Thumb Joint Replacement Surgery

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likrer
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Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 10/2/2008 1:59 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi, my first time here, need some support.  I had left thumb joint replacement done on July 28th.  I was in a half cast for one week, a hard cast for six weeks.  I've been in a splint for the past 2 1/2 weeks.  I will say I did not have one minute of pain after surgery.  Even called the doctor and asked if he severed a nerve, I didn't feel pain!!! All I felt was relieve from the aching I'd had for over two years.  I had the tendon graff from my forearm kept in place with a pin.  That was the only thing that bothered me.  The pin was taken out after five weeks and then it was smooth sailing as far as that can be with a cast.  Never had one before and it is very confining, even had a panic attack the first night, thought I couldn't breathe!!! Anyway, I've been going to therapy twice a week for almost three weeks now.  I know I'm going to be sore and I'm impatient as the stiffness isn't going away as fast as I'd like it, but my main concern is I'm experiencing that aching feeling I had for the years before surgery.  I have a swollen lumptype spot towards the lower part of my thumb, between my thumb and index finger.  That developed a few months before surgery and I'm very concerned that's it's back again.  I see my doctor in two more weeks but want some piece of mind maybe that what I'm experiencing is normal???  My wrist is very tender and sore and it seems my nerves have been misplaced a little, which I understand is normal and they will sort themselves out.  My main concern is the aching.  I have tried to be good about not lifting or pinching, but know that I've done it subconciously, but nothing that I feel could have hurt this.  I have a top doctor, referred by many, and hopefully it's just my impatience that is getting the best of me.  Sorry for the long post, guess I just needed to vent.  Suppose to have the other hand done, don't know now.  Thanks again for your ear. 

9kidsrus
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Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 10/3/2008 7:04 PM (GMT -7)   

I am a 52 year old female.  I had thumb joint replacement with tendon graft, right hand done in Nov. 2006 (also carpal tunnel repair) and then had my left hand done in June 2008.  My right hand is strong, I have great range of motion with my thumb, but it took almost a year for me to even consider having my left hand done.  I read somewhere that after this particular surgery you will like your surgeon at six months post-op and you will love him at twelve months post-op, and I would have to agree with that.  My therapist really encouraged me to stick with the exercises after the formal therapy was over (I had eighteen sessions after each surgery), but I would have weeks when my thumb and wrist would hurt as much if not more than before surgery.  Hang in there, I really think the healing process is slow, but the end result is excellent!  I feel like I have "normal" hands again, I lift weights, turn keys in locks, open cans with a can-opener, squeeze toothpaste, etc.  I am grateful that I am no longer "grandma gimpy"! 


likrer
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 10/3/2008 8:53 PM (GMT -7)   
Thanks so much for the encouraging words.  That ache came back and all I could think of was all the time and money and I'm right back where I was only with a thumb that is stiff and a sore wrist!!! I do know it will take a long time, but was so hoping that the ache wouldn't come back.  I will say that today it does feel better.  I too am a grandma at 60.  Have ten grandchildren and have always enjoyed being active with them.  I am suppose to have my right hand done next summer, but will just have to see.  Hopefully by then I will glad I had it done the first time.  Went to therapy today and my therapist did say most people at nine weeks post op do feel the way I do, so I do know I'm not alone.  Thanks again for taking the time to reply.  Just knowing others that have gone through help me realize that what I am going through is normal.  God bless.
 

9kidsrus
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 10/4/2008 5:06 AM (GMT -7)   
I felt exactly the same way, lots of money and pain, and still a thumb that wouldn't work well, but like I said the recovery is slow. For me it seemed like one day I realized that it was no longer bothering me, and the stiffness just gradually went away. Since I am just 4 months post-op on my left hand, I am still waiting just like you are! I am needed more surgery on my left thumb and arm. The thumb is hyperextended, the Dr. said the arthritis was so bad that there was no "stability" in any of the joints, so it will need more work done and one of my tendon graft incisions adhered to the tendon sheath below, so it is "stuck" and pulls when I move my hand. (The surgeon said he has never had that happen with this particular surgery, but it will be easy to repair.) And by the way, I've got you beat on grandkids, we have 15! (We have nine children, the oldest is 33, the youngest is 13, and our grandchildren started coming right after our youngest son was born!)

