As you can see, I’m able to do my programming work from the comfort of my big recliner … although Rascal occasionally hops up to remind me I should take a mental break and pay attention to something besides work.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that recovery is going to be a lot longer and more involved than I’d anticipated.

The surgeon originally predicted I’d be back to normal activity within six weeks. That’s because he thought all he’d have to do in there is shave down the bone spur that was causing collisions in the shoulder joint. And in fact, that part of the operation wasn’t traumatic at all. I have three small punctures in my skin where he went in with a scope. I get a bit of an ache in that part of the shoulder, but it’s nothing much.

The torn bicep tendon is another matter altogether. No scope for that procedure. He had to go in the old-fashioned way and slice open my arm. To re-attach the tendon (as I learned later), he cut a slit in the arm bone, then nailed the tendon into the slit with a tiny titanium spike. The bone will eventually grow back over and around the tendon and the spike (which will remain in my arm), and then the tendon will be fully attached.

Well, it turns out that when a surgeon cuts open your arm, slices away a portion of bone, then pounds a little spike into the bone, it hurts rather a lot. I’m allowed to take two Percocet tablets every four to six hours, according to the prescription. I don’t want to process that much acetaminophen and oxycodone through my liver, so after the first day recovering at home, I started limiting myself to one tablet every four hours. Then I stretched it to five hours, then six.

I’ve gotten to the point now where I take one tablet during the day, then two before bed. I need the two-pill dose before bed because if the pain isn’t completely numbed, I can’t sleep. I usually wake up five or six hours later with my shoulder throbbing, take one more pill, then go back to sleep for another three or four hours. During the day, I can mostly get by with cold packs to reduce the pain.

The pain level will continue to diminish. Unfortunately, it will take 10 weeks for the bone to grow around the re-attached bicep tendon, and I’ll be stuck wearing a sling that pins my arm to my body the entire time. I’m not supposed to flex the bicep muscle at all, not even to pick up a coffee cup. A physical therapist will move the arm for me, but the most I’m allowed to do on my own is lift the forearm with my other hand and place it on the laptop for working.

I won’t be able to fully exercise the arm for four to six months. Yeesh. I went through that the last time I had major shoulder surgery. As you’d expect, I lost rather a lot of muscle and strength – not just in the arms, but in the entire upper body, because you can’t do much upper-body work that doesn’t involve the arms.

So no farm work, no fixing up Sara’s cabin, nothing until spring. I’m not happy to be in this situation, but I still feel more gratitude than anything. The surgeon found the torn bicep tendon and fixed it. That was him being a good doctor and looking for problems that didn’t show up on the MRI. I can still do my programming job. I can still write blog posts.  After a bit more healing, I’ll be able to get back to working on the film.

If I feel the least bit tempted to complain, I remind myself that Chareva’s father lost the use of his left arm permanently after his stroke. My situation is temporary. It will take some time and effort to get back to full strength and normal activities, but I will get there.

In the meantime, there are plenty of books I’ve wanted to read and courses I’ve wanted to watch on With no weekend farm work in my near future, I may as well get to them.



55 Responses to “Post-surgery prognosis”
  1. Tom Welsh says:

    Hang in there, Tom! We’re all rooting for you, out here! Recovery can be very painful and tedious, but you have better health to look forward to when it’s over.

    Best wishes from England! 😎 😎 😎

  2. Stealth says:

    Retired OT here. This book is great. The One Hander’s Book,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch It tells you how to do almost anything one handed (not farm work, though). It’s dated, but some good ideas in there. You also seem to be a natural “adapter” so I’m sure you’ll figure out some tricks on your own.

    Hang in there. I had much milder shoulder problems and they really made me miserable. Pain colors your whole life. When they were at their worst, surgery was suggested but knowing how terrible the recovery process is I chickened out. That was before I saw Fat Head and made the dietary changes. Miraculously my pain went away when I got off grains and sugar–no surgery. I know that the best diet in the world won’t fix the problems you had (though it certainly will help your healing), but I thank you and others who led me to the diet that “cured” my inflammatory pain.

