Yet Another Update On My Shoulder

It’s flu shot season, which means that the traffic has started to pick up on my first post regarding the shoulder injury I suffered as a result of my flu shot in early 2014. I’m sorry to see so many comments from others that they’ve had similar experiences and to see the same question over and over: will this ever get better?

I guess I’m overdue for an update on my own experience with SIRVA. When I last discussed this over a year ago, I had received yet another steroid injection for my shoulder when the pain returned. That particular cortisone shot left me feeling that I was finally done with treatments as my shoulder felt fine for all of winter and much of the spring.

But then in April of this year, I was again aware of that nagging ache coming from my left shoulder. I tried to be gentle with that shoulder for a week or two, hoping it would go away, but like before it only intensified and I noticed my pain-free range of motion decreasing.

When I visited my ortho doc in May, he ordered new x-rays to check for any calcification in the joint that could be causing pain. The x-rays were uneventful, and the diagnosis remained as a reoccurring bursitis. He gave me another cortisone injection, and we both hoped that this would be the final shot needed. After all, if the previous one lasted for eight months, maybe this one would last even longer…like permanently?

It wasn’t meant to be.

My doctor and I reunited in September when I had agonizing shoulder pain that was making it difficult to even get dressed each day. The pain was sharp with certain motions, and otherwise a low-grade ache the remainder of the time. Ibuprofen did little to help.

At this point, all I wanted was another cortisone injection to stop the pain. Which meant I was ready to cry when my doctor declared that it was time to stop the shots.


He said that over time the cortisone shots can begin to lose their effectiveness, and each injection can increase the risks of additional damage to the joint. Surgery was presented as the next step to clean out the shoulder joint and look for any scar tissue or damage to remove.

The bad news: my chances of having the pain resolved by surgery (and physical therapy after surgery, of course) was better than 50-50, but not by much. A high number of patients still have shoulder pain after surgery.

The bad news that related specifically to me: after surgery , there’s no exercise allowed at all for 1-2 weeks, and then no exercise involving the shoulder for another 2-3 weeks.

I was numb at this point. I quickly explained why surgery wasn’t an option for me at that time: I was registered for the Columbus Half Marathon on October 18, with two more half marathons in November. These were my first half marathons, and this was the start of race season; I couldn’t spend 1-2 weeks with no activity to risk or give up on races with a lot of time and money invested. But I also stressed that I couldn’t go on with the pain.

My ortho doc is part of a sports medicine practice, so he understands the needs of athletes. (HA! First time ever that I’ve suggested I’m an athlete. Writing that made me laugh!)

My pleas sunk in. We compromised and agreed on a cortisone shot that day, but that’s the absolute last one. The next time the pain comes back – whether in 3 months, 6 months, 9 months – it’ll be surgery time. I’ll be mindful of this in planning races for 2016, knowing that if the pain comes back right before a big race, I might need to ditch the race or endure the pain until after the race.

Wine and Dine medalAnd I did run those races – more on that soon!

The latest relapse happened after only four months, and even though I wish it would go away, experience tells me it’ll be back. In fact, I’ve started to have a sore shoulder this week, and I keep hoping I slept on it wrong and it’ll go away soon. I’m scared at the thought of surgery and even more worried that I’ll endure the pain and expense of surgery and it won’t work.

My frustration has turned to anger. I’ve previously considered filing an injury report to the federal government and then seeking compensation through the vaccine injury courts, and I may be ready to do it now. In less than two years, I’ve endured a lot of unnecessary pain, I’ve spent a lot of time and money on trying to recover from SIRVA, and now I’m facing surgery, which also won’t be cheap. Had I decided to skip my flu shot in January 2014 or waited to get it at my doctor’s office, it’s likely this never would have happened.

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