Quite some time ago, I wrote about my shoulders on my blog, and about the various scars/scar tissue that I’ve struggled with over the years. My left shoulder, especially, gives me a lot of discomfort due to the old scars and the memories that it seems to hold in the muscle fibers. Occasionally when I’m paddling I feel a bit of a pop and a loosening in the tissue at the front of my shoulder and realize that some old tension there has just released itself. It both hurts and feels good to feel those changes.
But what’s probably the most remarkable thing about my shoulders is that they are my most important weight-bearing joint. I walk on and with my shoulders everyday when I use my crutches. Over the years those shoulders have adapted in some remarkable ways to the tasks they bear. Like today, I went rock climbing with John in the morning (sans prosthetic) and my shoulders carried most of the load of my body as I pulled and stretched on the wall. And then when we went grocery shopping afterwards, I used my shoulders to bear all of my weight (via the crutches) so I could use my hands to push the grocery cart. It probably looks awkward, but it works well for me because I’ve been doing this kind of thing for 27 years (or so). The few times that I’ve injured my shoulders have been scary–I depend on them so much for moving and balancing. If I had a long-term shoulder injury, my mobility would actually be more limited than with an injury to my foot or leg. That frightens me.
Sometimes I wonder if I should protect my body more rather than subjecting it to hard workouts with swimming and paddling and rock climbing, or whatever else the exercise du jour is. Perhaps I should do something safe and gentle. Perhaps I should avoid straining and stretching–just in case. I don’t want to risk chronic injury or a lifetime of joint pain. But then there’s this other part of me that fears that if I weren’t asking so much of my shoulders, that they wouldn’t grow strong enough for a lifetime of heavy lifting.