As pain goes, it was just fairly bad rather than extreme, but it was cutting into my quality of life.
One of my friends suggested kindly and tactfully that the problem might be because I'm fat. I'm not being sarcastic and neither was he--he said it quite gently. And I know and accept that I'm fat, and I believe fat is a descriptor rather than necessarily an insult. He expanded on it by saying that maybe fat was interfering with the natural function of my shoulder.
Still, I'm 4'11 and 170 pounds--this is definitely not thin, but I'm not fat enough to significantly affect my range of movement, and especially not for my arms.
He's an intelligent guy, but that was a remarkably stupid suggestion. It's not exactly his fault, since we live in a society which is remarkably stupid about fat. If you live surrounded by craziness, some of it is likely to rub off.
I felt a weird distant sort of anger.
I don't know if that was what pushed me towards really paying attention to my shoulder, but when I focused on it more carefully, it became clear that all the pain was in the deltoid.
I did some gentle movement. This means I paid attention to where the range of painless movement was, moved gently within that range, and then very carefully relaxed as I pushed into the edges of the painless range. It took several session of this (I wasn't timing it, but they weren't very long) over two days to completely clear up the pain. Of course, I was just as fat at the end of the two days as I was at the beginning.
That sort of gentle movement takes more attention and willpower than I generally give to anything. I had to override any impulse to yank on my shoulder (see! it still hurts!) or to space out. On the one hand, I don't want to make a big deal about how hard such movement is--I bet it isn't hard for everybody--but on the other, it was that hard for me, and I both feel smug about having it work and believe that some people need to know that it's going to take higher than average focus.
I've used gentle movement (both guiding people through movements and talking them through) for other muscle pains, but it was mostly pain from overuse or cramps.
Gentle, attentive movement for muscle pain could become a folk remedy, and I hope this post encourages people to try it and talk about it.
I still don't know what caused that shoulder pain, nor what gave it that weird sickening quality. Western hypothesis: there's a neurological connection between the shoulder and the gut. Eastern hypothesis: there's a meridian connection.
As for the fat thing, it could have been a lot worse. I've seen more than enough accounts of people (I'm not sure if it's always women) who have serious and/or painful problems who get told by their doctors that the problem will go away if they lose weight. This can have deadly consequences.
If you think a problem is caused by fatness, I suggest at least checking to see whether it's more pervasive among fat people than thin and whether it reliably goes away when people lose weight. Do not go by the common sense/social hypnosis idea that fat is a major cause of ill health and losing weight will make just about anything better. Here's the NYTimes being somewhat surprising about fat and diabetes:
Obesity does increase the risk of developing diabetes, but the disease involves more than being obese. Only 5 percent to 10 percent of obese people have diabetes, and many with diabetes are not obese. To a large extent, Type 2 diabetes is genetically determined — if one identical twin has it, the other has an 80 percent chance of having it too. In many cases, weight loss can help, but, as Mr. Smith has learned, most who lose weight are not cured of the disease. He lost 40 pounds but still has diabetes.
“Everybody in the act of losing weight will have a pretty dramatic improvement pretty quickly,” said Dr. C. Ronald Kahn, a diabetes researcher and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Blood sugar levels drop precipitously and the disease seems to be under control. But that is because the metabolic process of weight loss lessens diabetes. Once weight is lost, he added, and people stabilize at a lower weight, their diabetes may remain.
With a little luck this post will show up on fatspherenotes, a feed mostly of fat acceptance entries--the most recent few entries are also listed at Fat Fu.