Since the day I injured my shoulder I’ve come to the internet over & over looking for recovery timetables, checking symptoms and just basically trying to find answers. I decided to write this blog of my experience up to this point, in hopes that it may help someone else going through the same thing. I’m obviously not a doctor and am not intending to give any sort of medical advice. I have learned that there are lot of things that weren’t on my surgery discharge paperwork and weren’t mentioned in any of my doctors appointments that I had to find out on my own. I apologize ahead of time that this entry is so long, but it’s been a process.
I had SLAP (Superior Labrum Anterior & Posterior) Surgery on 10/22/2015 as a result of dislocating my right shoulder on 7/25/2015 playing badminton. You can take a minute to laugh…I really wish I had a better story, but it is what it is. I’m short & really, really wanted to hit that birdie. I suppose the problem was it was too high & slightly behind me when I made my big swing. Almost instantly my shoulder went numb and felt very weird. I grabbed it with my left hand & felt my arm do a sort of spasm, putting my shoulder back in place. For some reason I decided it was a good idea to raise my arm, which popped it right back out…repeat the sickening arm spasm. After an hour or so, it was pretty sore but seemed to move normally, so I decided I didn’t want to go sit in the ER. What could they do except tell me what I already knew; It was dislocated & now it’s not. That was on a Saturday. That night I slept in a homemade sheet sling because I was pretty sure I didn’t want it up over my head again.
Sunday I borrowed an actual sling & felt like I was on the road to recovery.
Monday I went to work without the sling because I sit at a desk & type all day. It’s a pretty fast paced job & I needed both hands. Driving to work with one hand was different but not too big of a deal. By about lunchtime I was starting to feel a lot of instability in the shoulder when I was up walking around. I was really wishing I’d brought the sling. That night was pretty miserable & I decided I’d better go let my doctor take a look.
Tuesday (7/28/15) my doctor examined me & did an x-ray. Nothing was broken but she didn’t like that I couldn’t reach behind my back, overhead or across my body so she sent to me an Orthopedic doctor. I got another set of x-rays in that office (wrong angle on the other ones said an annoyed nurse). They confirmed nothing was broken, did some more moving around of the arm, & decided I’d go into a sling, see a physical therapist & follow up in two weeks. I was ok to drive & work,but only with my left hand. The plan was to do an MRI in 2 weeks once the swelling & inflammation had gone down. The sling had a wraparound sash to keep my arm close to my body & felt like a big hot blanket. Sleeping in it sucked. Typing & using the mouse with my left hand REALLY wasn’t my favorite thing. It was a long 2 weeks.
PT was scary the 1st time because I was terrified my shoulder was going to pop back out of place every time the therapist manipulated my arm. He assured me that due to the fact I was a 40 year old, non-athlete female that I shouldn’t worry about surgery. He was confident he could get my range of motion back through regular therapy.
At my 2 week follow up with the Orthopedic Doc my sling restriction was lifted & I was told to use it when I felt I needed it and at night. No more one handed typing! He decided not to do an MRI at that time but that he was ordering 6 more weeks of PT.
So I went through my therapy & progressed to some light (2lb) weights on some of the exercises. I was getting back some strength and range of motion was better. I still couldn’t reach into the backseat or the dryer without a sharp burning pain from my shoulder to my elbow. Reaching overhead still caused an uncomfortable/unstable feeling and I couldn’t really pick up anything over 5lbs. We had hit a wall & my improvement stopped.
On 9/22/15 my Orthopedic Doctor ordered an MRI & told me his office would call to set it up once my insurance approved. At this point I had only a few more insurance allowed PT appointments before they had to be justified again.
10/5/15 I had the MRI & I’m not sure if it was the MRI itself or the position I had to hold for 45 minutes, but the next day my arm felt like it weighed a million pounds. It hurt so bad to try to even lift it to the keyboard at work. I was miserable.
10/13/15 I followed up at the Orthopedic office for my MRI results & was told that I had a torn Labrum that required surgery. At that point they weren’t sure how bad the tear was. From what I understood, it could be as simple as going in to shave off the damage or if it was too bad for that, they’d have to do a more extensive repair. Surgery was set for 10/22/15.
Of course, it seemed like half the people at my office had had this surgery done & were back at work within a few days. My surgery was on a Thursday, so surely I could plan to be back at work the following Tuesday or Thursday at the latest. So, I scheduled my last 2 sick days and a couple of vacation days, set my out of office email & hoped my work didn’t pile up too much in a week.
