Scott Hanselman

How to deal with Extreme Physical Pain

October 28, 2020 Comment on this post [53] Posted in Musings
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francisco-gonzalez-M8UEJd58GcE-unsplashI'm in a LOT of pain right now. It's hard to say that, especially considering that everyone experiences pain be it emotional or physical. I don't want to make unneeded comparisons or consider my pain as being more important than anyone else's. I'm not burned. I'm not dying of cancer. I am blessed.

But I'm hurting. A lot. It's mine and it's now and it's not clear when it will stop.

It's hard to think. It's hard to move. I can't sleep. Oxycodone makes me feel sick. Advil does nothing.

I've just had my second frozen shoulder surgery (adhesive capsular release) in 4 years. Frozen shoulder is idiopathic (who knows why it happen) and it's known to be quite painful. I can attest that it is. I've been unable to move my right arm for nearly a year. Not just that I couldn't move it, I mean it couldn't be moved by anyone. I couldn't fit the deodorant in to my armpit because the whole joint was hardened.

I had cortisone shots. No result. I finally had formal capsular release surgery where the surgeon goes in there and tidies up, removes scar tissue.

Then the months of physical therapy and forced stretching starts.

I'm going to physical therapy five days a week for an hour a day, and working at home stretching myself for an other 1-2 hours. It's overwhelming and consuming. I just want to be able to pick up a cup from a high shelf. I have basic arm-usage requirements. This is going to be a marathon, and this is the second time this has happened.

Why am I telling you this?

A few reasons. I need the outlet. It's my blog. Because I appreciate you all and you've been here, some of you, for nearly 20 years. Not everything is code.

I had a nerve block in my neck that turned off my right side for a week. That was an extraordinary experience as it was an opportunity to experience a significant, albeit temporary, physical disability. Before I had no ability to move my arm but I had feeling. Now I had zero use of my right arm. It was a numb cadaver arm - dangerously dead weight. I used the time to play Xbox with my feet using the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

This nerve block is wearing off and it's gone from itching, to tingling, to the feeling of an ice pick shoved into my deltoid and armpit every few minutes.

I burst into tears at physical therapy today. The year just hit me all at once. It hurts. Between diabetes and this temporary paralysis, it’s been a week. 2020 is ass. It’s OK. Happens a few times a decade. Maybe it happens to you twice a week. Let it out, listen to your body.

Why am I telling you this?

It's OK to tell people you hurt. You're human. Talk about your pain. Cry. Yell. Sob. Talk some more.

When I'm done yelling, I'm trying to sit quietly and meditate about this pain. What is it trying to tell me? Can I mentally follow the nerve from the location (referred pain or otherwise) to my brain and determine what the body wants me to know? Am I being told there's danger?

I'm finding that there is soft tissue tolerance - what I can handle - and that doesn't always line up with what I'm feeling. I'm feeling near intolerable pain in PT (physical therapy). Like torture with an unknown end date, it's taken me to the level of pain where vomiting is the only escape and then it starts again. However, I persist. I breathe. I try to listen and trust the process and know that if I want to regain the full use of my arms, this is a medically known and studied process. Physical therapy works if you do it.

The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming. Your body says you're actively dying but your conscious brain can - must - override it and let the pain flow freely. You observe it, rather than obstruct it.

I hate this process but I'm going to learn from it. I'm learning and listening to my body and how I react to something so extreme.

The pain is important to acknowledge because this pain is gonna make me better and stronger. But it still hurts. Here we go.

I hope that you, Dear Reader, are not in pain. But if you are, I hope it passes and that you come out better on the other side. I'm going to use this Bad Input for Good.

BTW: Thanks to Volterra for sponsoring the blog this week. I suspect they didn't know what blog post(s) their ad would land on, but I appreciate their support and understanding as not every blog post is about code. This one is about people and their pain. Give them a click.

Sponsor: Need a multi-cluster load balancer and API gateway? Try VoltMesh: built for modern and distributed apps that require automation, performance and visibility. Start for free today.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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October 31, 2020 3:00
I've got rheumatic arthritis so I sometime have pain in my knee and elbow, my diabetic father is my dying of a neurological disease and in the meantime my looking for a new job. My pain is not comparable to yours, but I understand life can be tough expecially if body is stopping your dreams. Really hoping your shoulder is better when you read this. Keep pushing! ( Not only in git...)
October 31, 2020 3:18
I had similar crippling pain from compressed/injured vertebrae. I had amazing but short lived relief from acupuncture. Other than that, alternating cold and hot packs provided some relief.
October 31, 2020 3:23
So sorry to hear that, get better soon, I which you all the best. You have made my time at MS more interesting! David
October 31, 2020 3:43
Take care of yourself, Scott.
October 31, 2020 4:17
I had frozen shoulder in both shoulders. Cortisone shot helped on one, therapy on both. Seemed like most people not only never heard of it, they had no idea it was unbelievably painful. Took a year to get over it and they are now 80-90%, no pain. Godspeed!
October 31, 2020 4:17
That's intense! Sorry to hear about anyone going through that. I've had frozen shoulder twice, and I understand the urge to just FIX it, it can drag on so long. I haven't had the nerve to try surgery yet. Hope it works out for you, Scott, and that maybe with surgery the chance of recurrence goes way down. Good luck with therapy - maybe you can figure out a way to make it fun by tracking progress with a Kinect sensor :)
October 31, 2020 4:31
Hey Scott, hanselminutes enthusiast here. Just wanted to say that I am so amazed by how much you get done despite this. My experiences with injuries don't compare for many reasons but they still sucked for many reasons so its hard to think about how difficult what you've been going through must be.

Your mentality is incredible and applaudable, I'm excited to hear the podcasts you produce when you are better than ever and past this !!
October 31, 2020 4:55
Here's to a speedy recovery, Mr. Hanselman. Thanks for sharing this with us.
October 31, 2020 5:01
I remember when you said "follow the whole person". Thanks for sharing this with us.
I'm thinking of you and wishing you a quick recovery.
October 31, 2020 5:09
Thank you for sharing... I've also been dealing with a lot of pain, mostly caused by generative disc disorder in my back... there are times it's not so bad and times I can barely walk straight... I get pain down my left side from the top of my hip to my knee... it literally knocks me off my feet now and then. I've got to lose a significant amount of weight to treat the issue at all. Similarly, I can't handle opiods, the nausea is worse than pain, and because I work govt adjacent marijuana derived treatments aren't an option either.
October 31, 2020 5:23
PT - otherwise known as pain & torture. Thanks for sharing, Scott. We're all pulling for ya.
October 31, 2020 5:59
Take care, Scott. Hope you're feeling better soon.
October 31, 2020 6:39
2020 has been a really bad year. But it's almost over. I hope your pain will be over soon too.
Take care!
October 31, 2020 6:44
I'm sending you my two arms for a warm virtual huge for you and your family which probably are feeling pain in their soul to see you this way. I hope you get 100% recovered and that you get lots of learnings from this situation. Take care <3
October 31, 2020 7:47
I fractured my shoulder and had a plate, a whole lot of screws, and a bit of cadaver bone inserted in a six hour surgery. My arm was immobilized for two months and then I started physical therapy with Miranda, the Goddess of Pain. It was bad for five months and it took a year to get full range of motion and strength back. My surgeon said that shoulder post op pain is one of the most painful things a person can endure. You’ll get through this and a year later you won’t remember the pain. Best of luck.
October 31, 2020 7:49
I'm so sorry, Scott. I pray you will find the strength to stay the course and recover.
October 31, 2020 8:18
I've been living 5 years with a "doctors have no idea how to fix it and that's just the way it is" painful skeletal deformity in my face. Sleeping, eating, talking, are all rough.

Extreme things can be a distraction - I survived the "Paqui one chip challenge" (barely), and it can be nice to "feel a different pain" for a little while to take your mind off it.

It gets better. Learn to find ways to laugh about it. If you're looking for great xbox games to play, Red Dead Redemption 2 is amazing and worth it.

Hang in there bud
October 31, 2020 9:17
That sucks Scott! I hope you're on the mend somehow soon. Take care mate.
October 31, 2020 9:18
scott, thanks for sharing. stay strong and get well soon. sending you as much positive energy as i can!
October 31, 2020 10:33
Scott, you are a remarkable and amazing person. I have been in awe of you for years. What you share and help with is amazing, both on a tech level and human level. Thanks for sharing this too. I really hope the pain goes very soon and wish you a speedy recovery.
October 31, 2020 10:39
I am sorry to hear you are in pain. It must be hard.

Have you everlooked in Joe Dispenza's work. This is one of the many testimonial you find on YT. A guy with a frozen shoulder:

I hope to read soon on your blog that things
are getting better. Hang in there.

October 31, 2020 10:57
Wishing for you a speedy recovery
October 31, 2020 11:10
Also this:
October 31, 2020 11:12
It's so sad to hear what you must be going through. I wish you the strength to make it.
This blog post helps me to appreciate more that fortunately for me, such physical pain does not exist. I think this is pretty important.

Thanks for sharing and get well very soon!
October 31, 2020 11:25
So sorry to hear this, Scott. Here's to a quick and complete recovery. Take care!
October 31, 2020 11:31
Dear Scott,

I'm sorry to hear you are in pain. My mom had a frozen shoulder 3 years ago. she went to physical therapy for about 9 months but she couldn't get rid of the pain. Finally, I found a doctor that advised PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) and after that, she recovered and after 3 months she got rid of the pain and after 6 months with physical therapy exersie she could move your shoulder perfectly.

I really hope the pain goes very soon.

October 31, 2020 11:39
I follow your blog for more than a decade and you're one of my motivators. I'm sorry to hear this and I hope you get better soon Scott.
October 31, 2020 11:49
Hope you are feeling better soon Scott - thanks for sharing this - it must be difficult.Thanks for continuing to help the community despite all that is happening - it is much appreciated.
October 31, 2020 11:52
Thanks for sharing Scott. You're right - it's not all about code. Reminds me of XKCD:

Get well soon though. Code is still important and I want to learn about modding that Adaptive Controller. :-)
October 31, 2020 12:20
Hi Scott, so very sorry to hear your going through this at the moment. Thanks for sharing and I’m really hoping this passes soon for you.

I think this shows another thing of the web and 2020, you never know what personal crisis someone is going through. We see their profile pic all the time, smiling and we all assume everything is perfect but to be perfect isn’t human.

We are all a mess with crazy things going on.

Keep strong and hope you have a speedy recovery.

October 31, 2020 13:04
Thanks, for sharing Scott. stay strong and get well soon.
October 31, 2020 13:11
Thanks for sharing. Wishing you a speedy recovery and will be looking forward to your new big posts. Take care.
October 31, 2020 13:18
Scott, This was very sad to read. I hope that you get a speedy recovery! All the best to you and your family!

Gunnar (The MaxiVista guy - long time ago (2004)...)
October 31, 2020 13:25
Stay strong Scott. Wishing you a speedy recovery.
October 31, 2020 13:25
Hello, Scott.
This really sounds bad.
I wish you strength and courage to move on and do all you can to be well again - for yourself and your family.
Best wishes and take care!
October 31, 2020 13:41
Stretch therapy is hell, exactly as you say. My therapist said his goal was to find the pain limit. Then go past it. He was only half joking. But do stick with it, eventually the pain will go away and you’ll regain most of your range. Love your blog!
October 31, 2020 14:42
Illness and pain are examinations from Allah.
You shouldn't handle your issue with respect to only medications and therapies, but also with the religious background in mind.
Ponder the meaning of this life and the sufferings we face, repent to Allah and ask him the relief.
May Allah heal you soon.
October 31, 2020 15:39
Hi, Scott - Big fan of your work. I hope this shoulder situation passes soon for you.
October 31, 2020 18:01
Thanks for sharing this. It’s good to know that you’re not alone and those people have your back. Be well.
October 31, 2020 18:15
Wishing you all the very best Scott
October 31, 2020 18:22
Get well soon. God bless you.
October 31, 2020 18:43
Here's hoping you can get through this soon, and that you can learn to be an even better person than you already are!
October 31, 2020 19:04
Hi Scott, I'm very sorry to hear what you are going through. I am hoping you'll get better very soon.
October 31, 2020 19:36
Scott, you are a warrior and you will get over this pain and como back stronger.
I'm following you from your first posts, you are so generous to all us, sharing your knowledge, being transparent, thanks for let us know the current context. I wish you the best, you deserve it, and all the great things you do for the comunity will come back to strength you !!
I wish you a quick a recovery !!
October 31, 2020 20:15
Hang in there Scott, we need you
October 31, 2020 23:26
"Do or do not, there is no try. May the force be with you".
I love your passion, your sessions, your way of dealing with life, in all aspects.
Kudos and best wishes.
November 01, 2020 9:26
Get well soon Scott! you have been fighting with T1D for long time, you have the courage. God bless you.
November 01, 2020 13:00
Take care Scott. Good luck.
November 01, 2020 13:12
Thanks for sharing Scott, I hope you will feel much better really soon.
Its good that you are trying to learn from it, it takes patience.
November 01, 2020 15:50
I'm so sorry to hear about your chronic pain Scott. I too was (wrongly) diagnosed with frozen shoulder in both shoulders before a doctor correctly diagnosed me with RA. Both are horrible and chronic pain can be really difficult to go through every day. The most important thing is a good support group around you to remind you that everything in life is not bad. Keep up with that PT - a good therapist can do wonders.
November 01, 2020 18:29
Hope you feel well sooner!
November 01, 2020 19:59
I am so sorry to hear you are in pain. Hope it will go away soon! Take care and stay strong!
November 01, 2020 23:40
Wish you all the best. Was just strolling around to find your (?) "myEcho" app that looks abandoned? Nevermind. "Halt die Ohren steif" (German saying :o)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.