it” game.