Having injured my shoulder while travelling a few months back, I find myself contemplating the nature of healing. While at the time, the degree of pain was not severe, it turned out that, in this case, a relative lack of pain was not such a good sign. Tests revealed that I had torn the labrum or cartilage deep within the shoulder joint. The labrum did not hurt when it tore, because it seems that, unusually, it is a component of the body that is, pretty well, dead. It has few nervous connections and seems to get by without much in the way of a blood supply. So when you tear it, there is not much going on in there, to cause it to repair itself.
Were I a weightlifter, or a builders labourer, or a fast bowler I would no doubt have undergone surgery to staple the wobbly labrum into position. But being a lady of advanced years, surgery was not considered desirable. In any case, my physio thinks I can get most of the use of my arm back again, by doing exercises to stabilise the shoulder joint.
Not being a big fan of surgery, unless there is truly no other way, I am happy to go along with this regimen of exercises. But progress has been slow, and I have had to accept that my shoulder (my right shoulder) which has served me pretty well for over sixty years, is now somewhat unsure of itself. It is achy and shaky some days (guitar playing can be quite tricky). Other times, it seems not too bad. I must learn to retrain it.
In the past, I have had my share of mental pain. But physical pain, steady, insistent, not going anywhere, is something new for me. I find my attitude towards my shoulder changes daily. I am angry with it, then sorry for it, then cross with the circumstances that caused it to be injured. I realise how little I know about my shoulder – when the physio explains which muscle is which, and where the tendons run, I realise the extent of my ignorance.
On good days (what causes a good day?) I am optimistic. On bad days, I am in despair. I try to figure out what distinguishes a good from a bad day. But apart from the pain, there seems to be no pattern to it. My shoulder, so long taken for granted, signals its presence through pings and pangs, aches and stiffness. Then it decides it will be ok for a while.
Deepak Chopra says that when fear ends, healing begins. I am working on being optimistic. I do mindfulness routines, at least when I remember to. But I have to accept that healing is only partly within my control. It is a slow process, deeply physical, requiring energy, patience and resolve.