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Resignation, Recovery, Rehab

I have been absent from all things business & business related for bit to undergo a surgery I had put off for well over 20 years. My resignation was due to the knowledge I had regarding Recovery & Rehab time. I just didn't want to give that much time to a surgery. And, I will be absent for a while longer, so they tell me. Much to my chagrin.

The official post op report is: Right shoulder mild partial thickness rotator cuff tear & superior labral tear anterior to posterior with biceps tendinopathy.

Procedures: Right shoulder arthroscopy with subacromial decompression including partial acromioplasty, Right shoulder arthroscopic extensive debridement & right shoulder open bicep tenodesis.

Arthroscopic Surgery, Open Surgery, Shoulder
Shoulder Injury Photo

Bottom line, ow. It's that simple. I've had 29 major surgeries including some pretty serious procedures. This one takes the cake for long term pain, do's & don'ts & has the greatest risk of messing it up if I get ahead of myself.

Slow Sloth, Slow Your Roll

Waking up was fine. Once again, I woke up singing How Great Thou Art (Elvis's version) (apparently my post anesthetic state is quite specific) and chatty & was returned to my bed rather quickly. I didn't feel much pain as I was given a nerve block which lasted about 36 hours. It was lovely but very strange having no use or grip to your arm or hand. The alternative was not a good option, I'm sure. I was released to go home pretty quickly with strict instructions. The first day and half was a bit of a blur but tolerable. Then I started to feel things. Bad things.

Elvis Presley, How Great Thou Art, Church, Hymns
How Great Thou Art

I was told there was significant inflammation in my shoulder & excessive debridement had taken place. Doc cut away the bursa (thank goodness as I have terrible bursa pain throughout my body so one less even if temporary is just fine with me) & then Doc cut away the osteophyte which was located in a complete downward position on the acromion putting pressure on my rotator cuff. The procedure regarding the bicep tendon was explained to me & what I got was, we debrided, cut, drilled a hole in your bone, tied it up through the hole and stuck a screw in there. Whoa, come again, well alrighty then.

Inflamed Shoulder, Skeletal Shoulder
Skeletal Shoulder

This surgery has taken it out of me for sure. It's not unbearable, it's unrelenting. It aches constantly and if you move your arm wrong, you will quickly comply back to your normal 'leave it the hell alone' position. You can't do anything. No lifting, pushing, pulling, twisting or rotating or anything which causes fatigue to the arm. No lifting of the arm outside of your underpaid physical therapist who possesses heat & ice and for good measure, massage therapy as well as pretty cool playlist whilst being tortured. I started therapy 7 days post op & it's tolerable for sure but gets a bit rough when working range of motion. You definitely want your ice pack on the ready at all times especially the day of therapy. I tend to swell after manipulation, so I stay on the ice pack a lot. My PT guy suggested one I got off amazon quite inexpensively but very effective.

Lady and Snowman, Frozen Shoulder Injury
Lady & Snowman

It was suggested I sleep in a recliner, but I have found my 8 pillows placed perfectly around my upper body to be quite sufficient and more comfortable. Bottom line, if it doesn't cause pain, you'll likely be ok but no sleeping on the shoulder. I had already worked out a pretty good system prior to surgery due to unrelenting pain so I stayed with what worked for me with the added measures of a buildup of pillows at my back, so I didn't accidentally roll on my surgery shoulder. I'm a side sleeper primarily so it was safe and effective for me. Sleep is a little rough as I do still have a good deal of pain which is worsened at night (pretty normal). I time my meds (which I asked for the lower dose after the first 10 days for my own reasons) as well as I can, the ice pack will do its job and I'm thankful for any sleep I get as sleep & rest is healing at its best. I find am able to spread out the pain meds further each week to the point I had taken them prior to surgery for other disorders. To me, personally, this means I'm coming along.

Pillows piled mile high for support
Stack of Pillows

I am 4 weeks and 3 days post op. I got out of my sling at 4 weeks (thank gawd as it was causing me all sorts of elbow pain from stiffness & lack of use) and now I get to dangle, straighten & general movement within PT guys very strict parameters. I usually push myself after surgeries, get up moving & anything that encourages safe healing. You could say at this point, I'm an old pro. But not this surgery. YOU MUST listen to your PT and Doctor, or you could cause yourself unnecessary injury, pain or damage.

Not my arm below but, this is called a popeye. THIS is why we go to PT so we don't have this happen. I will suffer anything to avoid this potential failure of tenodesis.

