And No, It isn’t Munchausen Syndrome

I went to Physical therapy for a total of 64 sessions at one clinic and about 15 at another over the past year. My locked hip thawed, and my left hip developed an impingement. My Right shoulder started to freeze, then fully froze and now my left shoulder has an impingement. I’ve been told many things while I have had this shoulder problem.

“She appears to be a malingerer,” says the very young PT whose notes read more like the notes of a psychic than a health care practitioner.

“Her arm appears to be fine,” says the Psychiatrist who interviewed me while I had my hands in my lap. This was the same psychiatrist who told me that I was obsessed with a fictional disease that I didn’t have. (Note to the doctor that I named, “The Dragon Lady,” no one can actually have a fictional disease.”

“Her pain doesn’t follow the typical course,” from my functional capacity test.

Well today, a little too late, I was vindicated. Yay! This amazing Surgeon said that surgery for frozen shoulders are common place and yet there is no evidence that the surgery does any good. And he isn’t going to cut into my shoulder.

Because I have repeatedly “Refused steroids,” I am considered by many, a patient that doesn’t want to get well. But here, this famous surgeon was saying, it’s too late for steroids. And, if the left shoulder begins to freeze, we could do injections of steroids, but they would only last 2 months and with the auto immune component, he wouldn’t do it unless my primary doc agreed, and she won’t.


Apparently, there are a few things that I have going against me with this whole frozen shoulder thing.

1.) I am a woman approaching menopause (theoretical hormonal causality).
2.) I am fair haired, light complexion (theoretical hereditary causality).
3.) I have what the surgeon called a “hyper auto immune issue” that means there is really nothing that can be done to speed up the healing and physical therapy is the WRONG approach.

I’ve heard from other therapists that those who do the best with frozen shoulders don’t have auto immune crap going on.

My question is, “What is my auto-immune crap?” It doesn’t appear on any labs, really. Not any common ones. You have to dig into a specialized test at a specialized lab in order to see my auto immune condition. But it is there.

Not for one moment did he add Munchausen Syndrome to my list of challenges. Nor did he say, “Somatization disorder” is possible.

But today, none of that matters, because THIS doctor did me a great service. He told me that the fact that my peronius longus muscle in my left leg hurts every time my OT or bodyworker manipulates the trigger points in my right bicep, doesn’t make me crazy, nor does it mean that I’m faking it.

He told me that It doesn’t matter that my pain doesn’t make sense. I’m wired differently, that’s all. The man gave me no options and no solutions during our visit, but he didn’t treat me like an anomaly. He recommended I learn some baseball/shoulder stretch, and I’m meeting with his PT asap to learn those. It’s funny, he gave very clear instructions to the therapist. “Conservative Protocols: 4-corner stretch; reverse Codman’s; ceiling punch; No passive motion/stretching.” And a final note: “Be gentle.”

He treated me like I mattered. That my pain mattered. That my illness is causing my pain. And he admitted that he likely can’t help me. And that he can’t stop the left shoulder from freezing. Still, I walked out of there knowing that I’m okay. Despite my illness trying to tell me otherwise.

That, my friends, is a fine Doctor.

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One response to “And No, It isn’t Munchausen Syndrome

  1. YAY — to this new doctor and a successful, positive visit, where your physical issues were respected and responded to, not like the others. I’m shaking my head over some of those prior responses, completely inappropriate, unprofessional, and coming from ignorance parading as power, frightening and crushing. Imagine all the patients listening to this information and thinking they’re crazy, or their bodies are telling them something that’s not true. That’s destructive and wanton.

    Frozen shoulder treatment for me – after ending cortisone shots and no improvement in 2 years – was MSM and Glucosamine. Three days later, I could raise that arm without pain. I slept with it in a slight traction, with a pillow under it, not to the point of pain, but enough to get a teeny amount of stretch. I agree this is a pre-menopausal female thing, often goes in the arm we don’t write with. I suspect it’s triggered by wearing shoulder bags, perhaps?

    As always, thank you for sharing your world and how you navigate and manage through it.

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