12 Steps to Recovery After Hand Surgery

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Ready, set, go!

First let me say, I’m no expert, I share only with the hope that my experience might help someone else.  I’ve simply survived. 12 weeks down and I have made it through not only one, but two surgical procedures!  I had CMC basal joint arthroplasty AND carpal tunnel on my dominant hand, at the same time.  If you’ve had any procedure you probably know this feeling, kind-of like when you buy a new car and suddenly everywhere you look you SEE that car.  While walking around all gimped up folks tend to come out of the wood work, they see your condition and share their stories…

STEP 1.  Trust the process, don’t listen to nay sayers, and only accept the good. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to hear folks eager share their negative experience after the same surgery.  If you did your homework and picked a great doctor, trust the process.

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Our son, Matty came over and made dinner

STEP 2. Let others do for you.  Ok, this is where I’m saying do as I say, not as I do. Yep, I find it very difficult to let others do for me.  I carried in too much weight in groceries and paid for it in pain. I was only supposed to pick up the weight of a coffee cup for the first 6 weeks.  Our chunky chihuahua weighs a bit more than that again, I paid. Vacuuming is an compulsion for me, I did it and I paid dearly. Ok listen, LET OTHERS DO FOR YOU. Got that one, took me some painful times but I finally got it.

STEP 3. Whatever optimistic lists you made prior to surgery of things you were going to do during recovery, it’s okay just throw it out the window. It ain’t gonna happen sweetheart. Never thought all my drive would’ve left with recovery, but it did. The books I’d planned on reading while down, I couldn’t maintain a desire to get into.  Oh well, let it go.

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Our daughter Chels helped me embracing my goofy self on Tylenol with codone.

STEP 4. Pain medicine is there for a reason, use it!  I’ve always been one to shy away from meds, meds and surgery.  My family will tell you I’m the queen of vitamins and supplements but hate the need for pharmaceutical medicine and try to avoid doctors at all costs.  I eat clean, whole foods and try to take care of my health.  But during recovery, suck it up buttercup.  Suck it up and take the meds.  I’m heading into detox mode now to recover.

STEP 5. RICE.  No not the starchy kind, the Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation kind.  I found that a really large foam block was useful in elevating my hand at home and when I drove for any great distance.  It was a shock absorber of sorts. Prop your hand up at night, wedged between pillows, elevate! Just do it. If you don’t trust me, you’ll pay.

STEP 6. Prayer.  This really ought to be step one.  Ask for prayer and accept encouragement.  A physical recovery consists of spiritual support as well.  To heal we have to cover all the bases, physical, emotional, and spiritual.  You’re not weak, you’re just not well. You’ll recover better and more steadily with prayer support. Which leads right into…

IMG_4845STEP 7. Make time for friends.  The last few weeks of recovery were the best for me.  Why? Because I  got to spend quality time with good girlfriends, giggling.  They were awesome to see my weakness and helped carry my purchases at the Houston International Quilt Festival.  In fact, time with them and subsequent time with my ol schoolmate Denise in Huntsville Alabama, was distraction enough that I found I no longer needed nerve and pain meds.  Healthy recovery has to consist of laughter. Yes, it is the best medicine, that and time with good friends.

STEP 8. Do your physical therapy.  I found the timer on my phone helped. It was tricky at times to keep on track while on my travels but, trust me. It does pay off!

STEP 9. Go easy on you. (If you don’t blog for months, the world won’t end.) Hopefully, you’ll have folks checking in on you and still reaching out, knowing you’ll be back.  Accept you’re weak and it’s for a season.  You’ll be back in full form in time.  Time…it really does heal all wounds.

STEP 10. Embrace mindless distraction, for me it was Pinterest.  Pinterest or as my friend Kathie said the Hallmark channel on TV.  Whatever’s a good healthy distraction embrace it.  I thought I’d dive into Craftsy.  If you read my blog you know I should have.  But honestly, it’s back to that “I didn’t have the desire to do so,” or even to BE me.  Weird I know, go easy on yourself it’s going to be ok.

41XA6UghfELSTEP 11 Celebrate the small stuff and be thankful.  Our gratitude determines our attitude toward recovery. I found that something as simple as applying Jojoba oil with lavender and gardenia essential oil multiple times a day was awesome to help with scaring. Grateful it was a small thing with a big impact!  And oh yes, elastic waistbands! They are your friend, time to embrace those cute print leggings that are so in style now but, be careful they can be the bane of your waist’s shape and existence.  Be grateful, be cautious. 😉

STEP 12 Healing and health will come.  It just takes time.  Back to step one, trust the process.

(This post was inspired by Mrs. Jerry. Prayers for your speedy recovery love!  If you reader have experienced this procedure or anything like it what did you find helped?  I’d love your feedback.  Thanks 🙂

Next post?  Back on track, headed into creativity…

13 Comments on “12 Steps to Recovery After Hand Surgery

  1. thank you….just had my surgery on July 13/15, thrilled to hear you do needlework! I am a quilter… so happy to hear about recovery…especially letting others help!