  3. Firebird7478 says:

    Lower leg training will help, especially if you incorporate machines that require little more than moving around a pin vs. picking up plates.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      After I heal up a bit more, I have permission from the doc to use weight machines to work my legs at the gym, as long as I wear the sling and don’t try any upper-body stuff. That should at least keep the growth hormone levels up a bit. I might also invest in a treadmill and put in some long walks while watching weekend football games. The bicycle wouldn’t be comfortable with only one arm supporting my upper body.

  4. Capri says:

    Gosh, sounds like when my Hubs had to have his quad tendon reattached after a fall. They drill small holes in the knee cap and feed the fiber that they wove throughout the tendon to pull it back into place then the knots to secure them. PT will be your best friend that I know you will muscle through. A brilliant surgeon can only do so much, PT does the rest.

    I would suggest Kratom (a miracle) but TN currently has it as banned 🙁


    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’d never thought about how they re-attach torn tendons before. I had the luxury of not knowing or caring. Ignorance was bliss.

  5. Dana Carpender says:

    Don’t know if they still make it, but there used to be such a thing as Vicoprofen — oxycodone with ibuprofen instead of acetaminophen. Easier on the liver. You might ask.

    Sorry about the tendon. Connective tissue injuries suck.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      They do indeed suck, but at least mine can be fixed. From what the physical therapist told me, that’s not always the case.

    • Nurse Dave says:

      Vicoprofen’s still out there, but it’s a hydrocodone/ibuprofen combo. Percocet’s got a bit more “oomph” with the oxycodone; the name of the oxycodone/ibuprofen combo is Combunox.
      Kinda figured you’d be going into extra innings when you said the magic words “tendon” and “Percocet”. Still, given your dietary regimen the doc’s time estimate might be a tad pessimistic.

  6. Kathy in OK says:

    Sigh……….sometimes life just throws you a curve ball. But you have a lot going for you. Great support at home from a loving wife, 2 daughters who aren’t old enough to be ashamed they have parents (that will come later) and a lap buddy. Never underestimate the healing power of a cat! You’re very healthy and in pretty good shape for a “man of your age”. You have a very healthy attitude in that you can see that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train.

    Two-handed flossing? That’s so old school. Get thee some of those flosser picks. For a few bucks you won’t have to sacrifice your dental hygiene while you’re out of commission.

    Keep us updated. We really do care.

  7. Wow, that doesn’t look like any fun at all. I guess you’re glad it is happening in winter when you wouldn’t be doing too much outside physical activity anyway.

    I have no fear for your abilities, because like all nerds and geeks (that’s a compliment, of course), you’ll figure out how to get done what you need. 🙂 It’s baked into the personality. Hope your recovery is quick and less painful than you anticipate!

  8. Dianne says:

    Tom, I can’t tell you how sorry I am, but at least it’s a problem that can be fixed. Will your doctor even let you try driving one-handed later on, or has “chauffeur to Tom” been added to Chareva’s job description? Well, at least Rascal should be happy — he has a captive lap for the duration. And as Kathy in OK says, “Never underestimate the healing power of a cat.”

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I can drive with one hand when I’m finished with the painkillers.

      Rascal adopted me soon after moving in. He’s always happy to find me sitting in the recliner.

    • chris c says:

      Agreed, the surgeon’s estimate didn’t take Cat Therapy into account, that’ll help.

      I fell in a ditch the other day too, but not so drastically – I went over backwards and landed on a massive pile of vegetation. In fact it was actually quite comfortable, but I ended up with my feet higher than my head, much like lying back in a fully tilted recliner.

      The problem was that to get my feet down to where I could stand up I needed to use my arms. In order to use my arms I had to plunge my hands into a mass of brambles, thistles and nettles. Well I worked it out eventually. only with more than the usual number of pricks in my fingers. Definition of a diabetic – someone who cuts themselves and goes for the glucometer before the Band-aids.

