The beginning of this year marked not just the onset of resolutions and fresh starts but also the emergence of an unforeseen challenge for me: dealing with a frozen shoulder on top of my chronic pain stemming from a previous thoracic spinal injury.

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, as I learned, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It emerged unexpectedly, adding a layer of complexity to my already existing battle with chronic pain due to a spinal injury. The combination of these ailments presented a unique challenge, impacting not only my physical well-being but my mental and emotional resilience as well.

The initial stages were the hardest. My frozen shoulder limited my arm’s mobility, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks. The pain was constant—a sharp reminder of the physical limitations I was facing. Meanwhile, the chronic pain from my spinal injury, with its deep, aching throbs, served as a continuous background to my days and nights. Together, they formed a duo of discomfort that has been exhausting to a degree I haven’t experienced thus far in my life outside of when the repetitive hip surgeries were required years ago.

However, amidst this struggle, I realized early on that succumbing to frustration would only exacerbate my condition. Instead, I chose to embark on a journey of healing, armed with a combination of medical treatment, physical therapy, and an exploration of alternative pain management techniques.

The doctors have provided me with a roadmap for treatment, involving a combination of medications to reduce inflammation and pain, and physical therapy sessions aimed at restoring mobility to my shoulder. The therapy has been challenging, as the physical therapy needed for my shoulder has aggravated my thoracic injury, but it also taught me the value of incremental progress.

This journey has not been easy. There were moments of despair, times when I doubted my ability to overcome the challenges posed by the constant pain. Yet, these very challenges have also been a source of strength. They have taught me resilience, the importance of listening to my body, and the power of a positive mindset.

To those facing similar battles, know that you are not alone. The path to recovery may be long and fraught with challenges, but it is also filled with potential for growth and healing. Listen to your body, seek support, and hold onto hope. The journey may be tough, but it is also transformative, leading us to discover strengths we never knew we had.

  • Steven Trotter is a graphic designer (UX/UI, web & branding), photographer, and maker living and working on the Oregon Coast.