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Let's Blow This Joint

dislocating your shoulder is about as fun as it sounds

Mike Paulus

A month and a half ago, I dislocated my shoulder. First, allow me to say that shortly after it was dislocated, a medical doctor relocated my shoulder to its proper location, and if all goes according to plan, this will be its final location. I have learned that keeping your appendages in their original locations is really the way to go. It makes it much easier to find and use them when needed.

Second, allow me to offer a bit of advice: DO NOT DISLOCATE YOUR SHOULDER.

It hurts. I’m not one of those people who can dislocate their limbs whenever they want, grossing people out at parties and committee meetings. When my shoulder pops out, I head for the emergency room where the moaning and the groaning comes fast and easy and I repeatedly ask the nurse when the hell those drugs are supposed to kick in. Not my proudest moments – but moments filled with the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.

And it’s happened to me five times.

Lest you think I’m some kind of handsome-yet-accident-prone scalawag, the last incident was 15 years ago – my shoulders had remained correctly located since 1999. The first two incidents happened when I was a cocky chubby young teenager, and my body was able to spring back into action like a chubby young oak sapling. No doctors needed. The next three dislocations involved the ER, and one of them involved a short ambulance ride, sirens and everything, weee.

I’m not one of those people who can dislocate their limbs whenever they want, grossing people out at parties and committee meetings. When my shoulder pops out, I head for the emergency room where the moaning and the groaning comes fast and easy.

Oddly enough (for Mr. Mike Paulus), three of these five dislocations were sports-related. You read that right: sports-related. I’m generally not known for anything sports-related, let alone heroic injuries. And by “heroic” I mean to say “lame and/or embarrassing.”

Twice I was playing manly games of football. And one time I was engaged in sporty combat upon the battlefield I like to call “Racquetball 101.” You see, back in college I took a one-credit course in which I learned the basics of racquetball (The Sport of Kings). My classmates and I were grouped by skill level. Not wanting to show off, I played a subdued, non-aggressive style of racquetball that sports historians will one day label as “ineffectual.” This level of play earned me a spot in the least skilled group of players, which, as luck would have it, was almost entirely female.

Well, one day I was chasing down a somewhat fast-moving racquetball when I crashed into a (racquet)wall, dislocating my – you guessed it! – shoulder. And this is why I now hold the cherished memory of sitting in a racquetball court as paramedics cut my favorite Batman T-shirt from my none-too-athletic torso. They eventually carried me out on a stretcher as a group of concerned college girls looked on, despite my constant reassurance that they really, really didn’t need to stay.

The other dislocations happened under totally random circumstances. The most recent one involved stepping into a hole, but I’ll spare you the details. I believe the “don’t step into a hole” message has been adequately delivered by other media outlets. It’s not a story we need to tell.

With the help of a physical therapist, I’m recovering quite well, thank you very much. My first day of physical therapy was pretty intense. And by “intense,” I mean to say “ridiculously not intense.” I got to the clinic early and was sent back into the therapy room, which is basically a giant living room full of exercise equipment and massage tables. The room was nearly empty as I took my seat – only three other people were therapy-ing.

As I waited, the rousing tones of Rock You Like A Hurricane erupted through wall-mounted stereo speakers. I looked around. What I saw was far from the ferocious workout montage Rock You Like A Hurricane should play against. I saw three 50-plus ladies doing extremely unimpressive-looking (thought totally necessary) exercises like wiggling their ankles and stepping onto a five-inch-tall platform. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what the Scorpions had in mind when they wrote the tune.

And then it was my turn to do some extremely unimpressive-looking exercising, like leaning forward and dangling my arm in circles. These were the first steps in my slow journey back to full shoulder mobility. Someday soon I’ll be putting things onto high shelves like crazy. I’ll be shampooing my hair with two hands like nobody’s business. And I’ll be hugging my loved ones with both arms.

But no racquetball. Never racquetball. Some things are best left in the past.