How do you recover?
How do you recover from exercise trauma or minor injuries? I ask that question to bring it to the forefront of your mind. Recovery is more important than the exercise itself. You are constantly traumatizing your muscles and joints to grow and achieve fitness goals. Lately, for my recovery, it has been a combination of ahshi acupuncture and after-exercise stretching. I tell you that part first to open up into why I do this. So, here it is.
I joined the military six years ago at 19 years old and at age 20, 5 years ago, while serving active duty in the United States Army I sustained a shoulder injury while doing buddy team live fire movements. More specifically, I dislocated my right shoulder when I dropped down to my stomach while being in full kit. I went to sick call and was referred to the hospital for x-rays. The results of which showed nothing broken and was categorized as normal. Well, the pain stayed, so obviously this is definitely not normal. I went back again a few weeks later and was given a cortisol injection into my right humeral socket, the pain subsided for about 12 weeks. After those twelve weeks I went back again to try to find the cause of the pain instead of just masking it again. I was then referred to a physical therapist and was shown stretching and strengthening exercises to perform that was supposed to help stabilize the humeral head within the socket. It made sense to me, so I did it. For months I was going to physical therapy 1-2 times a week and it all seemed to be for nothing. The pain was still there, I still had limited range of motion with my right arm (not being able to laterally extend my arm to parallel with the floor, or over my head) and I was getting frustrated. The physical therapist also tried using the tens unit on my shoulder and upper back in addition to stretching but still nothing. My 16 weeks of physical therapy ended but my pain had not. I went back to the medics yet again, hopefully for something better this time. I was then referred to the hospital again for a second cortisol injection and an MRI. The MRI showed minor cartilage buildup on the humeral head and everything else, AGAIN, was “normal”. This time I was referred to the main hospital’s physical therapist to whom I informed I had already done the stretching and strengthening exercise with little to no pain relief. He then told me he would like to try “dry needling” which I understood it to be acupuncture. I agreed and he handed me a waiver stating I understood the consequences of dry needling and the possibility of a collapsed lung as a result, it was nerve racking, but I had been in continuous pain for going on two full years now so I was more than willing to give it a try. During the first session, he poked and prodded around my teres major and minor, latissimus dorsi, scapular muscles and deltoids looking for trigger points. When he found a tender spot, he would pop a needle in it, after he found a handful of spots he went back to the needles and one at a time, agitated the “trigger points” by continuously threading the needle back and forth through the tender area. This process was extremely painful as he warned it would be, but after three sessions I had noticed something. What was once continuous pain was now noticeably lessened and my shoulder didn’t feel locked up anymore. The freedom of range alone was such a relief in itself. However after 8 sessions my time came to leave active duty and so did my dry needling sessions.
It’s been almost three years since I left active duty and I learned to live with the pain, ever increasing as it is. I am still in the Army as a reservist and have recently returned from a deployment from Romania and while deployed the pain flared up and I noticed that locked up feeling returning in my right shoulder. The department of Veterans Affairs conducted an MRI and authorized physical therapy. I went to the physical therapist and told him I know the exercises he wanted me to do and that I have already been doing them regularly, so he asked me what I had done previously that had helped. I told him dry needling or acupuncture so he referred me to another physical therapist that does dry needling and he was unable to see me for at least two months. The VA then authorized acupuncture from an experienced and certified acupuncturist. I was hesitant at first because I remembered how much pain I had to endure the first time I had gone through this process. When I got there I was fully prepared to take on the treatment and was shocked to find that the way I had been treated before was not the correct way. She gently prodded the same areas the previous physical therapist had and found the same tender and inflamed areas. However once the needles were in place she told me to relax and left the needles in place to do their job. After 30-45 minutes she had returned and removed the needles. The pain I had to endure during treatment was almost non-existent and I had as much relief and returned range of motion as I did with the first three extremely painful sessions that I had to endure from a physical therapist. Having someone experienced and knowledgeable conduct the treatment rather than a physical therapist who happened to take a class, was a night and day difference for results, as well as comfortability during treatment.
After having these experiences, I implore anyone involved in referrals and scheduling appointments within the Department of Veterans Affairs to please take this into consideration when authorizing appointments for “dry needling” with a physical therapist and consider an experienced acupuncturist instead. Veterans have given too much to this country to then have to be put into an unnecessary amount of pain for a lesser quality of treatment.
I am now 25 years old and I am in pursuit of a professional title with the NPC for Classic Physique, my most difficult task in this journey has been building my pectoral and deltoid muscles from the remnants of the previous injury. It has caused an Anterior Shoulder Tilt, meaning that my humeral head is rolled forward from its neutral position, causing an imbalanced growth in muscle formation in the front deltoids and taking away size and mobility in the rear deltoid muscles on both sides. However, I am confident that with my new found treatment with the Ahshi Acupuncture and persistence in physical exercise, I can finally shake this injury that has plagued me for 5 years and get back to a time when I wasn’t in constant pain. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely, CPL Miller, Jed C