I was diagnosed with RSD after a severe fall

Contributed by: Judith
Reviewed by: Evelyn Corsini, MSW, May 2010

Judith writes about her many medical procedures and shares her personal coping strategy.

My name is Judith and I was diagnosed with RSD after a severe fall that fractured my right arm and shoulder requiring surgery and placement of a plate and screws in my humerus and much rearrangement of my shoulder.  After 3 months of therapy, my arm swelled, showed all the signs of RSD, and my orthopedic surgeon and long standing physiatrist both dx. RSD.  I had the standard 4 stellate ganglion injections in my throat  to further clarify the dx.–the injections lessened the pain, at least for a time.  This was all in 2006-7.

I was fortunate at the time to already be having OT with a wonderful woman who practices non-traditional OT.  I also have post-polio, fibromyalgia, and degenerative disc disease, so she had been using myofascial release and pool therapy with me with good results.  At this point she started  lymphedema therapy on my arm to deal with the swelling.  She has probably been the person that has helped the most in managing my pain and helping me to cope.

In the beginning, all I wanted was to have my arm cut off.  It was truly that bad.  I would see Mary Beth 3 times a week and it would keep me going.  At one point she told me a story of a man she once worked with who did have his arm amputated, and his phantom pain was what she had to work with.  I decided then that I would deal with my pain and keep my arm.  I take a lot of my medication, but it is for my other dx., and my diabetes, very little prescribed pain medication.

My whole life I have been known as a Pollyanna, with a very cheerful attitude, knowing my glass is not only full, but overflowing.  I worked for 30 years full-time, then needed to retire due to my various disabilities.  My children and grandchildren (7) inspire me. In the last year I have had multiple injections with a pain doctor to lessen the pain in my arm, and none have worked.  I will be having an MRI and arthrogram soon to evaluate the situation.  In October 2009 I had a an S5/6 disc removal, with a cage and screw placement and my own disc grew back in.  That was very successful. My strategy is to never give up, to keep looking for what’s new for your particular problem, find the best practioner, speak up when you have questions, and never give up.

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