On August 3, I was standing at a Universal Gym machine in my local athletic club performing a lift that I call “chinning”, lifting a bar from thigh-level straight up toward my chin.
As I lifted the bar almost to shoulder level there was a sharp pain and an audible “pop” in the front part of my right shoulder, loud enough that several people turned around to look at me. While I’ve never been stabbed, I imagined that’s how it might feel.
Over a few weeks’ time, I had full range of motion but I could still hear and feel small pops of pain when I moved the arm in certain ways.
My primary care doctor ordered an MRI. I went to see two shoulder doctors to review the pictures.
The first one (not a surgeon) said, “You have a spur under your collarbone by the cap of your shoulder that is rubbing against your rotator cuff. The friction from the spur is causing some tearing and inflammation. As long as that spur is there, your shoulder will hurt if you try to lift overhead or away from your body. Eventually the muscle will tear all the way through and require significant surgery. ”
When I went to see the second doctor (a surgeon), I was expecting him to recommend surgery. Instead, he said, “I don’t recommend surgery. All of your muscles and tendons are where they should be, now. I don’t see any tearing. I don’t think the bone spur is a big deal. Take ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. My assistant will give you a set of exercises to strengthen and align your shoulder.
Part of me is delighted with the “exercises” approach. I don’t really want surgery. The other part of me is haunted by the first doc’s view – “you can have relatively minor surgery now or take your chances for a few years and end up with major surgery later.”
I don’t know how to decide. It seems to me like, “How lucky do you feel?”
This is the point at which we would welcome someone to guide us through alternatives and potential consequences, then ask, “What’s important to you?”
Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.
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