wildangel5
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Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 12
   Posted 10/7/2008 3:32 PM (GMT -7)   
HI. I'm 52 and having the surgery on my right thumb a week from tomorrow. Not sure if I should be reading posts or not because it mostly seems like people with bad experiences post and those with good experiences don't!
I'm supposed to have surgery the 15th, stitches out on thd 27th and the cast for 4 weeks after that. I plan on going back to work (mostly computer work) so I'm trying to be optimistic about recovery and being able to do things. I keep telling myself that it has to be better than the pain now and that uncertainty when I try to pick things up or even hold a glass.
They told me no PT afterward unless I have really poor range of motion. I'm trusting my surgeon will do a good job - he did a tendon release and fixed my golf elbow on this side last year as well as a carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand last year also - all with good results.
Hopefully I will read something encouraging here! I'm so nervous about it as I live alone and don't want to be think I'll be laying here in my own "p**p" most of the time!

likrer
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 10/7/2008 4:07 PM (GMT -7)   

Hi, I am doing better now.  It's nine weeks yesterday since my surgery.  I was one of the blessed ones.  When my arm "woke" about 24 hours after surgery, I experienced no pain whatsoever.  I only felt relief that my thumb didn't hurt anymore.  I was in a half cast one week, a full cast six weeks and now am in a splint for two more weeks, for a total of eleven weeks.  I found that I could do most things even with the cast.  I learned to hold the hairdryer with my fingers instead of my thumb.  And that's what I did for just about everything.  My fingers would get sore from the workouts they were not used to.  I lifed with my forearm.  The hard part was buttoning jeans, bras, and just not being able to get the cast wet, etc.  It's a big inconvenice but I'm hearing that it's well worth it.  I appreciate the posts I've had since I joined.  I've also talked with three people that are a year postop just that I've met in passing and they are all 100% fine and happy and have full range of motion.  I'm impatient and I think that's been a big factor too.I don't know how you'd not have to have pt.  My doctor was adamant about not "pinching" for ten weeks.  The PT has helped me with massages, and just small exercises to do to help strenghten my hand and thumb.  I think that's what's helping me.  Last week was a bad week when I posted for the first time.  The achy pain was back and I was beside myself.  Today I'm much better, still stiff and sore I think just from having it immobile for so long.  I can now reach my thumb to the middle of my pinky finger, something that after my cast came off could only reach to my middle finger.  I wish you the best.  I am suppose to have my other thumb done next summer.  Last week I wouldn't even consider it, this week I'm thinking I will.  It's amazing what just a short time can do.  Each day gets better.  Good luck and God bless. PS I was able to type on the computer with no problem at all, full cast and everything, just didn't use my thumb!!


wildangel5
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 12
   Posted 10/8/2008 3:32 PM (GMT -7)   

Thanks for the encouraging reply!  Mostly all I read is scary bad.

Did you have a nerve block that your arm didn't wake up for so long?  I had a nerve block when I had my elbow done and that was almost worrisome in how long it took to get feeling back.

I don't know why no PT.  They told me only if I couldn't make a fist when the cast comes off.  I don't really like PT but if it helps I don't mind it.  I went many times for my elbow before I finally had the surgery.  I had my big toe joint replaced about 10 years ago and the surgeon is still surprised that its lasted as long and as well as it has.  If I have the same result with the thumb then the pain will be worth it.

I think mainly I'm worried about being alone and not wanting to impose on people to help.  Looking at the yard just now I was thinking I should cancel it as there's still so much to do!

Thanks again - and keep reporting in - you're an encouragement (at least to me!)

 

 


likrer
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 10/9/2008 7:17 AM (GMT -7)   
I did have a nerve block and that was a little scary, kept thinking the what if's...... but it was okay and like I said, no pain whatsoever, but I think I am the exception to that... most people I've talked with do have some discomfort the first couple days.

I could not and still really can't make a fist with my hand yet. But having it in a splint all the time keeps it stiff. My thumb is moving but is still pretty tight so no fist!!

I know it's worrisome having this done and being alone, but after my arm woke up, I was pretty self sufficient. You learn. I wore elastic waist pants for awhile, learned to do my bra in the front with my fingers, then turn it around, held the hairdryer again with my fingers, it takes more time to do things, but they can be done. You will have your fingers to use, just can't put any weight on them, but I did lift even, just with my forearm.

