Every type 1 diabetic has heard about them.
They are the scary things that can happen to your body if you don’t take care of yourself, and doctors have always told me that they usually show up when you’re older or if your control is not very good.
Which is why I was shocked when I was recently diagnosed with diabetic frozen shoulder.
I had been dealing with some shoulder stiffness for a few months and I decided that I should make an appointment with my doctor. I assumed I just needed to do some stretching and I tried to put it out of my mind, but in reality I was in a lot of pain and was unable to do a lot of daily tasks.
I knew that diabetic frozen shoulder was a possible complication, but I didn’t believe that I could get something since I am still relatively young and my A1C has been in the 6s for over a decade.
After I was diagnosed, I was upset and worried that this meant that would develop additional complications. However, I learned that type 1 diabetics are just more likely to develop frozen shoulder, and, while it can result from poorly controlled blood sugars or a high A1C, it can also result from an untreated injury or, as my doctor put it, from “bad luck,” which is most likely what happened to me.
Treating diabetic frozen shoulder requires a lot of physical therapy and stretching. Basically, you need to break up all of the adhesions that have developed within your shoulder. Initially, my doctor thought I might be cured after 4-6 weeks of treatment. However, it has been over 6 months and I’m still recovering.
I recently learned that it can take up to two years for the pain to completely go away and for my range of motion to return, which means that daily stretching is part of my routine for the foreseeable future.
I have also been doing a lot of yoga and I am considering trying acupuncture to help loosen things up. My doctor also recommended getting a cortisone shot in my shoulder, which I declined because cortisone is a steroid and it can cause major problems for type 1 diabetics, like elevating blood sugar levels for many days.
For now, I’m sticking to a more natural route of treatment, which seems to be slowly working.
Going through this process has been extremely frustrating, but I have learned a valuable lesson. I’m someone who will typically brush off physical pain so that I can continue to workout, but this journey has shown me that there will be times where I need to put my body first so that things don’t get worse down the line. I also tend to avoid problems that I don’t want to deal with, but this can be very dangerous and serious for someone with diabetes.
Luckily, frozen shoulder is very treatable but it does require time, patience, and professional support.
Juliet was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1992 just days after her fifth birthday. She became an advocate for herself early on and began educating anyone around her about her type 1 diabetes. Her passion for educating others developed into a career, and she is now an elementary school teacher. She spends her time mentoring young children with diabetes, as well as helping parents of child with T1D navigate the public school system. In addition to her work in schools, she is also a longtime volunteer with the JDRF. You can find Juliet on Instagram at The Sweetest Teacher and on her blog www.thesweetestteacher.com.