For Audrey DeKam, a mother of two boys and a spunky golden retriever, life’s simplest tasks were a challenge.
The trouble started when she was cleaning and reorganizing a storage area in her Albany home.
“In January 2019, my shoulder began hurting very bad and eventually it locked up to where I couldn’t move it,” said DeKam. “I dropped the project and left the storage area in disarray.”
Soon, simple everyday activities like lifting cordless blinds, reaching for a plate in the cabinet and folding sheets were difficult. Sleeping was difficult, too, as the pain was non-stop.
DeKam suspected her painful, limiting condition was frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, as she’d had frozen shoulder on her other shoulder seven years prior. Adhesive capsulitis is a painful, limiting condition that can sometimes resolve on its own.
“I hoped my shoulder would heal on its own over time, like it had on my other side, but it didn’t. After doing almost everything one-handed for a year, it was time to do something about it,” said DeKam.
Like many patients, DeKam hoped for a cure without surgery, so Dr. Hansen suggested an image-guided cortisone injection that goes directly into the joint capsule as a first step. After about a week it was clear the injection wasn’t helping.
It was suspected that there were bands of scar tissue in the shoulder joint that would not go away without a different treatment, so DeKam and Dr. Hansen discussed other options.
One of those options was manipulation under anesthesia or MUA (pronounced moo-ah).“I liked the idea of it – a ‘closed surgery’ with no cutting,” said DeKam.
Typically, if MUA doesn’t work, Dr. Hansen would perform a laparoscopic clean-out of the scar tissue. DeKam, however, declined the second procedure and opted to try only the MUA.
“I did a lot of research before seeing Dr. Hansen, and I really appreciated the opportunity to respectfully decline any treatment option I wasn’t comfortable with,” she said. “Dr. Hansen was flexible when it came to me choosing what felt right for me.”
The surgery took place on New Year’s Eve – which DeKam called a fitting end to an entire year of not using her left arm.
“On the day of my surgery, I felt more like a queen for a day than I did a patient,” she said. “I had my own nurse, who was amazing, and everyone at Samaritan Albany General Hospital was so nice.”
The non-invasive MUA procedure was a success. Dr. Hansen and her team were able to bring back the full range of motion in DeKam’s left shoulder immediately after surgery.
After returning home, DeKam delicately tried out her range of motion on her own after the nerve block wore off.
“I was like, hallelujah! It worked,” she said.
DeKam completed approximately six weeks of physical therapy to gently build strength and ensure the joint didn’t lose its newly regained agility – or range too far and create a new injury.
Her advice for others: Explore all your treatment options, and don’t be afraid of surgery if you need it. She said, “If there are parts of any procedure that don’t feel right for you, ask your doctor about alternatives. They are there to guide you in health care decisions that make sense for you.”
“Like so many others when it comes to joint surgeries, I find myself thinking that I only wish I’d done it sooner,” she said. “It feels great to be able to move my arm all around.
“I can walk my dog, do my own hair, scratch my own back and put on a seat belt with my left arm,” said DeKam. “Going to the bank’s drive-up teller is not a problem now. You really miss the simple things when they’ve been gone for a year.”
As for the storage area project, DeKam said, “Well … I’m getting to it!”
If persistent shoulder pain is bothering you and your range of motion has decreased, you may have a frozen shoulder. Learn more about your options for treatment.
Read more inspirational stories from patients who are helping us to build healthier communities together.