Shoulder Tenodesis, Popeye Injury
Popeye Bicep

I was given realistic odds (worst case 60%, best case 80% full recovery and full use) for my recovery so I'm giving it my all to do as I'm told no matter how bored I am with the limitations.

When you have autoimmune disorders which can cause, advance or combine issues when it involves the joints, surrounding tissue or tendons & ligaments, you have to weigh the pros and cons and do what is best for you. I also got to a point I was losing use of the arm as a whole, so I had to weigh the odds. I am a sewist & needlework artist. I need the arms and hands. I own a pretty active breed of dogs so having hands/arms is useful for all the dumbshit stuff they do and get into. I have a cat with dementia who is wholly unpredictable, so again, useful there too. My husband works not only a lot of hours but weird hours at any given time so being fully capable & self-reliant to carry on, rather important. So, for me, there was no good choice but there was a clear choice.

Play the odds & go for the percentages
Putty Man Holding percentage sign

Things to note:

Pick a surgeon who answers ALL of your questions & completely explains the procedure you are going to have or who explains any changes or hiccups once they've gone in. Make sure they have a good reputation. I know 3 out of my 4 specialists all recommend the doctor who did my surgery & he comes highly recommended. I went into surgery confidently.

  1. Start learning to do things with your non dominant hand/arm now if your dominant arm is the one getting surgery.

  2. You are going to have pain and be sore but be careful with your pain meds and decrease as soon as you can but as safely as you can. Being in pain and having pain are different from each other. Be honest & about where you are at.

  3. WOMEN, learn to blot and clean more often to avoid UTI's. Or learn to awkwardly wipe with your ND arm. Have an antibiotic on standby (if you have that type of trust with your doc) if you can. I have my Macrobid on standby in case I need it.

  4. Do not instinctively try to catch something if it falls. Let it fall or you will hurt yourself.

  5. Learn to use your legs as your power source of getting out of bed, off a chair, off the toilet etc. Bend at the waist to take pressure off your chest and shoulder.

  6. Pre-make micro meals and portion them for yourself or you will go hungry or have someone help you with meals.

  7. Get extra pillows. If you roll on your arm once, I assure you, you won't do it twice.

  8. I am a 'hurry up and get er done' kind of gal. Don't be like me. I can't even be like me. This surgery takes time to heal from. Go slow.

  9. Buy a bra & shirt specifically made for shoulder surgeries so you can get in & out of you tops with ease. I wore mine for about 2 weeks then transitioned to regular shirts. It made all the difference for me. You buy them on amazon and have them in 2 days. I highly recommend them.

  10. Be self-aware when showering. I mistakenly was washing and threw the cloth in my surgery arm/hand and went to reach the opposing side and yep, too far. Ouch. You have to accept you simply can't do it all unless you have help.

  11. GO TO YOUR PHYSICAL THERAPY. LISTEN. Do your exercises, cold and warm treatments. The goal is NOT speed. It's healing, movement & ROM (range of motion).

  12. Feel your feels when you're frustrated, bored or depressed (and you will because it's so disabling) then pick yourself up by your bootstraps, do your exercises and find some hobbies to keep you entertained. I am able to knit and crochet so long as I keep my upper arm stable, elbow tucked close to my body and stop when I feel any pulling in the lower arm (as it radiates upward) or fatigue. You are limited, it's better to just accept what you can do and get on with it. I talk the talk here but walking the walk is a frustrating battle. On the other hand, I'm making some nice things for the website.

  13. This may sound silly but, have your feel-good snacks. You can only do so much for yourself cooking so having small snacks keeps you from eating big bad snacks. Have your kibbles and worry about right or wrong down the road a bit. Watch your weight of course, but a couple or a handful never hurt anyone. Just don't do the whole bag or box. All things in portions.

  14. Protein is critical to muscle/tissue healing. Wherever you can source it, eat it.

  15. Sleep or rest whenever you feel tired. You will feel a bit exhausted as you're essentially only using half of your primary source of balance. Even if just for an hour. Rest.

  16. Get Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Paramount, Hallmark, whatever floats your viewing boat and watch the heck out of them. You can't do much so now is the perfect time to sit back and watch the idiot box.

When all is said and done, grab you a cuddle buddy, get a handheld hobby and enjoy the many quiet moments afforded by a limiting surgery during the recovery & rehab phase.

My sweet Boston Terriers & my knitting during recovery
Cuddle Buddy's

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