Physical therapy magic

I have had pain in my left shoulder the last 6-9 months. I’m not even sure how long… it has been a long time.

About a year and a half ago, I had pain in my right shoulder. The doctor said it was impingement syndrome in the shoulder. (Believe it or not, it was from straining myself from stringing something like 25 Christmas trees with Christmas lights all in one day!) After a while, it just went away by itself.

But this time, it’s the left shoulder. And I have no idea how I hurt it. It just started hurting. I went to the doctor a month or two ago but it was not my usual doctor and didn’t help much. This week I went to my regular doctor and she sent me to the physical therapist.

First the therapist showed me a picture of a regular shoulder. The red circle shows the area where it’s hurting, and how it looks normally.

The little hooked piece on top is the piece of bone, and the red muscle-looking thing slides in and out. Below on the left in the red circle shows a closeup.

  • Red circle: Normal. Blue thing is a called a “bursa,” which slides in and out.
  • Green circle: Injured. The bursa is swollen. See how it gets pinched between the bone.
  • Blue circle: Injured. When you lift your arm, the bursa gets squeezed. That’s why it hurts. Ouch.

So the therapist did a couple things.

She used an ultrasound machine that creates heat in the muscle. It just felt warm to the skin, but muscle doesn’t have nerves for heat so I couldn’t feel anything.

Then she used a metal blade to scrape my shoulder, neck and arm to break up scar tissue.

Then she attached electrodes to my arm and shoulder and shot electricity through.

You can turn up the current and the oscillation. If you turn up the current too high, it becomes prickly and painful. (That happened a little.) Then you can oscillate from slow to fast. It feels like an  itty bitty massage. You can see on the left the little beige circle, which is the electrode thing they attach to your skin. I had to sit there 15 minutes. It felt really good!

After that, the assistant came in and had an ice cube in a cup and rubbed it around my shoulder until it all went numb. I thought it would hurt but it didn’t hurt any more than my shoulder normally aches. I asked him, “Why do you have to numb everything?” He said, “To be honest, I have no idea!” I guess he just does what he is told!

And that was it!

It was amazing. After that, my shoulder felt GREAT! I am so amazed and thankful for modern medicine. This has been the most I have been able to move my arm in ages!

A Yee

Angela Yee is a professional designer (graphic design, stage design, interior design — and teaches leadership skills at

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