I had surgery on my left shoulder last Wednesday — an Arthroscopic Subacromial Decompression (ASAD), with a something called a ‘Capsular Release’. Basically, the surgeon scraped away some of the bone in my shoulder so that the tendon could move freely.
The operation was in the afternoon and I spent Wednesday night in the hospital in a fog of anaesthesia and pain killers. I was still a bit wonky and woozy on Thursday, but by mid-morning I was able to shower myself (with minimal assistance) and they sent me home in the afternoon with LOTS of strong drugs.
The anaesthetist told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to be in a LOT of pain afterwards and that I had to take the drugs whenever I felt the first twinges of pain and not be brave! He gave me a nerve block prior to putting me under. That nerve block was an interesting experience!!! My whole left chest area went into uncontrollable spasms until he hit the right nerve, when my left upper arm went into the spasms. A very weird experience.
When I woke up, I had a little pain pump (like a grenade) hanging out of my shoulder — it stayed in for two days delivering small amounts of local anaesthetic to the wound site. The hospital gave me all sorts of pain killers and checked my vitals every hour initially, pulling that back to every two then four hours during Wednesday night.
I was in reasonable discomfort on Thursday, and still woozy every so often. They had me wear a sling, which helped a lot. My husband picked me up on Thursday afternoon and we made our way home.
I actually felt pretty good — until I took some of the drugs that were equivalent to Panadol Forte. They knocked me around and I got really woozy fairly soon after taking them (they also give you really bad constipation!).
After a day at home, the pain wasn’t too bad (despite all the warnings from the anaesthetist and a friend who has had the same operation), so I stopped taking the Panadol Forte — they really were quite debilitating. I was still taking the strong anti-inflammatories (Oruvail) and the slow release pain killers (OxyContin, a morphine-based drug), and I still had the little grenade in my arm delivering the local anaesthetic. Oh, and the laxative tablets from the pharmacist didn’t work… I took two at 4pm Friday, another two at 10pm, a further two on Saturday morning with no result…
On Friday afternoon, my husband pulled out the now-empty grenade. And on Saturday, after I realized that the pain was very manageable, I stopped taking the OxyContin. By Sunday it was obvious that the anti-inflammatories were causing me really bad stomach cramps (they were the only drug left so it had to be them!), and again, the shoulder pain was diminishing rapidly, so I took myself off the anti-inflammatories on Sunday night.
I spent the days after surgery doing not a lot. I read, I slept, I watched some movies I’d recorded a while ago, I worked on a jigsaw. I hardly turned on the computer, I didn’t touch the sewing machine, and I definitely didn’t go into the garden!
Gradually, the pain has diminished to the point where I’m only wearing the sling to bed and for a few hours during the day. I’m doing all the exercises that the physio gave me to do when she visited me in hospital. And I can handle meal preparation, with only a small amount of assistance from my husband when I need to reach up.
No, I’m not pushing myself and ‘being brave’. Seriously, the pain isn’t too bad — it’s just a tad worse than I’d been putting up with for the past two years or so. Very bearable. I can feel my range of movement improving with the exercises, so here’s hoping that continues to improve with time. After all, it’s only been 6 days since I had my surgery.
I had expected that I’d be in a lot of pain and have a very limited range of movement for some weeks, if not months, after this surgery. To say I’m delighted with the results so far, would be an understatement.
Oh, and I returned to work today, putting in a full day.
So far, so good…
Update: The same night I wrote this piece, I had a bit of pain — enough to take an OxyContin before going to bed, then another + an anti-inflammatory the next morning. Felt good the rest of the day, though slightly woozy for a short time after one or both kicked in.
Update 1 November 2010: I stopped taking pain meds a few days ago and am now on anti-inflammatories only when I feel they are required. I also stopped wearing a sling to bed on Friday night and have hardly worn it around the house at all for some days now. I visited the surgeon this morning and he’s given me to all clear to ride my bike, drive my car, remove the sling etc. And he has referred me to the physio for more exercises to keep the shoulder mobile. He also explained what he saw and did when he was inside my shoulder. And his assistant removed all my dressings — those three incisions he made sure are small! All in all, I’m feeling pretty darned good!
Update 9 November 2010: Big day today! I was able to do up my bra from behind this morning! Not quite as easily as I used to, for sure, but I did get it done up. And I could hug my tall husband around the neck with BOTH arms when he got up this morning too. I’m still doing my physio exercises three times a day, and while some days I have a few more twinges than others, overall I know my range of movement is getting better all the time. I’m still taking one anti-inflammatory a day and will continue to do so until I finish the course (about another week).
Update August 2013: Well, three years on and I don’t even recall the pain after the op (seriously, it was no big deal after the first few days), nor the pain prior to the op. My range of movement is as good as it ever was (bearing in mind range of movement can diminish as we age), and I can do all the things I could do before I started getting the pain in around 2008 or so. So the op was a success!
Update November 2015: Five years on, and you’d never know I had surgery on my left shoulder — it has full range of movement. However, in the past 12 months my upper right arm has exhibited the same pain as the left one did in the months prior to the operation. I’ve had bursa injections, done physio, had acupuncture done by the physio, etc. Everything has given only temporary relief (from a couple of hours to a couple of days [the injection]). I’ve also been on anti-inflammatories for several months. So it was back to the orthopedic surgeon who did my left shoulder, and yes, I have to have the same procedure done on the right shoulder. I’m booked in for surgery the week before Christmas. Here’s hoping it’s as successful as the left shoulder operation I have five years’ ago. As an aside, as a very right-dominant person, it’s been interesting training myself to use my left hand for daily activities in preparation for not having the use of my right arm after the operation. I started off learning to use a computer mouse with my left hand. It was very awkward initially, but after persevering I’m pretty good now, so much so that I’ve only used my left hand for mousing for several months. Next was learning to wipe my bum with my left hand — not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure, but again with perseverance, practice, and patience, that’s do-able too… I won’t elaborate!