Help me hack my post-shoulder surgery recuperation!
July 1, 2011 11:29 AM   Subscribe

What are some things I can do before my upcoming shoulder surgery to make life a little easier afterwards?

Well, Dr. Jointy McShoulder and I had The Talk. We decided that it was time to take a more invasive approach to my worsening problems, so on July 12th I'll be having out-patient shoulder arthroscopy performed on my right (dominant) shoulder.

For this question I'm not asking about the physical aspects of the surgery or the healing because I don't want to get freaked out. Right now I'm just trying to think of things I can do that will make the things I take for granted a little easier once I have to rely primarily on my left arm and hand.

The only really hackable things I've been able to think of are: preparing a whole bunch of meals that I can portion out and freeze for easy zapping, and buying a little coffeemaker that I can keep close to the sink. (Filling/using the teakettle is out but I've been too stubborn to give up my Melitta cone until now.) Oh crap. Dishes. I just thought about that. No dishwasher. Sorry planet. I've also ordered some strapless bras.

Okay, so: pre-made meals, coffeemaker, disposable plates and utensils, and strapless bras. I must be missing some other obvious ideas, right? (I should note that I have a tiny apartment, so while I'm not opposed to purchasing specific helpful items I don't have a ton of room to build Rube Goldberg-esque breakfast machine.)

High five! Thanks!

The packet of information the doctor gave me suggests, um, practicing bathroom hygiene, so, yeah....
posted by Room 641-A to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd probably take a day and strap my right arm to my side to simulate the situation and then make notes/changes as every little thing comes up that you can't do as you would normally. I think it would be exhausting, but a worthwhile use of your time. I'd do it at home and at work.
posted by jvilter at 11:34 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Think of anything that would require overhead lifting with both hands and move it to a lower location now. Heavy boxes or items on top shelf in closet, pantry, etc.
posted by resurrexit at 11:38 AM on July 1, 2011

Best answer: I would make sure that you can actually fasten a strapless bra with one hand and no use of your other arm. Friends of mine that have had shoulder surgery have ended up going with one piece bandeau-style bikini tops that they stepped into and pulled up, because it's pretty much impossible to put one on, hold it up, and fasten it with one hand.
posted by kro at 11:50 AM on July 1, 2011

Best answer: Has the doctor told you that your arm will be in sling for a while? If so, get a sling now and wear it all day and all night to get used to the lack of mobility as well as inability to lift things. If not, tuck your hand into your waistband to simulate having it flopping around but useless. Keep it there all day and evening. You will note that you will unconsciously start to grab things and having it tucked into your waist will remind you that it is not available for use.

Try doing everything you do now left-handed. Besides hygiene, think of things like opening cans, opening the door, scrubbing in the shower, etc., etc. As you identify these things, do two things. Decide what you can reasonably do left-handed and what you will need to postpone. Do you really need to vacuum during the recovery period or could you let that slide? Make a list of the things you won't even try to do and leave it where you can refer to it, so you don't find yourself half way through a task you had decided not to perform.

Look at the availability of things you use daily. Are your drinking glasses easy to reach one-handed? Dinner plates? Pots and pans? Rearrange the things that you discover that could make your life easier.

Restock all of the things that you might have to use two hands for. Change the toilet paper now. Put things that are in screw-top jars into squirt bottles if possible, so you don't have to twist them open.
posted by Old Geezer at 11:54 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you have a little extra cash, i'd hire a housekeeping service for the day before the surgery. Get that apartment nice and tidy, with clean towels in the bathroom, clean sheets on the bed, and all of your clothes cleaned (especially the clothes you are likely to be wearing, like, PJs or sweatpants or whatever) so that you can come home from the surgery and be very comfortable. If you can't spring for a maid, maybe a friend or relative can do this.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:57 AM on July 1, 2011

Best answer: When I broke my collarbone, I went and got some button-front short sleeve shirts, which i thought were much easier to put on than the t-shirts or long-sleeved things that mostly comprised my wardrobe.

Also, I had a patio umbrella break because there was a freak thunderstorm and I couldn't close it with one arm, so don't forget outdoors stuff if you have a patio or yard.
posted by substars at 12:12 PM on July 1, 2011

Best answer: If you're right-handed, and if you use cheques for anything (unusual these days, I know), it might be worth signing a couple of blank cheques, and if you need to pay for something by cheque, asking a trusted friend to fill out the rest. Make sure you hide the cheques in a very safe place until you need them.
posted by essexjan at 12:14 PM on July 1, 2011

Best answer: If you're not going to be able to use one of your arms, you are not going to be able to get into a strapless bra without help unless like kro says you're using a bandeau style and you step into it and pull it up.
posted by crankylex at 2:43 PM on July 1, 2011

Best answer: I had SLAP and Bankart surgery - totally successful - on my dominant arm two years ago.

