Two Weeks After Bicep Tendon Surgery

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Today was liberating. I got to ditch the sling and was also able to drive. Today was also my first day back at the gym training clients in person. Of course, it will be another 4-5 weeks before I can lift anything heavier than 1 pound with my right arm, but it feels great to be getting back to a normal routine.

It’s been 14 days since the Bicep Tenodesis surgery and I feel like we’ve made some good progress.

The last week was up and down. The stitches came out 2 days ago and I good a report from the doctor. The assistant showed me the pictures that the arthroscope took (they actually sent me home with a set but I really couldn’t interpret them). She explained what I was seeing, where the problem had been, and how it was corrected. The good news was that the rotator cuff is looking awesome and there didn’t seem to be any other issues. She did say that the area that was causing the discomfort that led me to PT and eventually surgery was not actually that bad, but that they could see where the issue was.

Was the surgery unnecessary then? No. This was not going to get better and would probably have gotten worse. Taking care of it now just means an easier recovery and less time dealing with the mobility and pain issues. It’s kind of like when your check engine light comes on; you can go right to the dealer/mechanic and it won’t usually be such a bad problem…or you can drive on it for another couple of months and then find out that you’ve got a serious repair that will cost a lot more. I’d rather be proactive.

There were times over the past seven days when my arm felt fairly pain-free and others when the it was a little more intense. One night it even woke me up in the middle of the night twice; I fell back asleep with an ice pack on. Yesterday at PT, the therapist told me that this is actually quite normal. She said to expect it to continue for a while; I may even want to ice each time I do my PT exercises at home and before bed. So far, that hasn’t been necessary but we’ll see how things proceed.

The actual process of PT is changing as well. For the first 10 days or so almost everything I did was passive or assisted. Now that we’re past the two-week mark, we will begin to build up the muscle while continuing to work on mobility. I am happy about this even though I know that I might experience some aches and pains. I looked in the mirror yesterday and saw that my right bicep is definitely looking sad compared to my other arm. The rebuilding process will be a long one, but I have lots of reasons to want to get myself back in tip-top shape.

Next report when we hit the one-month mark. In the meantime, it is great to be back to doing the things I enjoy…within limits!

One Week after Bicep Tendon Surgery

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It’s been a whole week since my surgery. Here’s the update!

This surgery has been a lot less difficult than I feared. Last year, when I had foot/leg surgery it ended up being a much bigger deal than I expected. I haven’t taken any painkillers since Sunday…which isn’t to say that I haven’t had pain. Rather, it is not severe enough to warrant taking something that has an addiction risk.

A few annoyances that I can live with: It is hard to find a comfortable way to sleep while wearing a sling so my sleep patterns are off. The support hose I have to wear to prevent blood clots are not the least bit attractive; not going to be wearing any shorts for another week. The sling and restricted mobility in my arm are an inconvenience, making it hard to brush teeth, eat, write, use a keyboard, etc. These are all things that will go away (God willing) in a week and, in the meantime, are not life altering.

I started PT on Monday and have been doing a number of exercises twice daily: pendulum circles, assisted lateral arm extensions, assisted forward arm extensions, assisted eccentric lateral rotations, assisted forearm extensions and hand-pumps. The “assisted” means that it is either supported by my arm or a prop like a table or cane. Not too taxing and I definitely can tell the difference; things are not nearly as stiff as they were. I will be going to PT twice weekly for the next five weeks.

The big news was that I went back to Personal Training today–virtually. Just one client, but it is a good way to get back into it. Tomorrow, I’ve got two clients and then–after clearance from my doctor–I should be able to start in-person training with some limitations next week. I still cannot lift anything heavier than a coffee cup with my right arm, so any demonstrating I do will have to be with my left arm. (My client today kept starting single-arm exercises and I had to reminder that she needed to use both arms; in other words, do as I say, not as I do!).

The other encouraging news is that I’ve communicated with a few other people who had the same surgery and who were really pleased with the results. The are working out, have rebuilt the muscle, and have no limitations. I don’t pretend that I’ll be there in a couple of months, but it is good to know that there don’t seem to be any long-term negative effects.