There's always so much to do. And you know something, it will wait!! You sound like me, I can have surgery if my house is all cleaned, if the yard is done, if everything else is in place, but we have to realize we deserve to feel better so that we can do the yard and house and feel better about doing it. It's not going anywhere and you won't be laid up in bed for six weeks, you can move and when your thumb is feeling better after the first week or so, you can get out and do a few things. You'd be surprised what you can do with your other hand when you have to. It's funny you mention you don't want to impose. I didn't either, but people naturally come to your rally. I went to Coscto the week after surgery. Was putting my items on the belt at the checkstand and the cashier told me he'd do!! Then I went to go to my car and another staff member told me to get my car and he'd load the groceries. I was thinking that was nice!!! I've had to learn also that by not allowing others to do for me, I've taken away from them. I'm the doer and I get blessed doing. If we won't allow others in to help once in awhile, we've robbed them of the very thing we want. So........have your surgery, allow your friends and family to help and you will all be blessed.

wildangel5
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 12
   Posted 10/18/2008 11:37 AM (GMT -7)   

Well, I had my surgery this past Wednesday and I have to say that so far I'm doing better and feeling better than I thought I would from what I'd read. 

I took the Loratabs for the first night after the nerve block wore off.  After that I didn't like the way they made me feel so I switched to 600 mg. Advil and that's seemed to do it.  I have an antibiotic for a week to take also.  I was sort of awake for the surgery and heard all the grinding and banging.  Saw the xray they took at the end with the pin in the thumb.

I took a shower the second night after and did mange to use the dryer.  Even buttoned my jeans on yesterday with a little effort.  And front hook bra works great.

I go a week from Monday for the followup and the cast.  My BF just left so now I'm on my own, and that will be a bit harder as he was lifting and opening things - and driving.  That was a bit strange on the way from the airport but do-able.

Finding a position to sleep is rough but the pain level has been no where what I had thought it would be.  Hopefully it will be smooth and we won't get any snow here in the forseeable future for me to worry about!


likrer
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 10/18/2008 12:21 PM (GMT -7)   
So glad you are doing good.  I was praying for you.  You will have a long road ahead, but a positive attitude really helps and it does get better.  I am splint free now, still going to therapy, my thumb is stiff and sore, but I do everything with it.  It does get better each day and I'm told it can take up to six months to get complete range of motion.  I'm not sorry I had it done, still debating about the other one next summer.  My doctor laughed and said that's what everyone says at this point in time of recovery.  Anyway, so glad you are feeling okay, and just remember that you aren't going to have the pain you've had before the surgery, it's just going to take time.  I lived with the pain for almost three years and this I know is temporary so will learn to be patient!  Let me know how you're doing.  I did have problems with the pin, only that the cast would rub wrong on it, but learned to shift the cast a little to get some relief.  That was my only complaint with the cast, except the first one, when they covered my thumb up to much and I got claustrophobic.  Hang in there. 

SusanD616
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 10/23/2008 1:36 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi I am just starting to explore my options for replacement surgery. I have injured my right thumb 3 times and was a medical massage therapist for 14 years. Needless to say I've used my thumbs more than the average bear and my injuries have not helped. I'm pretty much in constant pain now with my right thumb (left handed) and am now losing grip strength and finding it harder to pick up things. A firm hand shake almost brings me to the floor (being a woman I don't get a lot of these). I have a pretty high pain tolerance so far I've used Chriopratic, massage, ice, ibuprofen and gels. Any other suggestions folks have. I haven't talked to my doctor about seeing a specialist but I took a little spill and needed a hand xray and the ER doc said there is quit a bit of degeneration in my thumb now. (no news to me) Thanks for any help

wildangel5
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 12
   Posted 10/23/2008 10:00 AM (GMT -7)   
I can relate to the pain you're having. I first had a tendon release in March or '07 but it didn't help much as the joint was too far gone. I had an arthroplasty surgery last week and am doing great so far. The little I can move the thumb in the splint I can tell that "that" pain is gone. I only had pain the night after the surgery that required anything strong and now its just the splint that's annoying. I saw my xrays on the way out of the OR and I have a pin in the thumb, not the rolled up tendon that some have.

Since you are left handed and its your right hand that would have the surgery you should do great! I'm right handed and its my right thum that was done so I've had to learn to do a lot left handed. And every day I'm proud of myself. I've buttoned jeans, hooked my bra, and (most important to me) done my hair.

