The first time I dislocated my shoulder was in the spring of 2001. I was nineteen, and I was doing yoga. To be precise, I was in one of my weekly yoga classes doing a “sun salutation” which is an extremely beginner series of postures, and during the transition from child pose to cobra, I simultaneously dislocated both of my shoulders. The left was only a partial dislocation (the medical term for which is a subluxation) and it returned to its socket on its own; but the right was a full dislocation, and it did not.
They called my mum (who was my emergency contact) to drive me to the hospital; my yoga class chanted “Om”s of healing for me, which, while it didn’t really accomplish anything medically speaking, made me feel cared for; and when we got to emergency the three people in line ahead of me looked at my arm hanging all weird and down to my knee while I said “ow” repeatedly because I was trying not to swear in front of my mother, and said that I should go first.
The nurses at the ER interviewed me to ascertain how the dislocation happened, and then helpfully asked if I was sure that it was in fact a yoga class and not tackle football. We learned that I’m allergic to morphine, they relocated my shoulder, and I went home.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, my ordeal was far from over.
Most people have shoulder dislocations due to things like getting hit really hard, or moving outside of a safe range of motion while holding something really heavy (I have heard of people dislocating a shoulder while shoveling after a heavy snowfall).
I, determined as always to be different, have something that doctors have variously referred to as “multi-directional instability”, or “hyper mobility”. Basically, I have too much movement in my joints, which means they can dislocate more easily than other people’s. It also means that I’m not a candidate for surgery. As the specialist explained it, I currently have posterior dislocations, and the surgery would shorten/tighten the ligaments, and then while I was healing I would very likely suffer an anterior dislocation, and basically the surgery would just make my shoulder dislocate through the front instead of the back, which doesn’t really seem like an improvement. I mean they say that a change is as good as a rest, but I don’t think that applies in this particular circumstance.
Anyway, once I’d experienced a full dislocation of my right shoulder, that stretched my already loose ligaments even further, and now I no longer need yoga to cause myself agonizing disfigurement. Far from it:
This actually happened . . .
So did this . . .
This next one is me exercising creative license. In reality I was getting a box down off a high shelf (or trying to get my hat back from someone who had stolen it and was holding it above their head, or attempting to participate in an aerobics class, or . . . )
But this was easier to draw and came with a built in joke.
For many years, I was told by every doctor I saw (all general practitioners) to avoid doing upper-body weight training so as to avoid potential injury; when I finally got the referral to the specialist who said I’m not a candidate for surgery he told me to focus on strengthening the surrounding muscles by doing lots of upper body weights.
Since the yoga incident, I have experienced three more full dislocations (requiring trips to emergency to have my shoulder put back into its socket) and a few dozen subluxations (involving intense pain until my shoulder decides to return to its home of its own volition). Thankfully, these injuries have become less frequent since I started working on my shoulder strength.
But I’m still afraid of yoga.