March 2, 2013 Post Rotator Cuff Surgery: Ten Factors to Consider During First Six Weeks
The great news is that the chronic shoulder pain that challenged me for five years is now just a bad memory. It’s already been nearly six weeks since my surgery. I am out of the sling. And, I’ll probably return to work in a week. It will take dedicated Physical Therapy, and six to nine months before I am totally healed. My Physical Therapist tells me that I am ahead of schedule, but also warns me about being over-confident with my right arm movements. The sutures are still healing.
I was thinking about a lot of the stuff that I read and heard prior to my procedure that never came true, at least for me. You know, the kind of stuff that we shouldn’t read, but we do anyway. And, it probably prevented me from having this done sooner, like I should have. The cortisone shots are not good long-term. Most of all, I am not complaining about how well my recovery has gone so far.
Biggest fears that never came true during my first six weeks of recovery:
- I did not have intolerable, or excruciating, pain the night of, or the days after, my surgery.
- I did not have to be immobilized.
- I did not have total loss of right hand use.
- I did not have a Physical Therapist who hurt me on my first visit, or any others. As a matter of fact, it is a pleasant experience.
So here are ten things that I have learned from discussions with my medical professionals that determine and/or have affected, or promoted healing during the six weeks:
- No two shoulder surgeries are alike. The shoulder has several muscles. Without getting into technical anatomy, if the tear is towards the front (supraspinatus), and not under, or near, the back of the shoulder, related to the other shoulder muscles, then, it is less likely that any anchors and sutures will loosen., or will cause as much pain. As well, if the bicep muscle is not a part of the problem, the chances for a better recovery, with less risk and less pain, are likely.
- Follow the doctors orders. What the doctor says, goes! If anyone suggests something different, ask to see their PHD in medicine.
- Take the pain meds as prescribed. Remember the song, “Billy Don’t be a Hero”? This deserves its own entry, even though it is a part of following the doctors orders. I wasn’t too thrilled about having to take the pain meds. But, had I not taken them the first few days, as prescribed, it would not have been pretty. They make the pain tolerable. Even when I needed them n the following weeks.
- Don’t take the pain meds if your not in pain. The first few days the meds are a must, but after that, make an honest self-assessment level of your pain. For me, if I had a bad day, it had to be a seven or higher, else I took Extra-Strength Tylenol. Taking the pain meds when not needed… could turn ugly fast!
- Look for, research and find a good Physical Therapist, perhaps one who specializes in shoulder rehabilitation.
- Focus on days where you will absolutely not move your arm. While we all tend to overdo it – when we shouldn’t – I was no different, and I always paid on days where I was overactive, with pain, So, when I had a day where I moved too much, I always stayed totally down the next day, maybe two during the first several weeks.
- Plan ahead. Buy a cryo cuff to wear the first few days after surgery. It processes the cold water in and out of the cuff that wraps around your shoulder so a cold compress is always in work, 30 minutes cold, 30 minutes not cold. Get a bed wedge, or, make sure that the recliner you will sleep in the first few nights has everything that you will need within reach.
- Accept that you will not have all of your mobility back for 6 to 9 months. So deal with it!
- Watch TV, read, make phone calls. And, when you are well enough do some research on something you have wanted to learn about but never had the time. Even better, if you can drive, go see relatives that you haven’t seen in years, it’ll make you feel better.
- Love your family, friends, and neighbors! They will help you, take you places, and maybe even open some doors for you.
By Tom Matys