Next week the cast and we'll see how I do then. Can't wait to get this splint off right now!

likrer
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 10/23/2008 10:48 AM (GMT -7)   
I too can relate to the pain and aching you are having. I had my surgery the 28th of July. I'm out of casts, splints, but still in therapy. I do have that achy pain now again, but have been assured by the doctor and PT that that is part of the healing. It does get frustrating but the seven weeks I was in my cast, I was 100% pain free and that's what I'm hoping for again. I do still have swelling but I can pinch a lot better than I could and I know I'm getting better, just a very slow process. I too had the pin, but it was holding the tendon in place. The pin was removed after five weeks. You do learn to adapt. The first meltdown I had was doing my hair, called my hairdresser and went right in. She gave me a modified cut that I just needed the hairdryer with no brush. Holding with my fingers, but it at least got me through. It's amazing what we can do because we have to. Although I'm not fully recovered I would recommend the surgery. I have not met one person yet that hasn't gotten full use, pain free results. It just takes time. But how long we were in pain before the surgery. Good luck.

SusanD616
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 10/23/2008 1:02 PM (GMT -7)   
I haven't checked with my Doc yet about getting the surgery or what my options are. I was talking with a friend of mine and she thought they might consider it elective surgery and I would have to pay out of pocket for something like this. What has been your experience? I have been doing a lot of other types of therapies. No injections and don’t want any… I don’t believe they do anything and long term can do more harm than good.
I think down the road I will have to have my left one done but it’s just starting to be painful and not all the time. I think because I’ve had 3 major injuries to my right one that its’ so bad now.
Thanks for your support:}
cool cool

likrer
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 10/23/2008 1:17 PM (GMT -7)   
I had three injections in my thumb. The first one worked and lasted four months. The other two did nothing. I tried acupunture, that did nothing after four visits. I would book one hour massages and just have my thumb massaged, that did nothing. So.........that's when I decided surgery. I think I'm going to be happy I did it by the first of the year. I am happy now, but I do still have the ache. I'm still stiff from being in a cast for seven weeks but that is getting better. I wouldn't think it would be elective if the joint is worn down. I was bone on bone due I guess to arthritis, the bone was actually chipping away. So it was not elective for me, it was needed to have some relief. Keep me updated.

wildangel5
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 12
   Posted 10/23/2008 1:24 PM (GMT -7)   

My insurance has covered everything - the tendon release last year and this.  I can't see how they could consider this elective.  I was thinking this morning that I'm glad I live in a time when they are able to do this and I don't have to live with it.

The pin that I have stays in the joint.  The round head of it replaces the cartilage that was ground out.  I had my big toe done about 11 years ago the same and although they don't do them that way any more mine has held up pain free.  Can't balance doing yoga but hey!

What I'm having in the thumb right now is a stinging sort of nerve tingling thing.  I can tell by sticking my finger down the bandage is that there is numbness up the side to about the joint before the fingernail.  Now and then I get a "stinger" but no pain.  And don't tell my doctor but I mowed the lawn today. nono   If it would have hurt I wouldn't have but I didn't feel a thing.  I have my mother's genes and I can't sit still when something needs to be done.

Go to the specialist and see what he says.  Can't hurt!


wildangel5
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Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 12
   Posted 10/27/2008 9:39 AM (GMT -7)   

Just came from the doctor and he said my wound is good and the x-rays look good so I can skip the cast and go right to the splint.  I'm excited just to be able to take a shower without that darn plastic thing they sold me!

I didn't move it until he came in but he told me to and then moved it around and shook my hand and it felt so much better than before - I still have the bad left one to compare it to.

Bad part is back to work tomorrow!


stkitt
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Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 10/27/2008 2:49 PM (GMT -7)   

Dear Friends,

I was scheduled for this surgery 2 years ago come January 2009. I also have anxiety and panic.  I came down with pneumonia a couple of days before surgery and now something is always happening that I have not gotten back to surgeon.

My oldest sister died last Thanksgiving, I developed skin cancer in the spring, my husband had prostate cancer in August and now my only sister is at the U of MN with ovarian cancer.

What I have read scares me as the post op time is very long and I am needed to help care for my sister. She is the only sibling I have left and she is 500 miles from her home so I am here and available.

I sit here in tears as I can't pick up things, write my name any more and I have a hand tremor too.  I know stop  the pity party. cry

I am down to bone on bone on that joint and my hand surgeon plans the same surgery.  Yup it is my right hand and I am 100% right handed.