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  2. I had carpal tunnel release at the same time as my surgery and 10 days in, I didn’t listen to the 10lb rule, I was doing SO great! Mistake, LISTEN. I regret that my inability to let others do for me cost me a few weeks of difficulty with pain and swelling. ICE, ICE, ICE is your friend!! Also, when the bandages do come off, mix you up a little Jojoba oil (1oz) with a few drops of lavender and gardenia essential oil multiple times a day and the scars are virtually invisible! Worth the effort for sure. If you can’t find that in your area there’s always Amazon! I had a chance to read over your blog and it’s possible we were separated at birth. ;D Lots and lots of common interests. REST, give yourself time to heal and enjoy Pinterest! I pinned like a mad woman as the meds zapped any other creative desires I had at the time. ((HUGS))

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    • I’ve been reading your blog too! I think “we” creative types are all from the same family. I was happy to find someone that went through the same surgery with basal joint! I am heeding your advice! Ice is my best friend! Lifting anything …I end up paying for it! I have 3 weeks more before they remove the pin. Once that happens I think it will be better! I am the Pinterest Queen and also the Princess of left-handed typing! Lots of ideas for future quilts when the hand allows! I’ll be picking up the oil fixings though for when I can start massaging my scar! I hope I am clear from doing anything with carpel tunnel! I can’t imagine having that as well! Thanks again….you have no idea how less worried I am with finding your tips. Margo

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      • You will feel better once the pin’s out! I think it caused tiny little twinges or muscle spasms once I got to the point you’re at. You’re almost there girl!! Hang in there, you’re gonna love your new hand! Do everything they tell your doctor and physical therapist tells you to do Margo, therapy will improve your end results. 😀 I’m glad to be your cheerleader. You’re doing great!

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      • Hi Lois! It has been a while since my last email. I wanted to ask you a few more questions and I appreciate your advice, since you have been through this surgery. I am at 9 weeks today. I see the physiotherapist at the hospital once a week. I do exercises every day, 4-5 times a day, massaging my scar. Pin came out at 5 weeks and that itself was a huge relief! My wrist has very limited movement [up, down, either side] and is very painful. Bending both joints in my thumb across the palm causes shooting pains mostly in my wrist. [ not to worry — I am going to see the surgeon tomorrow and will be asking all these questions and getting his opinion]. I cannot close my fingers into a fist. When I try as hard as I can, I can still insert my pointer finger in between my fingers. I keep movement going though so it doesn’t stay permanently stiff. As for typing — almost negative with my left [surgical] – my job is talking to clients on the phone and typing as we talk to document our conversation [ their conversation and my recommendations, etc.] So — to touch type is impossible. It’s like my left hand does not get the message from my brain to move my fingers. Very strange sensation! I still have trouble pulling my pants up. Hubby had to cut my fingernails and he still pulls my hair into a ponytail! lol…God bless him! I can’t do the simple little things! I can only hold paper, my glasses, no cups/mugs – basically I spend my days with my hand elevated and on ice. I go from there to do exercises and back to icing. The physiotherapist has put me back in a long splint during the night to support my wrist. She is thinking I may have to have an injection into my wrist. My thumb…still quite numb. The underside of my wrist feels like it was either burned or the feeling you have when you have a huge blister pop and the skin is incredibly tender. Trust me — it looks absolutely fine! The pressure of even a light covering drives me nuts! You can imagine how tender it would be with the splint at night. During the day, physio has me in a compression type splint that supports the position of my thumb. I was interested in your feedback as to what you remember from your own recovery. What type of work were you doing when you went through this surgery? What kind of issues do you remember having? Also – when did you transition back to work and how? Thanks Lois! I appreciate your response. It’s hard to explain the feelings to others who have not been through this. Maybe we may have some similarities, or I am totally out to lunch! ha ha! Either that or I’m a whiny baby! Cheers — [OMG…brainwave! Maybe I need to start drinking! ha ha!] MargoDate: Mon, 3 Aug 20. 15 23:14:45 +0000 To: onlydiamonds@hotmail.com

