Deciphering a shoulder MRI, starting physical therapy … and wishing that steroid shot had actually worked

Type II acromion process. Minor sclerotic degenerative changes. Hypertrophy of the joint capsule. Minimal effacement and impingement of the supraspinatus tendon. Tendinosis and thinning of the rotator cuff tendons. Degenerative type 1/2 labral tear. Tendinosis within the biceps tendon.

Sounds like a need a new right shoulder, doesn’t it? That’s just some of the undecipherable language in the MRI results my ortho and I discussed a week ago today, last Monday (April 5).

After looking up just about every other word of the MRI report, I now know that I have one screwed-up right shoulder.

At my initial appointment with Dr. Todd Daniels at Arlington Orthopedic Associates the previous week, we’d talked about the sometimes achy, sometimes knife-sharp, sometimes-enough-to-make-me-wince-and-say-choice-words worsening pain I’ve had in that shoulder for several months. He and I also talked about the seemingly referred pain down the length of my right arm, and the numbness and tingling I sometimes get in my fingers. We touched on the fact that I have pain in my left shoulder too, but at a slight fraction of my right.

Most of the MRI report showed what the radiologist seemed to consider age-related degeneration. I’d convinced myself that I had a cervical (neck) issue, a pinched nerve or something similar that’s been causing at least some of my problems — and the doc’s not ruling out that possibility. I even told him I’d halfway planned to ask him last week if he’d send me for a neck MRI too, just to see what *might* be going on. He basically said it likely would show more of the same — degenerative changes due to age but not necessarily anything that would be contributing to my current state. I’m still holding out for a closer look at my neck if this drags on for a while.

But looking at my MRI, seeing my pain level and limited right shoulder range of motion, he’s focused on addressing that problem first, and I’m OK with that. Clearly I have fairly significant shoulder trouble, and that needs to be tended to. If there’s something else going on — well, hopefully we can figure that out along the way. He doesn’t think I have “frozen shoulder” … yet. And the good thing is, he hasn’t even mentioned the s-word — and you all know what that is.

Any decent doctor wants his or her patients to take a conservative approach to treatment first, so that’s why he sent me for physical therapy to see if we can at least reduce my pain and improve my shoulder’s working condition. So he has me doing about a month’s worth of physical therapy (just twice a week), which I started at 7 a.m. (!) today.

I’ll be doing exercises at home, of course, to stretch and strengthen the joint, and one of the therapists this morning did some deep massage on the trapezius muscles in my neck/shoulder area, noting how tight they are (I told her every muscle in my body has been tight my entire life).

In addition to PT, Dr. Daniels gave me a steroid shot in the shoulder the day I saw him. I had visions of great relief and even asked him if it might help so much that I might get a false sense of the PT helping more than it really is, or aggravate the shoulder’s condition because it felt so good. “It won’t work THAT well,” he said, grinning.

You’re right, Doc … it hasn’t worked at all.

I also decided to stop taking the anti-inflammatories I’ve been popping since my PCP prescribed them at my physical in late January, because if they’ve made a difference, it’s been negligible. Now that I’ve been off them for several days, I see no difference.

So, for now, it’s strictly shoulder treatment. I’ll go back to see the ortho May 3 to reassess. I don’t know what a next step would be because we haven’t gone there yet.

A multitude of friends on Facebook offered fantastic insights and advice on my first post about this, based on their own painful experiences. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to pass those along. It shows how much they care about me, and I’m deeply touched by their eagerness to help. I’m still keeping what they said in mind and plan to discuss a number of those suggestions with Dr. Daniels — and other doctors if needed as the process unfolds.

Stay tuned! 🙂🤗

2 thoughts on “Deciphering a shoulder MRI, starting physical therapy … and wishing that steroid shot had actually worked

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