Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Mom is Stressed Out: Adhesive Capsulitis

Mom took a free online stress test, and she scored 38/40, as in ... MY MOM IS REALLY STRESSED OUT! If you want to take the same test, you can find it here.

It's UK-based, so I don't know if what is stressful to the British is different from what is stressful to Americans, but maybe an ex-pat abroad (a BROAD!) like my mom would experience stress more akin to the way a British person would than a North American person would.

My mom feels guilty about being stressed out. Is this kind of anxiety a first-world problem? That you experience anxiety and then experience anxiety about the anxiety you experience because you feel like you shouldn't experience anxiety, but really you are experiencing anxiety? Phew. Sometimes Dachshund Daddy suggests that Mom thinks a bit too much. I couldn't possibly say that.

We have a good roof over our heads, an awesome Dachshund Daddy, and then there's me. I'm the resident Tube of Fur, and lately I've been working overtime to provide cuddles and wags and good cheer. So why is Mom stressed out?
1. She tore a right rotator cuff muscle last summer.
2. That tear, or maybe something else, led to a condition called adhesive capsulitis.
3. Adhesive capsulitis is more commonly known as frozen shoulder. It is an incredibly painful, debilitating condition, which may take up to a year or more to resolve.

4. During September and October, Mom had such chronic, debilitating pain in her right shoulder that she could barely function. (If she bumped her shoulder or had sudden idiopathic shooting pain, she was literally felled to her knees.)

5. Mom took some heavy-duty drugs, but those didn't really work. Apparently that is often the case with adhesive capsulitis.
6.a. Cortisone shots really helped.
6.b. Acupuncture treatments are ongoing and really help.
6.c. An anti-inflammatory diet seems to be making a difference.
6.d. Physical therapy is key.
7. In mid-October, the surgeon started her on a program of physical therapy. Mom could only lift her right arm about 20% up from her body. Now Mom can lift her right arm about 70% up from her body, but her right arm strength is limited. (Grateful that Swiss health care has been excellent.)

8. Mom does all her physical therapy in a little swimming pool at a local hospital above a vineyard.

9. For the first couple of months, Mom couldn't even drive herself to appointments, because our DogShip is a stick shift, and Mom's right arm couldn't move into the position needed to get the stick shift into second gear.
10. Should I keep going?
11. Let me tell you my role.

I've encouraged Mom to share because all our fur friends and their humans are so supportive, and I think part of Mom's anxiety is about not telling people when she is hurting. The reality is that Mom is way better now. But she goes to rehab appointments three to four times a week. And she is exhausted!

I've been researching chronic pain, and it is common to react to pain in two ways:
1. By trying to block it.
2. By drowning in it.
Both are understandable reactions to intense pain (whether physical or emotional). Since Mom is feeling quite a bit better, and finally mostly sleeping through the night, she is trying to learn a third way, which is to mindfully pay attention to the pain. Sounds easy  difficult.

If you know someone who has adhesive capsulitis, DO NOT BUMP HER!

Do what I do. Wag. Come a little closer. Flop on your back. Wag a little more. Come closer for gentle, loving cuddles. And licks. Don't forget licks.

We're grateful for YOU.



  1. We understand that your mom is exhausted ! You're a very good nurse, Tootsie, and you gave her good advice of sharing a little bit with the others. We send her tons of healing purrs, and hope that she keeps going better and better ! Purrs

  2. I'm sure my assistant would score very high on that test as well. And yes, anxiety about anxiety is just as bad. I can see why she is stressed. Chronic pain is one of the leading causes of stress. I remember reading about a study of chronically ill patients who were in constant pain ...when they were given direct control over their pain medication their stress level (and pain) decreased. That's why many hospitals now let patients hold the button that increases or decreases their pain medication - because it gives them some control. Interesting.

    I like your mom's approach of being mindful of the pain ...that could apply to many difficult and stressful areas of life. I think we might try this approach, too.

  3. Oh Tootsie, dear doggy godmother, we are glad you shared what is wrong with your Mom, although of course we would much rather be hearing that her shoulder is 100% again. Oh it must be so frustrating, especially for one so active. But we know that she would be so much worse were it not for you and your wonderful Dachshund Daddy.
    Gail and I are sending our love and best wishes, plus lots of (appropriately gentle hugs) to both of you.
    Toodle pip!
    PS We thought we were going to lose Human Granny on Friday night, but she seems to be recovering a bit, although she is still in hospital and very poorly. The latest medical term we have learned is "viral encephalitis" (we already knew pneumonia, heart failure and Parkinsonism). I am going to ban Gail from taking that stress test right now, even though she is British!

  4. I had a frozen shoulder several years back (I had dogs to thank for that) and rehab was the ticket. Terribly painful! So keep encouraging your mom with licks and wags to reassure her that it will get better.

  5. Oh Tootsie, that's a lot of pain for Mom to go through! Our G-Pa Bob has a frozen shoulder too. Too many years of football in his youth and now, he's fallen on it many times. When he was in the rehab home (many, many months ago) they really worked on that shoulder and he did great! Since he's been home from there, he refuses to do any exercises so it's frozen again. We love the idea of the water therapy in the hospital on the hill by the vineyard. (Maybe some wine would help! Mommy said that, not us.)

    We know that with lots of hard work and determination, Mom will get that shoulder unstuck and functional once again. It's just gonna take more time.

    Keep up all that lovin' Tootsie. That's the BEST medicine in the world!

    Lily Belle & Muffin

  6. Hi Tootsie, Tell Mom I had a frozen shoulder about two years ago. I know that is soooo painful. I went to physical therapy and although the therapy was almost unbearable, it worked! I had a complete recovery and now my shoulder never bothers me. Hugs and Kisses, Saundra and Doxies Emmy and Cocoa.


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