Healing and Recovery

I’ve not written in a while. I’ve sort of been in a whirlwind, perhaps whirl pool would be a better description of late.

On May 7th I had a double cervical spine fusion. It’s a relief in a way. I was very tired of the intermittent unexpected loss of the control of my hands, dropping things like paint brushes and cups of coffee. I was more tired of the intermittent shooting pain that would sometimes radiate down my right and occasionally my left arm. I was most tired of the constant dull to sharp aching in my shoulders. Always much worse after being in a car for any length of time. Five years now since I first complained to my primary care physician.

Referred to physical therapy three times. Completed those and referred myself, out of pocket for several months, to massage therapy which seemed to help the most. Cortisone shots twice with no resulting relief at all. MRIs and Xrays. The local orthopedic fellow, while really good with limbs, wasn’t comfortable prescribing surgery on the spine. So back once again to the PCP. Finally got a referral to a spine specialist.

Had to drive to the city two hours away. Saw his assistant, got another Xray and referred for another MRI for a different day. Drove back and forth a few times taking care of those things. Saw the surgeon on my third trip. He immediately recommended surgery upon review of my MRI. Go figure.

So, I’m in recovery mode now. Wearing a soft collar. Two disks too damaged to save were removed, bone spacers put in and the whole column put together with tiny plates and screws. I get to wear a fancy new thing called an ultrasonic bone growth stimulator for four hours a day because I had a multi-level spinal fusion and we can’t risk the bone not growing back nice and strong.

Came home after an overnight stay following surgery without pain meds. Just some Tramadol so I could sleep the first few nights. Otherwise, just Tylenol. They tried to send me home with prescriptions for Oxycodone and Flexural. Gave both prescriptions back. I could tell already, even that first day after surgery, that my pain was considerably lessoned. I’d gotten by without opiates for five years. I could make do without them now.

The chronic pain is gone. The numbness in my right hand is better but not completely gone. The numbness in my left hand is intermittent now which is an improvement. I get occasional sort of scary twinges of pain in my neck, but I suspect it is more a process of healing than anything not as it should be. Once cleared for physical therapy (maybe in another month or so), will work to build up the strength in my neck, arms and hands again as there is noticeable atrophy of muscle mass in my right arm (primary arm). The neck being almost fully supported by the collar, will need some work to rebuild strength once the collar comes off.

Moral of this tale? Sit up straight. Bra straps can cause damage. Breast reductions should be recommended at the first sign of pain in the shoulders and neck. And all of this can be done without the use of opiates.

Hoping to be back at the easel next week even if I have to enlist aid to make that happen as I still can’t lift more than five pounds or bend to pick things up off the floor.

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