10/22/15 I went into the hospital for surgery. Beforehand I got fitted for a new sling & this one was complicated. It had a ball attached at hand level and an abduction pillow sewn to the back of the arm pocket. Suddenly I was thinking of my prior sling with fondness. This thing was a monster. I had a flurry of IV techs, anesthesiologist & met my surgeon. The next thing I remember is waking up in pain while someone was helping me back into my pants. OMG the pain. I remember the nurse telling me they absolutely couldn’t give me any more pain meds and then nothing else until I woke up in the recliner at home. I had been starving before surgery & so my first thought was that I should eat. Unfortunately, my mouth was so dry, I couldn’t taste anything or swallow, so I gave up. I had ended up having to have 4 anchors put in to hold my Labrum in place while it healed. They also took out some arthritis while they were in there (I had no idea they could do that). The anchors are bioabsorbable so eventually they will absorb into my body. As gross as that sounds, I think it’s preferable to having metal bits in my shoulder. That left me with 3 small incisions on the front of my shoulder & 1 in the back.
The next week is a blur of pain pills every 6 hours, ice packs on my shoulder every 2 hours and trying to find a comfortable position to sleep. I didn’t eat much of anything but was drinking water by the gallon because my mouth still felt continually dry. Within a few days, I was able to read over the discharge instructions & saw that I wasn’t to go back to work until I had followed up with my doctor, about a week 1/2 after surgery.
At my followup on 11/2/15 I got my stitches out & the Supplemental Sick Pay paperwork was completed to say that I wouldn’t be back at work until 1/22/16. That seemed unreal to me but I was told that was worst case scenario & it was possible that I’d be ready to go back after my next appointment on 12/2/15. My office wasn’t pleased.
I want to mention at this point, that, as instructed, I had been taking stool softeners every day that I took pain pills. I was sleeping a lot those first couple of weeks and still didn’t have a lot of an appetite. Finally I realized that it had been awhile since my last bowel movement & I had started to feel that uncomfortable, bloated feeling. I increased my water intake, ate a lot of fruit & fiber cereals but still no luck. At this point I was having stomach cramps & nausea. I’d feel like I needed to go, would try & but the train had stalled, if you know what I mean. After reading online I decided maybe a glycerin suppository was what I needed. Unfortunately, between that thought & actually getting out to get what I needed, I ended up with some mini suppository applicators that were supposed to inject the medication into the problem area, soften things up & make for an easier exit. In reality, what happened was, my body when into instant EJECT mode and I spent 3 1/2 hours involuntarily straining. I felt like I was in labor. It was awful and not very productive. I wouldn’t recommend it. What someone did finally recommend was Miralax, and after a couple of days of taking that, drinking plenty of water & eating healthy, I got straightened out. I also decided that I was going to switch to Tylenol/Ibuprofen and only use the pain pills if I absolutely had to. Around this time I had also been having strange electric shock like pains in my lower back & the soles of my feet. Apparently Percocet can cause Neuropathic Pain if taken regularly. That also figured into my decision to cut the pain pills if possible.
I started passive PT on 11/10/15, which is basically the therapist moving my arm through the exercises without me engaging the muscles in my right arm at all. Therapy was so painful that I cried every time for the first couple of weeks.
On 12/1/15 I had my 6 week follow up with my Orthopedic doctor. He decided that due to the fact that I have no strength in my arm & can’t hold it up on it’s own that he isn’t releasing me back to work until 1/22/16. He did take me out of the sling (Thank you God) and told me that I can drive short distances as long as I feel I can safely control the car. I was pretty happy about that since finding rides to appointments is really annoying to me. Obviously, my employer is not thrilled. A week off has turned into about 3 months. In October I couldn’t have fathomed that I wouldn’t be able to work at this point. I’ve always been a fast healer. But after months of very little sleep and constant pain, it’s a reality. Surgery to a joint requires so much more healing time & rehab than my C-Section or Hysterectomy.
Being out of the sling this week has had it’s own challenges. While it makes getting dressed and getting around simpler, it hasn’t improved the sleeping situation. My shoulder & arm can’t seem to relax naturally at my side when I’m on my back, without a lot of pain. If I turn on my side my shoulder feels strained & hurts. Lying on my stomach is still not possible since I can’t raise my arm more than chest level at this point. My regular doctor recommended I try Tylenol PM and it has helped me be able to sleep more than an hour at a time. Other than that, I try to keep a small pillow under my arm for support and use a heating pad if the pain gets really bad. I had to give up the ice packs because my therapist said they cause the area to tighten & our goal at this point is to loosen everything back up again. I’ve just been able to start wearing a bra with straps again, for no more than 2 hours at a time before I have to switch back to the strapless. I still have put my shirts on right arm first, head in & then my left arm very carefully. Without the sling it’s also easy to accidentally reach for things with my right arm that are too heavy or reflexively reach out to catch something that’s falling. Ouch! My doctor assures me that I’m not in any danger of damaging the surgery site at this point, so that’s great, but there is still quite a bit of pain if I use the arm too much. My therapist urges me to do my at home exercises 3 times a day on the days when I’m not seeing him. Forget about not using it much. My range of motion is still very limited out to the side, away from my body. I’m hopeful that if I continue to work hard that I’ll get full use of my arm back eventually. I’ll never play badminton again. I’ve decided.