I am glad I read your stories.  Thank you so much for sharing.

Gentle Hugs
Kitt
 

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wildangel5
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 12
   Posted 10/27/2008 5:45 PM (GMT -7)   

Believe me I can relate to having to put the surgery off.  I was a caretaker for my Mother (who passed away in Oct. 2007) and then my oldest dog, who had many ailments, the primary one being diabetes and I couldn't give insulin without my right hand.  He passed away in March of this year.  And then  I had a foot surgery in May and since I live alone I had to plan this between busy times at work and things around the house - and I'm just hoping for not a lot snow till after Christmas!

And I had a great deal of anxiety about doing it too.  I had read of many bad results, but then I got to thinking that a lot of the time you only hear from people who have bad results.

Anyway, my surgery will be 2 weeks ago this Wednesday and so far no regrets.  I did much better with my left hand than I ever thought I would - every little thing was an accomplishment.  And though I know there's a lot more soreness yet to go I can already tell its better where it used to hurt.

I couldn't write any more either (still can't with the splint on!) And I wondered if I was going to be able to hold on to anything I tried to pick up.

Good luck to you and hopefully you'll be able to take of "you" soon too.


BettieBee
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 11/2/2008 7:53 PM (GMT -7)   
What experience has everyone had with swelling? I'm 8 weeks out (2 weeks out of cast) and have a lot of swelling in my hand. It was so bad in the cast that it looked like an alien hand! I've tried all of the techniques but the swelling is persistent. Especially bad after I exercise, even though I keep my hand elevated during my workout. Has anyone else had this trouble?

wildangel5
New Member


Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 12
   Posted 11/3/2008 3:22 AM (GMT -7)   
I personally only had swelling that I could see while I had the initial bandage on. And it was gone by the time I went to have the stitches out this week. Now that I have the splint on I can tell there is swelling in the thumb but to look at my hand there is none.

What does you doctor say about that? It does sound unusual to me but everybody is different when it comes to healing.

BettieBee
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 11/3/2008 6:46 AM (GMT -7)   
Thanks for your input! Unfortunately, although he is a fine surgeon, my doctor spends only about a minute with each patient and then moves on. He said maybe I was being too active (30 minute walk per day plus light, one-handed housework). My occupational therapist said it was a bit unusual, but not to worry too much yet. If it doesn't improve, I may seek an opinion from another doctor.

momweb883
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 11/3/2008 7:00 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi everyone
I read with interests the posts tonight. I just went to the doctors today and had a cortisone injection in my thumb. He said I was at stage 2 arthritis treatment. I've done the exercises and the OTC medications. The pain especially at night was getting so bad I needed to do something. So, I went to explore my options. He said try the cortisone and with any luck, I'll feel better in a few days which hopefully will last for at least a couple of months. I work daily teaching computers so both my thumbs get a workout. I'm not sure how much longer I can deal with the pain. Then again, I'm not sure I'm ready for casting for 6 weeks either. I appreciate all your honesty and plan to keep reading your thoughts as I make my decision in the next couple of months as to whether joint replacement surgery is right for me.

BettieBee
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 11/3/2008 7:38 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi! I had to take my time in making my decision, also...it got to the point where the pain was so bad that I had trouble with my every day tasks, and I cowered in fear whenever I had to shake hands with anyone! I had my surgery on my right thumb, along with a ring-finger tendon-release, on Sept. 8. I've had 2 weeks of rehab so far, and things are going well but slowly. I obtained a prescription today for a cox-2 anti-inflammatory and that has already reduced my swelling dramatically. If you do the surgery, I recommend preparing and freezing as many meals as you can beforehand, as cooking can be a challenge. Bra-hooking and hair-styling can also be "fun"...but you'll become adept and innovative in your everyday activities. The surgical pain is minimal compared to the arthritis that came before!

momweb883
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 11/3/2008 7:46 PM (GMT -7)   
I remember when I had carpal tunnel surgery. I did one hand in Feb and the other in April. Now, I realize there's a major difference in time and recovery and depth of surgery. I had a perm so I could just comb and go (my hair is critical) and made meals ahead of time as well. My husband was good but not helpful on things I needed, like getting dressed. Clothing then was simple as could be. I suppose it will be that way again. Man, I hate getting older!
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