Industrial Injury

Somehow I have managed to give myself an RSI-like injury in my right shoulder. It is swollen up and a bit painful, and of course the swelling means it doesn’t move properly. The doctor recommended ibuprofen, which I am taking with due regard to all the warnings in the instructions.

The interesting question from my point of view is how I managed to do this to myself. I suspect that heavy suitcases and stretching to open windows is part of the cause, and a heavy shoulder bag may also be partly to blame, but I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the culprits is the iPad, which is quite heavy and which I use a lot. Darn.

Anyway, we’ll see how the treatment goes, but I may be online a little less until it gets sorted. Also I think I’ll go back to reading paper books for a while.

14 thoughts on “Industrial Injury

  1. Ouch! Get well soon. I had something similar last winter, in my hand. I think it was called De Quervains Tenosyvonitis, or, as my doctor put it, “mouse thumb” 😉 Modern technology should come with a health warning!

  2. Ow! You have my heartfelt sympathy. A few things that helped me in a similar situation:
    Heat on the affected site- a hot waterbottle wrapped in a towl will do, but I found the damp heat of a microwaveable grain heat pack was the best for me
    Anti-inflammatories – the problem I found when I took anti-inflammatories was that it dulled the pain so I ended up accidently using my shoulder when I should have been resting it! So I tried taking the anti-inflammatories before bed so that a) I got a good night’s sleep and b) I didn’t aggravate the injury. But of course if your doctor has you on a specific timetable for your ibuprofin you should follow it!
    Backpacks instead of handbags and shopping carry-bags
    Deep tissue massage – as well as helping with immediate cramping in the area, the deep tissue massage increases blood flow to the area which speeds healing. Try and get this done by a professional physiotherapist rather than a masseuse.

    Your doctor has probably mentioned all of the above to you, or you may have tried them already and found they haven’t worked for you, but just in case…. 😀 Hope you feel better soon!

    1. Actually that’s much better advice that I got from the doctor.

      I had been wondering about heat packs. I shall try that.

      The waiting list for an NHS physiotherapist is apparently several months, so if I want one I’ll need to pay.

      Thank you!

      1. Ooof, sorry to hear about this.

        If you have active inflammation, you need ice more than heat. It’s not as comforting, but it works. Or you could do both–but make sure you finish with the ice, not the heat.

        1. True – if it’s active inflammation. In my case all ice does is cause me to automatically tense my muscles, causing more pain 😀 Oh, the laughs my physio and I had over that one!

          Anyway, that’s why I so highly recommend a physio if there is reason to suspect it’s something other than a standard injury that just needs time and rest to cure. As well as magic hands, they have the training and experience to determine what kind of inflammation it is, whether it’s referred pain from somewhere else or a posture issue or a lifestyle problem *cough iPad cough*…

          1. So how do I tell if it is active inflammation or not?

            I’m guessing the answer is “get a diagnosis”, which is going to mean finding a private practice. There’s a list of local people here, but I see that physios provide a wide variety of services and an individual practice may only provide a small subset. I have no idea what I actually need.

            Also, anyone got any idea how much this is likely to cost?

  3. I second Carol’s advice on this. Heatpacks are excellent for this kind of pain. Also, if you don’t already do so, and you sleep on your side, use more than one pillow, to protect the shoulder from further cramping. Deep heat is surprisingly helpful, too. (I have had chronic neck and shoulder issues for 20 years. The curse of jobs that involve a lot of writing and reading.)

  4. All of the above and also especially switch to a carrying system that balances the weight across your back and not on one side. I hope you feel better soon.

  5. I’d urge assessment by a physical therapist. My husband went through a rotator cuff repair a couple of years ago. One of the supporting tendons was nearly torn through, and he was advised to use ibuprophen, cold, heat, etc. for several months before he was referred to an orthopedist, who ordered imaging and said “well, that won’t ever heal on its own.” Often, apparently, these things just happen because of the architecture of the shoulder and the collar bone, aggravated by anything from exercise to sleeping position. If it’s just inflammation, it will heal given time. The conservative medical position is to see whether anti-inflammatories work before ordering expensive tests. A physical therapist will be able to advise properly. Often strengthening exercises will help if the injury is minor, but you need to know which set of muscles to exercise! (I’m afraid I have no idea what PTs charge in the UK.)

    Don’t take it lightly. We were very lucky and wound up with the orthopedist who accompanied the US ski team to Nagano and an absolutely stellar PT, and insurance paid for everything, but the experience was still a solid year of hell on wheels.

    Speaking of wheels, dragging things on wheels (with the opposite arm) is likely going to give you more relief than a backpack. Getting into a backpack can be awkward with a sore shoulder.

    Wishing you all the best.

  6. Beyond sympathy I can’t offer very much other than one or two suggestions that wont go much further than those that you’ve already received.

