Suprascapular Nerve Entrapment: How Rick Wehmeyer found the correct surgeon and was able to regain his love for the game of tennis!
How my injury began
Like many adults, Rick Wehmeyer had been an active athlete throughout his life. But with that came plenty of wear and tear on his body. He was a quarterback in high school and played softball throughout his 20s, testing the limits of his arm and shoulders. Although he has played tennis since his youth, in his 30s he developed a renewed passion for the sport and would play several times per week, on weekends, as well as in many local tournaments.
However, when he reached his early 40s, Rick started to notice that his shoulder became painful and easily fatigued with loss of his normal muscle control. Most notably, his one-handed “backhand” motion in tennis became increasingly difficult, as external rotation of his arm became increasingly weak. Eventually even things as simple as standing or driving in a car required him to provide some support to his right shoulder, as allowing it to hang freely was quite painful.
Although Rick had various treatments and surgeries (C-5 and right shoulder) over the years, none really ever resolved the main issue: progressive shoulder weakness and pain.
All of this also started to impact his job as a “hands-on” chemistry researcher. Rick had difficulty keeping up with writing reports and performing certain research experiments because of the pain and weakness. Also, his condition worsened to the point that he was unable to play tennis and essentially quit playing for several years.
Enough was enough.
Research combined with outreach
Using past diagnosis results as well as some internet searching, Rick came across research papers by Dr. Millett describing suprascapular neuropathy (SSN). SSN is a rare shoulder condition where an important nerve becomes entrapped or compressed and results in pain, weakness and fatigue of the shoulder. Dr. Millett has treated many patients with this rare condition and has written about it in peer-reviewed publications.
Rick’s research suggested that SSN seemed to be a possible cause of his shoulder problems. What led Rick to Dr. Millett were his years of experience with complex shoulder issues including SSN. He sought out Dr. Millett to diagnose and perform the technically demanding SSN surgery that other surgeons could not.
“During my first visit, I could tell that both Dr. Millett and his Physician’s Assistant Brian Davis had a clear understanding of my problem and were confident that they could identify and resolve the SSN entrapment,” said Rick. “ It was incredible how a facility and doctors with such excellent reputations, could also make me feel like I was their only priority during my visit, with virtually no wait and a willingness to take time to answer all my questions. Their specific knowledge and expertise is what I was needing to get resolution to this elusive and rare problem.”
According to Dr. Millett, the main problem for Rick was that he had followed a common route of “misdiagnoses” and surgeries that while possibly helping with some issues, did not address his main underlying problem of shoulder pain and weakness from SSN entrapment. The symptoms of SSN entrapment, such as those Rick was experiencing, are frequently incorrectly attributed to 1) C5-C6 spinal impingement 2) subacromial impingement or 3) rotator cuff issues. From his history, Rick had been diagnosed with all 3 at various times (even multiple times by different doctors) and underwent separate surgeries in an attempt to correct the problem. Rick said,
“To be honest, I had much more confidence this time than in the past because my interactions with Dr. Millett and his team were so personalized and organized. They knew right away what my problem was and how to solve it.”
The day after his SSN surgery, Rick noticed a dramatic improvement and could barely contain his excitement.
“It’s been nothing but amazing, with my strength markedly improving, something I wasn’t sure I’d ever achieve.”
My life ahead
Rick has a whole new outlook on life! The hopelessness is gone, with an exciting new chance to regain levels of activity, particularly with tennis, that he had given up on.
“Dr. Millett not only fixed my main issue (SSN), but cleaned up other parts of my shoulder that had been damaged and/or irritated due to improper use and muscle imbalance from compensating for my SSN related muscle atrophy.”
Rick is extremely passionate about sharing his story because
“I do not want another person to endure such a prolonged painful experience and I suspect SSN (and similar issues) may be significantly misdiagnosed or under diagnosed as other neck and/or shoulder problems. Obviously, the key to all of this was finding the right medical professionals with the required experience and expertise which was Dr. Millett and his team.”