Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Sad Little Ironman

Since my last post I started my swim program and knocked out the first 6km session like I was supposed to, a bit of a mission but I got the job done.  My shoulders actually felt tired for once so it must have been good for me.
The next day over the space of about an hour I got this severe aching/throbbing pain in my left shoulder which was relentless.  It was probably some of the worse pain I have ever felt and meant that I couldn't concentrate on what I was doing and no changes in position or pain killers helped.  It settled a bit over the next 24 hours but I was unable to swim the next day because it hurt to lift my arm.  At this stage I thought it was related to the big swim set two days before but wasn't really convinced. 
A few days went and it gradually got better, not the full 100 but on its way and I was able to do an easy 1500m in the pool on Friday.  Saturday came and the severe aching pain started creeping back, probably even worse that the first time. I was at a hen's night and had to go home because the pain was so bad and then I couldn't sleep because there was no position that I could lie in which didn't hurt.  I was pretty miserable.  I managed to get in with a sports doctor on Monday (yesterday) and on describing my symptoms and doing a couple of muscle tests he concluded that I have something called Idiopathic Brachial Neuritis otherwise known as Parsonage-Turner Syndrome.  I didn't really care what was wrong with it I just wanted the pain to go away.
I had never heard of this before so he started telling me the usual course - severe pain in the shoulder/upper arm (check), no trauma or aggravation (check), pain settles over a couple of weeks (thank god), followed by painless atrophy (wasting) and paralysis of the shoulder girdle muscles which can take 6 to 18 months to resolve (HOLY SHIT).  He did a couple of muscle tests and the left side was definately weaker than the right but since I am right handed and pretty much have no upper body strength anyway I am not reading too much into that.
So he has given me some drugs to get me through the painful stage so I can sleep at night (which didn't really work last night anyway) and has said that once the atrophy kicks in swimming will not be a good idea as I will develop muscle imbalances from the unaffected muscles making up for the wasted muscles which could then cause subsequent rotator cuff/impingement type injuries.  Even cycling on TT bars or on my drops could be a problem because you need some control over the shoulder blade when you are in those positions.
I wouldn't say that I am in denial and he is a well respected sports doctor, but it is early days yet and I am trying to stay positive and hope that either he is wrong about the diagnosis or I manage to escape with little or no wasting/paralysis... I did a bit of a google search (as you do...) and unfortunately my symptoms so far fit into the symptoms they describe.
So I am pretty devastated that this is the course that it could take.  At least I will still be able to run and ride my bike but if it is going to take 6 months + then there is a good chance I may miss some or all of the next triathlon season.  And its a pretty scary thought that my muscles are going to waste and maybe become paralysed, not just in terms of triathlon but in terms of everyday life.  Things like tying up my hair and maybe even getting dressed could become a problem if I can't use some of my shoulder muscles.
So at the moment I am just taking it as it comes and running and biking as I can and once the pain settles I will hopefully start on some exercises to help maintain any strength I have.  Unfortunately I have seen too many ongoing shoulder problems so I know what a pain they can be.  Sometimes having too much medical knowledge is a curse especially with my ability to dramatize everything - by the sounds of things things could be dramatic enough.

Life can be a bit more bearable with a fake moustache

The rest of the week wasn't too exciting, did a couple of shorts runs with no hip issues (yay) and the usual riding.  We got caught up in a bunch on Saturday which we couldn't get away from despite a couple of diversions from the route, so eventually gave in and rode with them.  The bunch then got blown apart by the Mechanics Bay bunch and I lasted about 30secs... I did manage to get a new max power of 481w - woo hoo!!
Murfy getting all razzled up by my catnip plant which she is crushing

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear that Jo. Hopefully it will turn out not to be as frightening as it sounds.

    Try to keep your chin up. At least you can get really good at riding and running :)