    I do endorse what Susan Loyal said. In addition, whilst I have no idea how much it might cost, I do suggest that you look for a personal recommendation from a professional /enthusiastic amateur sportsman /woman for a properly qualified Sports Specialist Physiotherapist- specialising in active sports of the most strenuous kind.

    Some years ago I was referred to an NHS Physiotherapist after I overstrained a foot in walking home after the last public transport whilst wearing un-suitable, for long walks, shoes. Although my spinal condition – Ankylosing spondylitis – does give me a slight priority in physiotherapy I’ve never found it all that useful in the treatment of my long term illness and so was a bit surprised when I discovered that a few simple exercises did help with my foot and that these exercises along with the heat /cold thing for pain and swelling could be done at home. I was rather less than happy with the fact that recovering from one evenings folly took over a year to achieve normal – for me – movement without pain. The trouble with being used to a certain kind of inflammatory joint disease pain is that you can push the pain from a similar condition into the background even as you cause yourself more harm.

    In addition to previous suggestions you might consider good old Aspirin as an alternative to or supplement to ibuprofen. I have to give myself regular breaks from Aspirin but it is useful when I take it, as is my – carefully monitored ! – supply of codeine which is too dangerously addictive to use at any time other than when you really need it for short periods.

    I’d say that the trouble with the use of pain killers with your problem would be that they might cause you to carry out activities that you really shouldn’t and you could cause yourself more harm than good.

    On shoulder bags ..that sounds altogether too familiar .. I used to carry heavy shoulder slung camera bags filled with photographic equipment way back when I was paid to carry photographic equipment about factories and workplaces where no sensible person would wish to visit let alone work and one of the first pieces of medical advice I received from my Neurologist post diagnosis was to stop doing this in favour of hand held and balanced with equal weight for each hand … and also to stop all violent physical activity in favour of gentle exercise. So NO violent combat sports for you Cheryl .

    Bags on wheels can be useful although they do have their limitations, but the golden rule is NO shoulder slung bags.

    Oh, nearly forgot ..try an ‘orthopaedic ‘ type pillow for neck support when sleeping; I’ve used one for decades to help support my diseased neck joints and in theory the same sort of thing should be good for your shoulder.

    This sort of thing as linked below, although they come in several types so you might have to experiment to find something that suits you …

    Also you could try ‘Ibuprofen Gel ‘ which is available across the counter but which your doctor can prescribe in its most potent form. Since I’m now over 60 I get my medications free so I don’t know how much NHS prescriptions cost these days but prescribed medications may work out cheaper since I think that Ibuprofen Gel is a bit expensive.

    ” When ibuprofen is applied to the skin (topical application) it is absorbed through the skin into the underlying tissues, where it reduces pain and inflammation in the local area.

    Ibuleve gels, mousse and spray can be used to relieve the pain of muscular and joint conditions such as sprains, strains, backache, rheumatism and minor arthritic conditions. They should be massaged gently into the affected area. ”

    I repeat – at risk of being tediously nanny ish – that you do need to be careful not to over strain existing damage. The risk is that if you push your recovery you will wind up with a permanent disability.

    Best Wishes,


    1. Ibuprofen gel is an excellent idea. My mother said the same thing when I was visiting at the weekend. I now have a tube of it.

      As to violent combat sports, I am retired. I haven’t tried chopping anyone’s head off with a sword for years.

  7. Hi Cheryl

    I too recommend getting yourself some kind of physio. This is an area where GPs and the NHS are not very useful. [My “qualifications”: oversupple joints leading to various slightly sporty injuries over the years and ongoing foot/gait problems.]

    If the ibuprofen gel isn’t strong enough for you, “Voltarol” gel is stronger (and pricier). In some pharmacies it is kept behind the counter.

    For deep tissue massage, exercises and stretches suitable for normally active people you want a “sports massage therapist”. These are folks who look after professional and amateur sports enthusiasts and they really know their stuff when it comes to soft tissue and overuse injuries. They also treat normal, not especially sporty types. In Reading, this kind of work is a 30min appointment and costs £30-50. You may even get away with just the one appointment, to be shown the appropriate exercises.

    For a more gentle approach, the traditional “physiotherapist” or “occupational health” professional is an option. This usually involves less manipulation and more machinery. In my experience, it is less effective than the above and more pricey, but more relaxing as you get to sit quietly while the machine irradiates or sonicates your joints.

    The prescribed exercises and gentle stretches really do help – you need to get the joint moving so your lymphatic system can shift the fluid. This reduces the swelling quicker and reduces the formation of scar tissue (and incidentally this is why if you have a knee replacement, the hospital want you to be up and walking as soon as possible rather than resting). Massage has the same effect, but self-massage on a shoulder would be tricky.

    For a different approach, you could try acupuncture for pain relief and general well-being. In Reading, this comes in at £30-50 for an hour session.

    Good luck.

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