Monthly Archives: April 2013

Two and a half weeks in…

One of the things that I told my physical therapist a few days after my surgery and mentioned to a different therapist today, is that I’m starting from zero. And that it’s actually not a bad place to be.

When I was in physical therapy last September, one thing I learned was that a lot of my problems with my knees actually come from weaknesses in my hips. Because those muscles are weak, I compensate by putting more stress on my knees. So this experience is also about learning how to strengthen those muscles and correct my walking habits in order to reduce the problems with my knees. Which is another aspect of starting from zero. By being off my legs for a while, I can relearn a lot of things. I’m already retraining myself to do simple things like walking or going up steps so it’s a good time to correct problems.

Last week, I wrote that things were going relatively well and that even the pain seemed to have a purpose. Two days later I would have written a completely different entry. I decided shortly after putting aside the crutches that I would also stop taking my prescription painkillers, thinking that I was progressing well so I didn’t need them.

I have a list of issues with taking medications like that, most of them are really just me being stubborn about things. But I just don’t like taking any medicine, let along strong narcotic painkillers. Plus I don’t like that they usually lose their effectiveness over time. I want them to work when I desperately need them, so I don’t want to take them when I could survive without.

The mistake though, was that last Monday was not a time where I could survive without, and I didn’t figure that out until Wednesday morning. I ended up in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep, and I had trouble sleeping since the surgery so when I got to Wednesday morning I was so exhausted and in so much pain that I started to wonder if I would ever feel normal and walk properly again. I’ve had insomnia for most of my life, and while I might not like it, I’m used to surviving with constant fatigue and lack of sleep. But the exhaustion reached a point that I hadn’t felt in a very long time, and I just wasn’t equipped to handle it.

It seems like this isn’t a rare moment for somebody to go through after a surgery like this. I told my physical therapist about it and she said that sleep is vital to my recovery, but that I also need to make sure not to push myself too hard and to take the time to do this right instead of trying to be super human.

I took her advice, I started taking the painkillers again but only for a couple more days. I did my exercises as prescribed, even when they hurt, but I paid attention to my pain and didn’t work harder than I could stand. And it paid off faster than I would have expected. I thought that I was taking a slow and steady path, but it turns out it wasn’t that slow.

My physical therapy has steadily increased in intensity. I’m driving my own car again and while it’s not easy to push in the clutch it’s doable. I can go up and down stairs like a normal person instead of one at a time, but they’re still not easy and I think the six or so in front of my house is still my limit there. But I’m not really limping, and my range of motion is nearly what it was before. I’d say I’m already back at about 75% of where I was before the surgery.

Now, “where I was” doesn’t mean that I was in a great place. I feel like I’m actually still at zero, but I’m so very close to actually making progress rather than standing still.

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Hobbling around

So it’s been a week since my arthroscopic knee surgery. The bruises are fading, and the swelling has thankfully gone down a lot already.

The surgery itself was mostly uneventful. The only problem was that after I woke up I couldn’t sleep, because I usually sleep on my side and I couldn’t. So it took more than 24 hours after I woke up from anesthesia for me to actually get any more sleep. I had my first physical therapy appointment about 48 hours after the surgery, and they took off the bandage so I got my first good look at everything. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t too bad either.

Part of the issue before my appointment was that my crutches were all wrong, so they were almost impossible to walk with, which led to me mostly staying in one place. They were set really low, and I was hunching over to try to walk. I tried to fix them myself but it wasn’t much better until the PT fixed it.

Of course the first thing he did was tell me “okay, we’re going to put your leg flat on the bench.” I was absolutely convinced that I could not do it, that my knee would never actually manage that until it wasn’t as swollen. But about ten minutes later it was actually where it was supposed to be.

The part that disturbed me the most was that he asked me to tighten my quad muscle and it didn’t respond at all. I have this weird thing about when my body either does things I don’t tell it (shivering, reflex tests) or when it doesn’t do what I tell it (like in this case). So I was a little freaked out, but he said that it’s actually common after this kind of surgery and swelling. So they hooked up an electrical stimulation unit and I sat there with that on for ten minutes. I can’t say I liked it, but I didn’t dislike it either. It just kind of was.

Then I had to do a few exercises and they put my leg in a machine that pumped ice cold water through it, and it had pressure too. So that was kind of nice. The therapist definitely is not going to be the kind of coddle me or let me get away with anything, he’s going to push, which is what I need.

I’ve been keeping up with my exercises, mostly. Some days I don’t do as many sessions as I’m supposed to (by like, one set, not by a lot) but I at least get it done. My friends also don’t let me get away with much, so I actually ended up going out and walking around (on crutches) for three days in a row. I may have overdone it a bit because yesterday I’d decided to stop taking my pain medication because I thought it might be too much, and I ended up with a fever and nausea.

But the big thing is that today I decided to not use my crutches at all unless things got really bad. And I did it, no crutches at all since yesterday. On top of that, I actually started walking more or less like a normal person instead of shuffling and hopping around. It hurts to do it, but it hurts in a way that I think is probably good, rather than in a way that means I’m messing up my progress.

I can tell one of my big problems will be my calf muscles, because my exercises are designed to help work my calf and the on my left leg that muscle has ALWAYS been too tight and a big problem, so working it like this is making it hurt. But again, maybe it’s in a good way.

Tomorrow I go back to physical therapy again, and keep that up for about a month it looks like, before they re-evaluate and decide if I need more. Plus this week I go to the doctor for the general follow-up and maybe somebody will finally tell me what they actually did while they were poking around in there, since so far nobody has actually said what happened specifically.

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