The whole and real truth about shoulder arthroscopy

I know that worst things exist and that I am part of the lucky minority in this world that can afford good and proper care. Still, I feel I have to share my thoughts and experience – I am sure it’ll do me good and will possibly help someone in the future.

Some of you know that at the end of March I had an arthroscopy at my left shoulder. A tendon was torn and a protruding bone was hitting the laceration most of the time I was moving my arm. An unbearable pain. I went happily towards the operation, which I rightly considered the end of my trouble. Pity that nobody told me what to really expect from such a surgery.

No one warned me that the post-operatory period would have been even more painful than what I felt before the surgery, and that the pain would not disappear in a matter of a bunch of weeks – the famous “crucial two weeks” after surgery, about which doctors and physiotherapists talk all the time, slowly become three, and then four, and when they tell you “you have to wait at least six weeks” (at which point you’d punch them, if not for fear of compromising your only good arm), be sure that when the seventh week comes, you’ll still be in pain. Or maybe not. I am. And that’s why now I am going to tell you the whole and real truth about arthroscopy, so that if you react to this kind of operation the same way as I did, you are at least aware of what to expect. Get ready for the worst, and face the surgery with the right amount of courage and energy to overcome the long and persisting pain. Do not even for a moment think that the operation will be the end of your problem – it will only be another long, hard phase towards the solution.

I wish you not to suffer as I have (my husband hasn’t), but you might be the unlucky individual that goes through the ordeal, and it is your right to know that chance exists. So here is what you can expect:

– forget about the “two weeks”. After two weeks you’ll be in as much excruciating pain as you were after the anesthesia vanished;

– for long weeks (at least six) you’ll wake up in the night with an unbearable pain in your shoulder, arm, wrist, hand, sometimes all of them, sometimes just one or two – you’ll need ice, codeine, deep breaths, and good thoughts or good mental games to go back to sleep;

– the amount of time you’ll have to put in the exercises is enormous. Forget about your ordinary daily routine. You’ll have to spend hours moving your arm up and down, back and forward, stretching it, opening and closing it, and so on, and all of this will hardly be pain free;

exercises are boring. While you exercise you’ll have troubles reading (because of the nature of the exercises), watching TV (because most of the time you’ll be facing a wall or be lying down on a bed), and they will seem even more endless to you;

– you have do to a lot of physiotherapy, and sessions can be very painful. You might find yourself walking out of them fighting hard to control the need to cry, because you feel so miserable;

– you’ll have to stuff yourself with a lot of chemicals to bear the pain. In the long run your stomach will rebel, and besides the pain in the shoulder, you’ll have to face the stomach trouble if you drink too much coffee or treat yourself to a much deserved glass of wine;

pain makes you tired. You’ll find yourself wondering how comes at night you can’t keep your eyes open after 9 o’clock, whereas before you could happily read until midnight;

– every day, every single morning when you open your eyes (this is if you are lucky to sleep until morning), the first thing you’ll feel is a pain in the shoulder, just to remind you that no, the end of the tunnel is not even nearer. The first movements after you wake you are the most painful;

– if, like it happened to me, you are so unlucky as to catch another infection, the pain to your shoulder will multiply.

As with all things, as long as you do not find yourself in the situation, you have no idea that so many people have had the same problem. You’ll find out that nine out of ten persons you know have had an arthroscopy sometime. If they tell you that it is a fast, relatively pain free operation, please don’t believe them: you might be the lucky one who gets away with it easily, but good chances are that you’ll react as I did. If you are prepared to what to expect, you won’t add the frustration of the disappointment to the already painful period.



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