Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jumping Through Hoops With Broken Legs

As a sign language interpreter, I use my hands, arms, and shoulders all day, every day that I work. I try to be smart; hold myself ergonomically, rest my hands down whenever possible, not do signs in an incorrect way that would hyper extend wrists or fingers. I was pretty smug that so many of my fellow interpreters had fallen prey to repetitive motion injuries in their shoulders, elbows, or wrists, but not me!

In October 2013, in the middle of my work day, my left shoulder into my neck started hurting. I hadn't done anything particularly straining at that moment, I wasn't throwing something or lifting something, I was just sitting interpreting as I do every day. I waited a week to report it to my work, thinking I had just strained it, and that time along with ibuprofen and ice would help. It helped a little, but not enough. Thus began my odyssey of trying to get worker's compensation to approve me going to physical therapy (and pay for it) before my shoulder got too bad to work. I had to go to my doctor multiple times, each time getting a note saying I could go back to work. If I had been put on "light duty", then I wouldn't have been able to maintain the stats I needed for on-the-phone time to keep my job. The doctor and I worked out an agreement that every 10 minutes per hour break I took, I'd ice my shoulder. 

I then had to go to ANOTHER doctor, this time someone the worker's comp people picked, who then grilled me and did a physical exam to determine if my claim was valid. Understand, I don't do ANY other side interpreting, nor do I use my arms/hands in a way that would cause this type of injury outside of my full-time job. By this time, the pain was enough that I started going to Physical Therapy, damned the paperwork. If it got approved then they could retroactively pay for the PT I'd already done. I frankly didn't really care at that point. PT was awesome. They would vary treatment, from deep tissue massage, to wrapping my entire upper torso and neck in heating pads and just letting me bake (BLISS), which doing electrode stimulation of the problem muscles (I was TOTALLY Bruce Lee). I did exercises stretching my arm/shoulder against the wall, using thick rubber bands to do resistance exercises, and basically just worked on rehabilitating my neck and shoulder, in which I had lost a significant amount of mobility. By the time I was done with my PT regime, I had regained significant use of my neck and shoulder/arm, with just barely a twinge of pain. Success, right! My WC claim was closed, and all was well.

Until recently.

In the last week or two, my shoulder and neck have started to hurt again. The same as before, but much moreso, including muscle spasms in my lower neck into my shoulder and upper back. I broke down and reported it to work yesterday, the constant 5 or 6 level pain, with spikes into the 7 or 8s just getting too much for me. Again, more hoops to jump through.. trying to figure out if I can still use the old claim, or open a new one. And the doc can't see me til end of November. Hopefully I can avoid surgery, we'll see.

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