      Your “bambulance” crack in the previous post reminded me of a documentary I watched once. An ambulance with its blues and two’s on was heading back to the hospital with a patient whose heart had just stopped, when a car pulled out of its parking space and the ambulance had no option but to hit it. The impact of the crash restarted the patient’s heart.

      Best of luck, I’m sure the diet will also help reduce the inflammatory response. Maybe a bit more protein will also aid the healing process

      A Rob Wolf, I suspect not THE Robb wolf.

  9. Judy B says:

    Glad you are healing. Hope all continues to progress and that you are back to normal as soon as possible!

  10. Derek F says:

    Hi Tom,
    There are some great nutritionals and herbals that will help accelerate your healing if you’d like. I have a protocol for my pre and post surgical patients I treat for my Orthopedic surgeon friends. Also, you can get turmeric blends to help with the pain, although nothing works as good as Vicodin.

    Let me know if you’d like some recommendations and good luck with your recovery and keep up the great work!!

  11. TJ Huber says:

    Best of lucks Tom! I had the procedure myself, including the bicipital tenodesis. Before the surgery I got myself a steering wheel knob (Amazon, a couple of bucks). It makes one-handing a Bronco a lot easier. Still use it although I’m now completely healed. 71 y.o. retired orthopedist. Back to normal. You are younger than I, you should do great!
    BTW the less pain meds you take, the better long term prognosis. Sometimes, gritting teeth is a good idea.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’m gritting my teeth this morning, in fact. I like the idea of a steering wheel knob. Thanks for the suggestion.

      • Kathy in OK says:

        On gritting your teeth….
        By now you should have an idea of your tolerance and need for the paid meds. It really is wise to stay ahead of the pain. Pain is a source of stress/tension – and that tension can impede healing. I’m not advocating lying in the recliner in a drug-induced stupor, but you don’t need to punish yourself either. Taking a dose even 30 minutes earlier than you hoped could make a huge difference in your comfort level and mental clarity.

        After a workplace injury, my son-in-law spent 4 years on and off of some of the most heavy-duty pain killers available. He was heavily addicted by the time Workers Comp agreed to let the docs amputate his leg. He’s fully a functioning human being now and addicted to nothing. Keep your chin up and don’t suffer needlessly, Mr. Macho Man.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          I’m trying to strike a balance. When it’s a low-level ache, I can ignore it. When the ache becomes strong or starts to throb, I go ahead and take the pill. I have to take a pill before bed for now at least. Otherwise I don’t sleep well. I’m also following the doc’s advice and taking a pill before physical therapy.

  12. Frank Hagan says:

    You can try CBD oil for pain as well, depending on what other meds you are using. There’s a sub Reddit /CBD/ with some info and vetted companies listed. It allowed me to get off of Percocet for my Peripheral Neuropathy. There’s no psycho-active component although it does have trace amounts of THC (important to know if your employer convicts drug tests.

  13. Linda says:

    Hi Tom,

    Here’s hoping your recovery will be speedier than the doc thinks!

    I always hesitate to make recommendations to someone else, but this is one that I will pass along. I actually got the rec. from someone I saw on your blog a few years back. Anyway, back when the statin drugs did their damage and crippled me, I was in terrible pain all the time. Of course, the doc wanted me on a daily pain killer, which I refused. Instead, I ordered Great Lakes Gelatin Hydrolyzed Collagen and it was a miracle worker! Now I take it like it’s my religion. It totally dissolves in hot or cold liquid and is totally tasteless. I take a heaping tablespoon every morning in my coffee. Within a month of taking it daily, I was pain free and have been ever since. When I had surgery last year, I tripled my dose and my recovery was fully three weeks shorter than the doc said.

    About six months after starting the gelatin, my then fifteen year old border collie started yelping when she stood up and whimpering in pain when walking. I got to thinking about it and took Zora totally off dog food and she now eats what I eat- low carb- high fat. In the mornings she gets her gelatin sprinkled over her fried egg. She devours it along with the bacon and doesn’t know the difference. My now 17 year old Zora can chase a bunny across the back “40” like she was 2 years old! The vet told me this year that whatever I was doing- to keep doing it. I’m convinced we would have had to euthanize her if it hadn’t been for the change of diet and daily collagen. I have given this to other friends who now will not be without it.

