Sometimes an MRI is TMI

I love the world of technology. No other time in human history has such amazing advances in medicine, engineering, and space exploration been possible. We can acquire so much knowledge at the click of a button, but how that knowledge is used can sometimes be to our disadvantage.

Several years ago I developed pain in my right shoulder. Leading up to the pain, I had been hitting the weight room heavily, surfing daily but not doing any restorative, balancing program. The pain increased to the point that I could no longer demonstrate simple push ups or remove my arm from my wetsuit without excruciating, stabbing agony. (Disclaimer: I should point out at this time that I am my own worst client and did nothing than to attempt to remedy my situation). I found myself resting my arm in my lap when I drove and used it as little as possible. Sleeping was problematic, but I found one position I could keep my arm that allowed me to sleep for an hour or two without waking. Needless to say, I had to get very uncomfortable before I chose to address my situation.

I made an appointment with a local sports medicine doctor who I respect and had developed a professional relationship with over the years. After examining my shoulder, he recommended getting x-rays. The x-rays came back negative, so the next step was to get Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). I returned to the doctor with the results of the MRI and what was in the report sounded pretty bad. I had biceps tendinitis and signs of wear, moderate labral tear, lack of proper space in the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, and wearing of some of my rotator cuff muscles. It seemed that the only thing the MRI didn’t tell was that I was experiencing male pattern baldness, my credit card balance and that my parents were never married!

It was at this time that clarity came into my mind. Rather than going the doctor’s suggested route of surgery and months of rehabilitation, I decided I would actually follow a restorative program similar to what I create for my clients who come to me to get out of pain. I explored how my body organized movement and what was missing. I worked on opening up areas of the body where there was restricted movement and activating muscles that were not performing their fair share of labor. I reminded the lower body that it moved in ways to help the shoulder move. In essence, I was re-educating proper motion into my entire body, not just focusing on the shoulder. I realized that my shoulder was just a victim of the overall problem. The problem was how I unconsciously chose to organize movement throughout my entire structure. As soon as more proper, the efficient movement was re-introduced the pain began to subside and over just a few short days it was completely gone.

I have yet to go back and get another MRI.It may still show areas of wear and tear, but many of the other elements would probably not appear. The tendinitis would possibly be gone because the inflamed tendon is not compensating to the same degree. The spacing of my AC joint opened up as my posture got re-balanced. The torn labrum and the wearing of the rotator cuff muscles have hopefully dissipated, at least I move pain-free.

MRI’s tend to report everything that is breaking down, but that does not necessarily mean surgery is needed. Wear and tear is a normal process of going through life. The question is, is the wear causing pain and if it is what are the possible solutions? My suggestion is to research all of the possible strategies and understand that the goal of the MRI is to find EVERYTHING that is “wrong.” If your car has a little scratch, do you need a new paint job? If the driver’s seat has coffee stains, do you need to get it reupholstered? It is not always necessary to go to the extreme. Sometimes a little buffing and some fabric cleaner works just fine.