Every wheelchair-user hears the same foreboding warnings – don’t eat too much or you’ll get overweight, be careful of drinking and driving in your wheelchair (yes really) and the big one – don’t over-work your shoulders, because if you do, you’ll be totally and utterly screwed. And smarty-pants me made the big mistake of not following warning #3 last month, and let me say, dumbest mistake ever.
It happened on a bachelorette party bus. I had to sit on the bench instead of staying in my wheelchair, and there were no side supports to speak of. And being that I have no torso balance at all, I had to hold myself up entirely using my shoulders, straining my arms behind me to hold myself upright. And I did this for about 2 hours straight, also attempting to chair dance at same time.
What happened here is a classic case of not respecting ones physical limitations. I wanted to have fun like everybody else, I didn’t want to be a hassle and ask for extra help. Simply put, I didn’t want anybody to know I was struggling. And that was the worst mistake of the night. I seriously strained old of my rotating cuffs and shoulder blades.
The funny thing is I didn’t even know what happened until a few days later. Five days after the fact while I was driving myself home from the mall, I suddenly couldn’t steer my wheel to the left or right. It was as if my arms had become more paralyzed than they already were. I had to pull off and ask for help, and I haven’t been able to drive independently since that day. It has been a long 1 ½ months.
Now to rehab in a sore shoulder is no easy affair. In a perfect world, you’d stop using your shoulders completely until they got better, but that’s not quite possible when all you can use is your upper-body. How can you heal something and still use it? This is the tough situation every wheelchair-user finds themselves in when their shoulders finally go. I’ve been struggling so hard to not use my shoulder – I don’t cook, drive or type using my hand, but it still has a long ways to go.
But the good news is that it is slightly better, and it only got this way because I finally got smart and readjusted my computer set-up, where I work all day, to lessen the strain on my shoulders. I purchased a Trackball and put in front of me instead of using a mouse to the right side of my computer. I also upgraded my headset to a Logitech.
The most important thing I did however is finally see a neuro occupational therapist starting last week; a very unique kind of therapist who specializes in muscle manipulation. During my first visit with her she covered my entire shoulder and arm area in Kinesio tape did, the miracle tape that helps hold your muscles where they belong. Your upper-body really does feel amazingly better after this application.
I have 15 more sessions with her, and about seven more weeks of healing to go too. She was honest with me as well – she told me some people never get better from this injury. My only hope is to not use my shoulders as much as possible. We are only born with two shoulders and we don’t get new ones, so I must make this happen.
It’s so important to take care of your shoulders as a wheelchair-user. Baby them, and learn from my mistake.
Have you injured your shoulders after years of wheelchair-use? How did you rehab them?
– Kennsington Trackball Mouse
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