    This stuff restored my quality of life except for the permanent crippling the statins did. But I can walk with a walker and without pain!!

    The gelatin can be purchased on Amazon or directly from their web site- I use the website and order a box of 6 at the time- slightly cheaper.

    Just a side note- it is protein, so people who want to be strictly ketogenic will have a hard time with it. I personally prefer the occasional fast, low carb-high fat and no pain!

    Get well soon. I’m rooting for you!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      The gelatin is a fine idea. Thanks.

      • Kathy in OK says:

        Great Lakes is some good stuff – you want the green can. I take it every AM in my coffee and have lost the nagging joint pain (knees and hips) that was with me for several years. It’s also beneficial for hair, skin & nails. Don’t get excited though, I don’t think it will regrow your hair.;-)

        And Linda is right that it simply disappears into whatever liquid you use. I’m an Amazon Prime member so I get mine from there. There’s very little difference in price, so shipping could determine your choice.

        Happy Healing!

  14. Dave Jaffe says:

    So sorry that you’re going through a painful post op, Tom. Probably explains why you’re doing so badly in the football pool. Hoping for a full recovery in all aspects of your surgery with the exception of whatever’s making you do so badly in the football pool. Best, dj

    • Tom Naughton says:

      If I remember correctly, we established long ago that getting married guarantees coming in last in that year’s football pool. Perhaps we should add “having a painful surgery” to the list.

      On a positive note, I found that Percocet diminishes the pain of being in last place. So if you ever get divorced and remarried, ask for a prescription as a wedding present.

  15. Bonnie says:

    Some of these posts about tendons & all that are getting me worried! I’ve got an MRI scheduled for next week to see what’s ailing my knee. I’m lucky in one respect – it’s my left knee & I don’t need it to drive. Last week it decided I shouldn’t walk for a few days & that was a problem, but isn’t that what spouses are for? He fed my animals & me. 🙂

  16. Ulfric Douglas says:

    Get well gently Tom!
    I haven’t read your blog lately, but had a week on painkillers for a gum infection last month, so can sympathise completely.
    How come the surgeon discovered a bicep tendon wasn’t attached? Surely that would have been a bit obvious for ages …
    (I found Ibuprofen most effective for my pain …)

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I had some pain in the upper arm after a workout some weeks back that I attributed to whatever was happening in my shoulder. It throbbed now and then. That was pain from the torn bicep. The physical therapist believes the bone spur in my shoulder may have frayed the bicep tendon.

  17. Bob Niland says:

    Not your scenario, I trust:
    Telegraph: Common NHS shoulder surgery no better than placebo at relieving pain

    Probably worthwhile just to fix the tendon.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Yup, the tendon had to be fixed. I saw the size of the spur in my shoulder, which wasn’t just causing pain; it was preventing from raising my arm. It had to go.

      I had an even bigger one taken out years ago. That one was shaped like a spike, and when I raised my arm, it felt like being stabbed. Surgery most definitely reduced that pain more than a placebo ever could.

  18. Debra says:

    Wow! I just read your most recent post about yur recovery (part deux) and then went back to read part 1 because I can totally relate. I got s shoulder replacement on November 28 and am also being held captive in a shoulder sling. 🙂

    I am in Germany, where they are quite conservative about recovery times. My shoulder sling looks about 5 times bigger and clunkier than yours and I have to wear it day and night for the full 6 weeks. I’m only allowed to take it off if I am sitting on the sofa staring into space or the TV. In order to “install” the replacement, they had to separate (read CUT) my biceps and then sew it back together, I guess. It is the only part of the shoulder and arm that hurts.

    So, Gute Besserung (get well soon in German) and hang in there. We will raise both arms again! 😀

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’m raising my good arm to you already. I had to wear the sling day and night for nearly five weeks. I don’t wear it at night anymore, but still put it on during the day if my arm begins to ache. Seems to help. It also reminds me not to lift anything with my left arm.

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