A little, and then a little more

Back in May, I had what ended up being a major hand surgery — repairing a torn tendon and in the process reconstructing the end of my pinkie by grafting tendons borrowed from my ring finger.  As a result, I am now recovering from two injuries — the pinkie itself and the ring finger that was the donor.

What I have learned is that most surgeons under-sell the recovery process.  Surgery is invasive and often causes as many problems than it solves.  In my case, the scar tissue from the surgery is a huge barrier to recovery — it is currently stopping my tendons from “gliding” correctly, which is what lets you actuate your fingers in both directions.

So I have been going to occupational therapy for the last few weeks to work towards regaining motion in my hand.  It’s really 8 distinct projects to regain fluidity on both tendons on each of 4 knuckles (3 in my pinkie and one in the ring finger).

The progress has been slow – each session I find out how many degrees of motion I have gained (or lost) in each knuckle, in each direction.  It is frustrating, because especially in the area of the major reconstruction, it is hard to feel any motion or progress.

But I realized today that even in the worst spot there is at least a wiggle.  And working that wiggle — even a tiny bit — gets you a little farther along, and enables a little more.  So I have to believe that progress is possible and work the wiggle so that tomorrow I can work it a little more.  

Like with a lot of things, it is hard to accept that progress happens slowly and incrementally, rather than quickly and fully.    But I am trying to remind myself, that like with everything, we are working with compound interest and that the goal is to get a little better every day, and then build on that.  Easier said than done, of course, but important to remember that that’s how things usually work.


  • jason wright

    how did you tear the tendon?

  • JLM

    Been there twice – right pinkie, rotator cuff.

    Do the work as hard as you can. You WILL prevail.

    Heat and coconut oil in your coffee.

    Good luck. You will regain 100%, if you do the work.


  • Twain Twain

    Sorry to hear about your painful post-surgery experiences! For tendons, the Chinese go for beef shank and oxtail stews with lots of ginger.

    As an external topological lotion for all sorts of fractures and sprains, we use this:


  • awaldstein

    I feel for you.

    Couple of suggestions:

    -all physical therapists are not equal.
    Get the best.

    -cryotherapy is a huge healing element for the right part of the body.
    Works wonders for me.

    -PRP as well as appropriate.

    -CBD/THC pain ointment
    1:80 Astounding.

    Get better.
    Don’t leave healing to chance.

  • I had a somewhat similar experience a few years ago, and still remember the first morning I woke up and was able to make a fist — it had been months. Godspeed, Nick.

  • LE

    Injuries can sometimes be fortuitous if they either lead to the prevention of a future injury or create a new opportunity for you.

    For example when I was in high school this ‘twerp’ [1] broke my hand in a karate sparring match. This was at the height of the David Carradine Kung Fu era and everybody was taking the martial arts. Anyway after my hand broke (and I no longer went to Karate class religiously) my school work improved greatly and I was able to concentrate more fully on that. Which was great for me and led to bigger and better things academically. I also remember ‘Josh’ saying in class when the sensei asked ‘what do you do with a pulled muscle’ and at the time (he might have been 12 or 13 don’t remember) said ‘you have to need it’ (what I heard but what he meant was ‘knead it’)

    Here is the ‘twerp’ he is all grown up:

    [1] https://www.kpf.com/about/people/principals/josh-chaiken

  • LE

    When I was a kid I had an issue with my hand and all of the suburban doctors (well at least one) wanted to operate. My mom took me to a surgeon where we waited for what seemed like three hours until he walked into the room with his entourage of med students and residents in tow. He then did an exam and stated ‘we will try to fashion you a (can’t remember the name) first’. I was then taken into a room with woodworking equipment (among other items) and I was made a special brace. It solved the problem and I never needed the surgery.

    This doctor: