On a curiously warm and otherwise lovely 11 November afternoon, the kids and I stopped into the local Rexall to get a COVID booster. Choo Choo had (finally) caught the bug and I wasn’t too keen on any of us dealing with it any longer. Save for pharmacist, who seemed annoyed to give any shots that afternoon, it went fairly well.

The next day I woke up with a sore left shoulder. I figured it was just a result of the booster. I’ve had a couple of weird reactions with injections before and didn’t think much of it. Three months later, however, I’d about had enough of the constant pain.

Dr. Emma looked at me and said: “Bursitis”. Immediately in my head head, I pictured crotchety old folks sitting on a wind-swept porch muttering how the weather’s about to go bad. I was half-way through “but only old people get bursitis” when I remembered that I’m 51.

Getting old sucks.

“Two things. First, you need physiotherapy. Second, you need some tests to make sure this isn’t something else.” I don’t argue with my doctor.

I went to the Mayfair Clinic yesterday to get the tests. Thankfully, they’re quick and efficient. With an appointment, I barely had to wait 3 minutes before I went in for my x-ray. It’s only about the fourth x-ray I’ve had (which I consider mildly ironic, given my wife takes x-rays for a living), which was only discomforting when I had to move my arm in one direction, away from my body. I asked several questions so I could tell Alex which positions I had, only later to realize that she knew what positions would be needed and wasn’t I an idiot for thinking she wouldn’t know?

Then came the ultrasound. I hadn’t had one in over a decade (previously for my left-side hernia; I now have a right-side one, too – post to come, eventually) but the procedure seemed about the same. Unless previous techs, the woman running my exam was pretty quick to say: “Yep, that’s bursitis”, pointing out the differences between my bone, tendon, bursa, muscles, fat layer, and skin. (No, it’s not a thick fat layer. Gimme some credit.)

I was out barely 20 minutes after entering. I saw Renee for the first time today.

Alex has been going to Encompass Sports Therapy for years, her career as Medical Radiation Technologist in a staff-limited healthcare system has left her with numerous muscle and posture issues from decades of having to do things that normally require assistance from others. That’s how she got to know Renee, who’s one of the physiotherapists there. I met Renee today.

Being a first meeting, it was a lot of “let’s see what’s going on” more than “here’s what you’re going to do”. Thankfully, she was aided by the x-ray and ultrasound reports that had literally come in earlier this afternoon (they hadn’t yet arrived as of this morning); I may complain about the Government of Alberta, but their online records system is nicely handled and very convenient for those of us who suck at keeping records.

The answer, succinctly, is bursitis. More importantly, bursitis brought on from decades of shitty posture. All those times your mother was “sit up straight”? She wasn’t kidding. Slouching, rolling shoulders forward, all of that adds up and suddenly your shoulder joints – which are already fairly dodgy, Renee described them as “golf ball on a tee” – start to misalign, and your body strains to keep things where they should be. The result? the bursa, which is a pocket/pad between your tendons and muscles, gets pinched and unhappy, and gets inflamed – bursitis. And decades of sitting in front of a computer have not done me any favours.

(Mind you, I still suspect that COVID shot had something to do with it. My left is my non-dominant side; my right side is fine. Not enough is yet known about the COVID shots or their effects to say one way or another.)

Then Renee started to work out the bumps in my shoulder. I’ve never really had a good massage before. I’ve had massages, but none of them professional. Renee has iron fingertips and found a few hundred little knots all over my scapulae. Alex had actually said: “I hope she hurts you!” when I was leaving for the appointment, partly in jest (because Alex had been in pain for so long) and partly in hope (that Renee would find something). In a word: Ow.

The exercises came next. A long rubber band is my resistance, and I’m to do rowing pulls, arm rolls, shoulder extensions, and arm lifts, all geared to give more strength to the shoulder and reduce the strain on the bursa. Personally, I can’t quite figure out how that’s supposed to work – wouldn’t the bursa get squished? – but I need to assume the professionals know what they’re doing.

I hope this is over soon, though. Biking season is fast approaching and I don’t want this to hold me back.

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