Hand Surgery – 3 Months and Counting

January 12, 2020 (Don’t you love typing that year? So easy.)

It has been, literally, months since I had CMC arthroplasty (basal thumb joint surgery) and I want to update the world of arthritis victims on my progress. This is such a common surgery, and any of you with pain in that thumb joint will consider it at some point. Maybe this will be useful for you.

Last week I had what will probably be my last follow up visit with the surgeon. It will be three months since surgery. If I had to say one thing that stands out in this experience, it’s this – I never expected it to take this long to heal. Outwardly, there is no problem. Inwardly, in the wrist where all those little bones and tendons have to get around and through each other, there is still swelling, stiffness, weakness and pain with some movements. But, I am told this is normal and it will continue to heal and get better in the next three months. Tendons take a long time to heal.

I have been bad. When the cast came off, and the removable splint was put on, I removed it whenever it bothered me. It bothered me a lot. When it came time for therapy to start, and I told them what I was doing, I was warned that doing things too soon could give some bad results. I did better after that and wore the splint most of the time. It got dirty. It got smelly. It made the nerves on the inside of my wrist burn and I would wake at night with shooting pains going up my arm for no reason I could determine.

My hands are really not this colorful. It’s the camera.

I’m now weaning off the splint. The therapist I saw this week knows my history of poor compliance. She kind of moved quickly through the “very light” and “light” activities (see sheet in picture) because I had already been doing those things and more. Although I’ve probably caused myself more pain by moving too fast, the doctor didn’t think I had displaced any of her work – my hand looked right from the outside and that was comforting. I fully expect the next few months to bring complete recovery of my thumb. I wish I could say the same for the other joints on both hands.

For those problems I am going to try something called palmitoylethanolamide, let’s just call it PEA. It’s a medicinal food, so I don’t need a prescription for it. It is getting a reputation for helping chronic pain from many sources, osteoarthritis among them. The research is compelling. You can read about it by clicking here. There are several sources but one that is known to be reputable, sourced in Europe, is peaCure. I have some coming from Amazon and will certainly be spreading the news if it is helpful. Thanks to Esther in Seattle for the alert on this product.

I don’t think I’ll be getting new hands this side of the grave so I’m planning on taking better care of the ones I have, in any way I can. (Bought a RoboTwist for lids – it works!) Just sayin’…

Give Me a Hand

I realize that I completely dropped the ball (and the story) after the big build up about my surgery. The truth is I haven’t felt much like writing since then. Everything in life has become a one handed task, which makes typing pretty slow. But, it’s now time to complete the record. I just wish someone would give me another functioning hand…

For the record: (typed with one hand)

On the 14th of October, after weeks of anticipation, I had surgery on my left hand to relieve arthritic pain in the thumb joint. The hospital experience was very good, almost amazing. The only thing missing, in retrospect, was a detailed explanation of the process from the doctor. She came in to put a mark on my hand and was out again in less than 30 seconds.

I left several hours later with the hand wrapped in a bulky splint and totally numb due to a nerve block. The block took care of the pain for nearly 24 hours and then I began taking the prescribed pain med.

That first week I had far less pain than I had expected. It was similar to the way my thumb felt before the surgery. I even began using that hand for simple stabilizing tasks, even though the splint made it impossible to hold things. I remember one time when I was trying to get comfortable in my recliner and used both hands to push myself back. There was a significant jolt of pain that took several minutes of recovery time. After that I gradually became more aware of an annoying burning sensation under the many layers of cotton padding and elastic bandage.

I finally got curious enough to look underneath it all. It was uncomfortable to the degree that I thought a re-wrap might help. The incision appeared to be healing well but there was a single spot of inflammation farther up the thumb that looked like it had a very thick suture drawing it in. “What on earth is that?”, thought I. That is definitely the place that hurts.

Sorry if you find this too graphic. I’m a nurse so I’m immune.

To be continued…