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Shouldering the burden

Several weeks ago I started having some pain in my right shoulder. It didn’t seem to have been caused by anything. It’s been coming and going to various degrees since then; one of the worst times was on a weekend hiking trip a few weeks ago when I didn’t have much alternative but aggravate it by wearing my backpack.

Shortly after that trip I went to see a doctor about it. The doctor very painfully probed and squeezed my shoulder with his strong fingers. Then he used a couple styluses with needles in the tips, pressing them a short distance apart on various parts of my shoulder and upper arm. When I asked him what he was doing he replied with difficulty (and some help from one of the other clinic staff members) that it was something to do with an electrical current. He said I’d torn a ligament and prescribed me some pills.

In the short term, the treatment reduced the pain, but it came back.

A couple of weeks ago I went to an orthopaedic hospital near where I work. Again, English was a problem, and I couldn’t communicate much more than the fact that I’d had this shoulder pain for a couple of months. I had a series of X-rays, was diagnosed with a sprain and then was prescribed five days of pills (Korean doctors always prescribe handfuls of pills) and physiotherapy.

Habiba has been doing physiotherapy for some time. Her regime consists of lots of physical exercises – stretching, weights and so on. My physiotherapy involves lying on my back doing nothing for 40 minutes. The last four weekdays I went to one particular clinic at the hospital which consists of about ten beds separated into individual booths. I lie for 20 minutes with an electric blanket thing heating my shoulder. Then I have some ultrasound – a nurse daubs the top of my shoulder with jelly and rubs the ultrasound device on the muscle there. Then I have fifteen minutes of electrotherapy. About three little paddles are placed under my shoulder and send pulses of electricity into my muscles, causing them to tense up.

I finished my five-day course of medication and my shoulder is better than it was, but there’s still a tiny bit of discomfort there. I consciously and subconsciously avoid doing things that agravate it – like putting my right hand up behind my back to clean or scratch it, opening doors with my left hand, trying not to carry my computer around too much, doing push-ups.

So far my shoulder hasn’t been a problem, but I’m a little worried that it might get worse again. I suppose I’ll have to continue to avoid aggravating it.

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