As I travel down the road of my journey through rotator cuff surgery, I’m going to endeavor to chronicle what you may expect if you decide to go forward with your surgery. I intend to add things to this list as I discover them through my experience. Here are some things you will probably have to deal with.
- Pain– No surprise here. The first week after surgery, you will have strong to moderate pain, especially at night. The pain medication helps a lot to relieve this (I am on day 16 today and still have some pain). You’ll also have pain if you bump your shoulder or inadvertently try to catch a falling object or trip and try to catch your balance by throwing your arm up (Ouch!). I know both of those by experience. Guard your shoulder when you’re out and about. I was told by a therapist, whom I consulted before my surgery, that the real pain is when you start your therapy. My doctor’s clinical assistant also told me that I would probably need my pain medication for when I start my therapy. I’ll let you know more on this when I start therapy in October.
- Boredom – If you are an active person, and especially if your surgery was on your dominant side (for me, my right side), you’re going to have a problem with boredom. Most everything I used to do is off-limits for me. I am getting caught up on my reading and taking a lot of walks. This is one of the toughest parts for me.
- Withdrawal – If you don’t get off the strong pain medication soon enough (I was taking Percocet), you will experience withdrawal or downright addiction. I was only taking it for a couple weeks, and that wasn’t even regularly, and I experienced withdrawal symptoms. You definitely don’t want to be taking this stuff just to sleep good at night. It will make you sleep like a baby, but it will also wrap itself around you like a serpent. Be very careful with this.
- Sleep problems– I’m at day 16, and I’m still having problems getting a good night’s sleep (which, at 2:50 AM, is why I’m writing on this blog), waking up repeatedly throughout the course of the night. A combination of factors contribute to this. One is the pain, the other is my body crying out for the pain medication, which it likes a lot. I could cave in and take one tablet, and then I could sleep for a while, but I am very concerned about the addiction problem, so I try to only take the meds when it is just intolerable.
- Weight Loss – When I went in for my surgery, I was fit and trim, so it’s not because I needed to lose some weight. I actually thought I’d be putting weight on and instead, I’m losing it. In fact, I weigh less right now than I’ve weighed in decades.
- The reason for the weight loss is that now I can’t play tennis and do hard manual labor which keeps my muscles toned. Now, the right side of my body is wasting away because of inactivity (atrophy). Until I begin my therapy in 2 weeks, I’m probably going to lose even more weight.
- So, as they say on TV, “your results may vary,” but if you’re anything like me, you can expect to lose weight and not gain it. As I write this, I am at 3.5 weeks since my surgery.
- A long road to recovery – Here is a quote from a physical therapist who goes to my church:
“This can be a rather long and arduous road, but just be patient and stay the course.”
He is referring to my rotator cuff surgery recovery. Notice the word, arduous. I wasn’t exactly sure what my friend meant by that, so I looked it up. Here’s the definition:
“hard to accomplish or achieve, difficult, marked by great labor or effort, strenuous, hard” – Merriam Webster Dictionary
As I add this one to my list here, I am 5 weeks into my therapy (11/6/12). My therapist has told me that I can expect to be in therapy for, at least, 2 more months. If you are considering having this surgery, be prepared for the long haul.