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      • Margo, 9 weeks out that’s awesome!! I’m so glad you reached out. I’m all about being an encouragement! That’s a huge reason why I blog. I feel that there are plenty others on the same journey as we. That, and it’s a nice way to connect. Girl, everything you’re going through sounds normal. Seriously.
        First off, I’m going to attempt to answer your questions so please forgive the scattered way my brain hops. I’m not a professional, I just share from my experience. The anesthesia and trauma to your body with that extensive surgery, the meds, the frustration of limited use/flexibility, pain… it all makes you feel weepy. You are NOT a whiny baby. YOU are in recovery. Period. You must be willing to give yourself a break. (This comes from a “recovering perfectionist/type A”) I too struggled with putting on clothes. Buy a front snap bra, leggings, elastic waist for pants, skirts, and slip on shoes, these are all your friends. I bought a Teva tumbler with a handle so I could lift my glass to drink from, you’re unable to wrap your hand around a large cup, the handle works! I couldn’t type for a good while as well. You’ll get that back. Voice to text is your friend. I’m guessing that the weird burning sensation is probably nerves regenerating, I had the same experience. All of these questions they don’t answer or prep you for. It’s like you’re on a journey without a map. No wonder it’s so frustrating. I felt the SAME way.
        Go buy a piece of fleece and cut it to fit inside of your splint to wear at night. It might be warm but it’s soft on your scars. I bought Jojoba oil, gardenia and lavender essential oils for your scars. Make a mix: 4 oz of oil, 4 drops of gardenia and 4-5 of lavender. Put that on your scar every time you massage it. My scarring is amazing, you really have to look for it.
        Getting the pin out was like heaven, mind you I tried to pass out when that occurred but, that seemed to cause more issues that anything else so, you’re on the upside of your journey! Ice is your friend! Ice and for me, a lot of prayer. Be sure to ask for it. The body needs spiritual health to recover from such trauma. God’s been amazing and even though I suffered with this and through this He’s been right there. I’ll pray you through if you’d like.
        I do remember spending an amazing amount of time with my hand up. Keep pushing through the therapy, I promise it pays off. I’ve been a hobby quilter for nearly 30 years. Here’s my encouragement to you, after I healed I’ve leveled up to “super quilter!” 😉 Just kidding, not sure if there’s really such a thing but, I did start a longarm quilting business and I’m so busy I catch myself coming and going! YOU WILL get through this, you WILL be able to type. You got this girl. Trust me. It’s all part of recovery.
        My only complaint 3 months out? I couldn’t snap. I can now and it’s been a year. I went to visit my surgeon recently as I was considering having the other hand done. When I saw him, the very doctor who knew not to shake my hand upon meeting me the first time, I gave a high five with the healed hand! We both busted out laughing. So very grateful to have made it through. I hope you know, you will too! Friend me on FB and if I can help, message me anytime. I have a video I made to share on FB right after my surgery. I’ve pulled it but I’d be happy to share with you. I’ll respond to any questions you have. Remember, you’re in recovery and YOU got this girl!! 😀

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  3. Hi Lois!!

    You are rapidly becoming my new best friend!! I am scheduled for surgery on Monday, and I am scared to death! This 3 year journey of pain and hell is finally showing me the “end game” When this all started, it was my left thumb. I would go in every 3 months for about a year for the injections. To my surprise, the right hand started experiencing the same issue. So, for the next 2 years, I would go in every 3 months and have both joints injected. All came to a head at the end of July. Went in as usual for my injections. About 2 weeks later, left thumb is amazing, and right thumb feels as though it went through the wood chipper! Knowing I can only go every 3 months, all I could do was suck it up…the end of October would be here soon, then I would get more injections. My right has was havin none of that nonsense. Went in 9/28 and was approved for early injection…(or so I thought) New Xrays taken, and findings are as follows: Radiographs shows significant worsening of the right thumb basal joint arthritis with calcification, complete loss of joint space and dorsal subluxation. Left thumb, no change. Surgery is in 6 days, and I am freaking out!! The only reviews from patients across the globe ranged from (there is no way I would EVER have the other thumb done….to the aforementioned wood chipper being much more pleasant. Any help/advice/reassurance would be greatly appreciated and welcomed. I was told my recovery would be around 6 months. HELLLLLP!

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    • Don’t panic!! Ok, do you trust your Dr.?? The surgeon I found was highly recommended and also a teacher so, he was up to date on the latest procedures. Not that the one he did on my hand was all that new, it was used and proven. IF you’ve exhausted all your resources and it sounds like you have with the injections then you have to begin to trust the process. All I can say is that my right hand has functioned so well that I’ve taken up a new business venture and am thrilled to be pain free for the past 7-8 months. I wasn’t functioning fully til after 4 months but at 3 months I began to try some of the things that I love.
      I too heard negative stories but I found later that they came from individuals who didn’t do their research and find an excellent Dr. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy but how easy is the pain you’ve lived in for years now?! I think my family simply grew tired of always having to hear how bad I felt and now, life’s opened up new possibilities. I don’t know if you’re a person of faith but I am and I know that fear can cripple you. Fear won’t help you in the healing process so, if you do have praying friends, draw on them for strength. We all need one another. I’ll pray ya through if you’ll let me know how you’re doing. TRUST the process, do everything they tell you. It won’t be easy but nothing worth while ever is. You will have a chance at a fully functioning hand, you must listen and follow instructions to a T. I wish I could reach out and give you a comforting hug but this virtual one will have to do. Praying for your peace of mind and the doctor’s steady hands, and that you’ll trust the healing process. Bless you Jamie, contact me anytime. If I can, I’ll encourage you! You got this girl!!

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  4. Thank you so much Lois! You are right, I HAVE been in a lot of pain for YEARS!! So just hearing someone else had good results have helped. From what I hear, I am too young to be having this happen (I’m 46), so hopefully that will be in my favor. I am a computer geek by trade so everything I do is with my hands…I need them back!! I will talk soon

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