Frozen shoulder sneaked up on actress and triathlete Teri Hatcher—here’s how she’s bouncing back.
For Teri Hatcher, the pain started innocently enough in her left shoulder. “I remember noticing I couldn’t put my arm behind me to put on my coat jacket for several weeks, and I’d say to myself, Wow that hurts. I thought I had lifted something funny,” says the 48-year-old actress. At this point, Teri was still in the early stage of frozen shoulder, before the joint tissue actually starts “freezing." This is the time to seek treatment, when it’s still possible to prevent the shoulder from tightening to the point where you can’t move it.
Unfortunately, Teri ignored her symptoms, even as her shoulder got stiffer. The worst of it hit suddenly on the Desperate Housewives set, when Teri tried to retrieve the eyeglasses that fellow cast member Marcia Cross had dropped. “When I reached to pick up her glasses, it felt like someone had driven a spike through my shoulder. I dropped to the floor crying, and Marcia didn’t know what was happening.”
“I couldn’t hook my bra!”
As Teri later discovered, she had a classic case of frozen shoulder (known medically as adhesive capsulitis). It occurs when the joint capsule—the connective tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint—becomes inflamed and eventually stiffens, making it hard to move. Doctors aren’t sure what causes frozen shoulder, but it tends to hit women between ages 40 and 60. You’re also at higher risk if you have diabetes, a thyroid disorder or an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.
“I had never heard of frozen shoulder,” recalls Teri. “But after seeing three doctors and having an orthopedist finally diagnose my pain, I discovered that a few of my friends had also gotten it and that it happens to ‘do-ers’—the woman who takes out the garbage cans, the one who lifts the boxes to be taken upstairs—the one who never stops. That’s me.”
At one point, Teri’s shoulder was so frozen that just getting dressed was a challenge. “You know you’ve hit bottom when you have to ask your 13-year-old daughter to help hook your bra,” she says. “I couldn’t lift my arm more than 2 inches from my leg.”
“I’m back to hiking and biking”
The experience took an emotional toll as well. “I went from doing a triathlon when I turned 45 to when I was 47 and basically not having exercised in 18 months. It was such a horrible situation that I got depressed. Ultimately, it was a long journey”—one that included cortisone injections (for inflammation), physical therapy and surgery.
These days, though, Teri says the worst is behind her. And although she still has stiffness, she’s back to hiking, biking and walking her dogs. “Who knows,” she says in her upbeat voice. “I might still do a marathon someday. I’m a work in progress and I’m really passionate about making the most of every day.