Shoulder burden

In light of the years-long plague of performance-enhancing drugs in pretty much every sport, it’s time I came clean: I’m on steroids.

Granted the steroids I’m on aren’t the type that will let me hit a baseball 900 feet. Mine, so I am told, are the type that will let me lift a plain old grocery bag with my left arm without wincing in pain. But I felt a confession would be healthy either way.

It started about a month ago, when I started feeling a twinge in my shoulder when I would do certain things, such as be awake.

The twinge would accelerate to warp speed when I tried to lift or carry things. To me, there were two very simple options to solve this: (1) not lift anything with my left arm or (2) complain feverishly to my wife about my pain.

Turns out as I was not very good at #1. There’s a lot of lifting in my life. Plus, I have always had the very healthy medical approach of “pretend like what ails you doesn’t exist and maybe one day you’ll wake up and it will be all better.”

And #2 was also not a viable option because, as my wife said, “If complaining healed things, you’d be all better by now.”

So I kept on with the hope that I would wake up and – poof! – be magically healed. Well, waking up started occurring more and more frequently, as I would roll over on my shoulder in my sleep and jolt awake, wondering if I had rolled over on a porcupine. Nope, just a shooting pain in my shoulder.

Eventually, I broke down and went to the doctor, the same one who fixed my knee a few years ago. He did a quick examination of me and had me do some range of motion exercises. He moved my arm this way. No pain. He moves it that way. No pain. He moved it another way. Sweet mother of goodness what torture school were you trained at, man!?!?!?

From that particular move, he was able to diagnose my bum shoulder as something muscular, rather than a rotator cuff issue, which was good news to me, as the latter could mean surgery, and surgery means I voluntarily let another human cut into my flesh.

He told me I was going to have to stop lifting things with my left arm for a month, and I’d simply have to follow those orders. He also prescribed some steroids, one of those regimens where you take six the first day, five the second, etc. One of the first things I noticed with the steroids – holy cow am I hungry. I do not recall having had this kind of an appetite since probably college. The other night, I woke up at 3 a.m., just starving. This is always fun, as I on occasion sleep walk, so the first thing I had to do was to convince my wife I was not sleep walking, and actually hungry.

HER: Michael, go to bed.

ME: I’m not sleep walking. I’m awake.

HER: Of course you’d say that.

ME: I’m just hungry.

HER: Go to sleep.

ME: Sigh.

Eventually I convinced her I was awake and hungry. I made my way downstairs and found pizza from the night before in the fridge. I scarfed down several pieces. It occurred to me that the last time I ate pizza at 3 a.m. was probably college. And I probably ordered it at 2 a.m.

And I am working hard to follow doctor’s orders and not lift things with my left arm. I am also finding out how much I use my left arm in my life. Here are just a few things I have had difficulty lifting being down an arm: a big bag of dog food; a chair in my den; my 10-year-old; a Christmas tree (gravity got that bad boy off the top of the van).

So hopefully I will continue to play by the rules and soon my shoulder will be all better. While I’m not very good at self-curing, I am good at following doctor’s orders. I hope this does work after a month. For one thing, our grocery bill is getting out of hand.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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