All of us that have undergone a total Knee replacement has a story to tell either about the years of chronic pain we lived with or the physical rehabilitation commitment it took to have a successful recovery.
Generally what I find having talked to many clients and patient over the years is that its a combination of both, to be honest.
I had my first total Knee Replacement surgery in September of 1999. I was working in a hospital in Tampa, Florida on the orthopedic wing and got to know through working with multiple patients in their acute care recovery, who the orthopedic surgeons were and, who was having some of the better outcomes.
Now of course with such a short time in the hospital and the fact the surgery was so acute, you do not get the full picture on how successful the surgery was ultimately, but I had learned not long out of school that the person who is responsible ultimately for a successful outcome is yourself!
I had originally been in a motorcycle accident many years prior and suffered multiple fractures of my femur or thighbone as its known in laymen’s terms. It left me bedbound for the better part of seven months at that time back in 1973.
Orthopedic medicine was somewhat different back then and the time it took to recover is not as slow today in 2018.
After the bone healed though and leading up to adulthood my knee on the affected side began to wear prematurely to do misalignment of the bone in conjunction with the knee joint. There was not a noticeable deformity but just enough to cause the wearing out of the knee cartilage in the medial compartment which generally is the culprit anyway due to the configuration of the femoral condyles to start with.
Fast forward, 26 years later, it was time to get my knee replaced at 44 years old due to the chronic pain that is caused by having a joint that is bone on bone which happens when the cartilage is worn down to nothing.
After having the surgery and in 1999, and having a three day stay in the hospital, I was sent home. Now the fact that I work in the field of physical therapy I was able to do the physical rehabilitation myself.
Some of the valuable lessons I learned after having gone through the surgery that I share with my patients today are this:
- Don’t delay having the surgery done if you have been told that it needs to be done. You can get another opinion of course but when the pain is bad enough and consistent on a daily basis, I learned I only needed to hear that once.
- Exercise your body and affected leg right up until the day of surgery. Of course, you will have to make modifications in your exercise program due to the limitation of severe pain but keep your leg or legs as strong as possible and stretch them daily. It pays great dividends when it comes to your physical rehabilitation.
- Your knee will be temperamental, now patients will look at me strangely when I say that, in other, words you can easily overdo things when it comes to exercise and walking after surgery. It does not feel too bad at all while you are doing these but later that day and the next day you learn you overdid things when you experience the chronic pain and swelling that goes with increased activity.
- Stay on top of your pain medication as prescribed, I did that myself and it worked out wonderfully in regards to not letting my pain get out of control. Today people have been scared to death about overdoses and addiction, don’t worry about that, if you stay in pain you are only harming yourself and your recovery. Use the medication!
- I also drank plenty fresh water to help cleanse my body of the anesthesia and the pain medications that were building up in my body, it helped me feel much better and it worked wonders in helping me stay away from being constipated throughout my recovery and assisted with the wound healing process.
- Your knee is stronger than you think it is. I learned that with the physical rehabilitation that I was doing and it was aggressive, to say the least, I knew I was not going to hurt the prosthesis or damage the knee components itself, but I sure made the surrounding muscles and soft tissue awful sore from pounding it on a day to day basis. From time to time, I learned I could take a day off from rehabilitation when I needed it if my knee was chronically sore or inflamed and it was usually both, and it felt much better and I came back stronger the following day and it did not put me behind schedule. I used the ice as needed as well to help with pain control and edema.
- I knew to place a special emphasis on getting the range of motion back in my knee as soon as possible through multiple means and that included stretching of course. I found two pieces of equipment helped me tremendously in getting my knee to increase in flexion and that was the seated leg extension machine and the stationary bike. I worked on my hamstrings as well on a mat to help with extension.
After my own physical rehabilitation stint that I performed at a local gym in town, I found I was ready to go back to work in six weeks however my employer had me stay home an additional two weeks for eight weeks total and it was well worth it as I had a job in the hospital where I was on my feet constantly and helping transfer patients from the bed to a chair as well. In other words, I was involved in many transfers each day with patients. I just knew not to pivot on my feet which is taught anyway to protect your low back as well.
After having gone through this experience myself it has helped me tremendously to be able to converse with my patients and understand the trials and tribulations of a having undergone a total knee replacement surgery and, what they are experiencing and what they may have questions about.
That is also why I developed Total Joint Fitness LLC to assist people from all over the world regarding their questions and giving them ideas to help in their recovery or extended fitness routines after their skilled PT services have ended.
Your questions or comments would be welcomed as well regarding the total knee replacement experience and what you can do to prepare more thoroughly both mentally and physically or, what you can do after your surgery to have the most successful outcome for many years to come.
Many of you that went through a total knee replacement have learned what worked for you and what did not as well along with the things you wished you had done or didn’t do prior to or after the surgery.
After you have the surgery you can expect many years of a pain-free life again and live the quality of life you expect If you put in the work and the commitment with your physical rehabilitation.
Richard Haynes PTA, CPT
Total Joint Fitness LLC
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