First - get the chilling device that is like an ice chest with a pump, that connects to a pad that fits over your shoulder. It keeps the swelling down and promotes healing. Get a lot of ice, many pounds, and be ready to open the bags one-handed (drop on floor, cut open, bail ice into ice chest).

Second - be prepared to take serious pain medication for a few days even if you think you can gut the pain out. You shouldn't, you'll be more comfortable and less stressed. I absolutely hated the pain meds, they made me see double, but my partner insisted I take them. Since she knows this stuff I paid attention.

Third - you are going to have to keep the small incisions dry for a few days. I had some waterproof patches to put on. While we are thinking about bathroom stuff, put a resin chair in the shower. You do not want to lose your balance in there. Sit down when you are showering.

Fourth - driving (even if you think you can do it one-handed) is out for several weeks. If you happen to attempt a grab at the wheel or you become unstable you can do yourself damage.

Fifth - dressing. Button-downs only and you are going to have loads of fun getting your right arm into anything but big sleeves. Sit down when you are dressing.

More? MeMail if you wish.
posted by jet_silver at 3:00 PM on July 1, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, each and every one of these is brilliant!

I have a tight long-sleeved biking-type shirt that I can keep my arm tucked in and I think that will be a great way to practice. I hadn't even thought about practicing sleeping!

Luckily I did order a bandeau-style, but only because it happened to be made by my usual bra company. It does have an underwire, so I should probably get at least one without

I'll pre-stack some coffee-filled filters, like they do at restaurants, and I'll take a close inventory of other canned and jarred food items and move more stuff off the higher shelves. (I have at least 100 food establishments of all kinds within a block or two. It'll be a great back-up, but it also adds up very quickly.)

I will be tidying up over the couple of weeks, and I'll bring a bunch of laundry to my mom's, since I'll be staying there the first couple of nights I think. I'm not the neatest person in the world anyway, and I'm sure Mom would be thrilled at the chance to straighten this place up :)

I ran over to Old Navy after reading most of these comments and scored 3 tube-dresses for $12.50 each and a big button-down shirt to throw over it for 10 bucks more! Luckily, I live in a beach town so I don't need much more than that.

I'll check with the doctor to see which kind of cooling device I should get, but it sounds like a great idea. My freezer is pretty small so I might have to get an ice chest for extra ice.

I can bring a resin chair back from my mom's place. I wouldn't of thought of that one for sure.

Oh, and I hate pain. I'm all about MOAR PILLS PLEASE.

I should add that I can walk or take a five-minute bus ride to almost anywhere I need to be and rides will be easy to come by otherwise.

jet_silver, I may email you as it closer to zero hour for some of the really important questions I'm avoiding right now, thanks.

This is hugely helpful. I'll take any more suggestions that are out there.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:16 PM on July 1, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, and if you're participating in the MeFi Music Swap and get me, don't worry -- I literally scheduled the surgery around the swap and Carmageddon.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:23 PM on July 1, 2011

Best answer: Practice not rolling onto/using one arm/shoulder while half awake.

After mine, during the day it may have hurt like hell (hated the pills and would rather live with the pain), but I knew when it was coming (usually) and could deal with it. It was the night and early morning accidental rolls and bumps that were horrible until I got better at sleeping on one side.

Also, you might configure your mouse for lefthanded use beforehand. That drove me nuts.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 7:47 PM on July 1, 2011

Best answer: My mom had rotate cuff surgery and couldn't move her arm for a while. I mean literally could do nothing with it. She said the hardest things to adjust to was bathroom stuff (washing her hair was interesting one handed, but she did learn that she could shave her armpits by leaning over and letting the arm simply hang and carefully get the razor in there. She washed it the same way) and getting out of bed. Practice rolling and pushing yourself upright with your good arm and your abs. Luckily she has a wonderful husband who all but carried her around the house while she was healing.

She also got really upset and thought her arm was paralyzed because the type of surgery she had made it impossible for her to move her arm for a couple of weeks. I think she was loopy on pain meds but she got really emotional about it. So be prepared for some emotional loopy stuff depending on how well you handle anesthesia and pain meds. It will get better day by day, so remind yourself of that if you get overwhelmed. Good luck and heal quickly!
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:11 PM on July 1, 2011

Best answer: She also went without bras because she didn't care (no one cared while she was at home) and she's one of those women who can go without and it not be obvious. YMMV depending on size and comfort level but I'd ditch those things as much as possible.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:13 PM on July 1, 2011

Response by poster: I tried the one-armed experiment last night, but only lasted a half-hour once I went to bed because it was so hot in my apartment. However, that's all it took to realize how much I overestimated what I thought I could do. Dishes were nearly impossible, so I may have to rethink coffee altogether and just go to the coffee place at the corner. Either way, I'll definitely be drinking a lot less coffee. If I can secure things (like the toothpaste tube) in place with, or against my right hand I'll be very happy.

I think I may try sleeping in chair at first; I'm more concerned about damaging stitches or whatever else I can mess up than about the pain of rolling over.

The one thing that frustrated me the most was realizing I couldn't put my hair back in a ponytail. I can't stand having it in my face or on my neck (which is why I only grow it out once a decade or two) so I think it might be time to chop it all off.

Re-mapping the mouse has been added to the list, and playing Minecraft has be re-added!

MultiFaceted, the info I have from the doctor says that post-surgery I should be doing pumping and bending exercises with my hand and arm, so I hope I won't get that paralysis feeling. That must have been really scary.

I think those tube dresses were a very lucky find, especially for when I check the mail and stuff. Now that I have those, the bra will probably go back. Braless at home is the status quo; having a button down to throw over the dress should be ok when I leave the house, as long as the dress stays put.

I should compile these for my doctor and tell him to include it in the info packet.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:29 AM on July 2, 2011

Best answer: Thanks everyone, I really didn't know what I didn't know.

For future readers here are three more things I thought of:

1) Forget the contact lenses and go with glasses
2) Have something you can use as a backscratcher
3) If you will need to carry anything (like if you have a laundry room in your apartment building) have a cart, even if it seems light.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:22 AM on July 3, 2011

Best answer: From someone who's had shoulder surgery as well:

Won't repeat what others have said, but I'll add the following.

1) bags of frozen peas--MUCH! easier than ice and they can form around the shoulder. No chipping, melding together etc.

2) voice recognition, although it might make you crazy, it is better than nothing. Dragon is the best.

3) prepare yourself mentally; you need to get to work on range of motion as soon as directed to avoid scarring. It won't be pleasant, but it needs to be done. Less important maybe for women, but expect the atrophy. I lost INCHES off my arms and chest after mine.

4) if you are a endo or mesomorph (anyone but the natural skinny kind) plan to reduce your caloric intake. I went from endurance level athlete to fat $#% mostly when I had down times after surgeries and the resulting inactivity for some of them. The atrophy will also reduce the amount of calories your body needs.

Good luck.
posted by chinabound at 9:43 PM on July 11, 2011

Response by poster: chinabound: "From someone who's had shoulder surgery as well:

Won't repeat what others have said, but I'll add the following.

1) bags of frozen peas--MUCH! easier than ice and they can form around the shoulder. No chipping, melding together etc.

Yes, and Edamame works too!

3) prepare yourself mentally; you need to get to work on range of motion as soon as directed to avoid scarring. It won't be pleasant, but it needs to be done. Less important maybe for women, but expect the atrophy. I lost INCHES off my arms and chest after mine.

4) if you are a endo or mesomorph (anyone but the natural skinny kind) plan to reduce your caloric intake. I went from endurance level athlete to fat $#% mostly when I had down times after surgeries and the resulting inactivity for some of them. The atrophy will also reduce the amount of calories your body needs.

Yeah, and the boredom doesn't help, either. It took about two weeks for me to (slowly) start snapping out of that pattern. I'm also relying on quite a bit of take out food, and even though it's not junk/fast food the fact that something comes from Whole Foods doesn't mean it's low-cal, either.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:59 PM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: Three-week update:

To stay on topic, here are a couple of challenges that haven't been mentioned:

1) The worst thing of all has been dealing with long hair. For two weeks I couldn't pull it back without assistance. At all. There was someone there to do it a lot of the time, but frustrating to tears at times when there wasn't. The only solution I found to get it off my face and neck was to clip it up with a gazillion clips and pins; this was fine for the heat indoors, but not even acceptable enough to go out and check the mail. (And my standards aren't that high!) After three weeks I can finally contort myself enough to twist it up and grab it in a huge clip.

2) Anti-chafing gel was helpful, but after a few days I just created one make-shift sleeve for my arm and one to go around the neck strap. I just used some soft fabric and fabric glue for these. (I have this huge sling to deal with, so maybe it's not a problem with other slings. This one has a lot of Velcro bits on it.)

3) Clothing was mentioned a few times, but if it wasn't for the step-in, strapless bra and tube dresses I have no idea how I'd be able to get dressed otherwise. Tube tops would work, and bras are obviously optional. I'm not sure what I would do otherwise, and since no specifics about how to get dressed were mentioned (here or in the pre-op info from my doctor) I'd definitely look into that.

Thanks again for all the suggestions!

posted by Room 641-A at 2:32 PM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, I should mention that in addition to the 50% tear in my should and the tear in my bicep, they needed to do two or three other things so I may be an extreme case.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:34 PM on August 1, 2011

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