Next week, I’ll go back to some regular posts, but we’ll also have a 14-day update. Thanks for all the good wishes in the meantime!

72 Hours after Bicep Tendon Surgery

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Well, it is 72 hours after my surgery, and today I was finally able to take a shower. It was with great joy that I was finally able to bathe but the effort definitely wiped me out for most of the afternoon. I have had a few surgeries over the years, and I always forget how much effort and energy it takes to heal.

As you may recall from my previous post, the anesthesiologist went above and beyond. In fact, it wasn’t until Friday evening that I actually had the opportunity to ask my wife what the surgeon said about the procedure and what he found when he finally got in there. Of course, all of this had been explained to me earlier, but I was too high to either process it or remember it. The good news is that my case was somewhat rare for a good reason; the surgeon explained that it is quite unlikely that the MRI gives a complete picture of what will be found once they get inside. Often there are little surprises that pop up during the procedure. In my case, however, the MRI did an excellent job of predicting exactly what was going on. This meant that the surgery was rather “ordinary.”

So far, the pain has been less than I expected. It has been mostly controlled with prescription strength ibuprofen and acetaminophen. On Friday, I took a short walk and found that my stamina was pretty good. Later in the day I took another walk and discovered the same thing. I was pleasantly surprised until the pain block wore off. Since then I’ve had to back off quite a bit.

Tomorrow, I will begin physical therapy. My post-surgery instructions already have me doing pendulum swings with my right arm, but I am sure that new exercises will be added. In the meantime, it is quite an adventure learning to do things with my non-dominant arm like brushing teeth, eating, and opening and closing doors. I have a lot more respect for folks who are missing a limb or are in some other way limited in their use of an upper extremity. And for the record, this voice recognition program is not as helpful as I would have hoped.

Overall, I am grateful that I am doing as well as I am. These inconveniences are only temporary. I will keep you posted on my progress.

What I Hadn’t Counted on After Surgery

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It has been 9 weeks since my surgeries on my leg and foot. The recovery has been more arduous and painful than I expected. And I have learned a lot.

It is only since I began physical therapy exercises a couple of weeks ago that i finally began to see progress in my mobility and levels of pain. As a personal trainer, I am on my feet a lot; after a month of putting no weight on my foot, the shock of doing that again was dramatic. After having been off pain medications, I went back on again for a short time. I’m still taking Ibuprofen and Tylenol–although a lot less now. It has only been in the last week that I finally have been able to go through a large part of the day without pain.

To those of you doing PT…listen to the instructions and do what you are told! It makes a difference. PTs are amazing skilled health professionals and I am really impressed with their ability to spot (diagnose) issues and recommend the appropriate exercises. I even “borrow” some of them for clients who have similar complaints.

Here is what I really did not expect. I put on quite a bit of weight–about a 5% gain. This is due to a number of issues. I was forced to be sedentary. Medications (especially pain meds) messed with my system. I did not eat as I normally did since I was sitting around with little to do but…snack. My exercise regimen was interrupted.

I have been trying for over 6 weeks to get back to my pre-surgery weight and really been finding it difficult. I finally turned to a subscription weight-loss app. Too soon to say if I am making progress, but the tracking of calories is scary as hell and definitely showing me where I am making mistakes. I will let you know if it works.

It is noteworthy that weight gain is quite common after many different kinds of surgery. It is also notable that few doctors warn their patients that this is a possibility and to prepare for it–physically and emotionally. I wish I had known; not that it would necessarily have made a difference, but I believe that knowledge is power.

My big takeaway? With regard to both the pain and weight gain after surgery, patience is required. Others who have had foot surgery have told me to not give up hope or get anxious; it takes a while for recovery. This is true of nearly any surgery. I now see a pain-free light at the end of the tunnel, but it took me longer to get here than I thought it would. With regard to the weight, I am also learning that what took 8 weeks to come on will not come off in 8 days. Slow and steady wins the race.

At some point, most of us will have to undergo some kind of surgery; in my experience, I never felt like I adequately understood what the recovery would be like (if we did, would we ever agree to the procedure?!?). If there is a next time, I will ask more questions, adjust my expectations, and remember that there is a reason why we are called patients!