Knee surgery advice for the future me

At nearly nine weeks post-op, this morning when I got up my knee felt the most “normal” it has since my knee replacement surgery.

Even two-plus months out, there’s still some puffiness (swelling) that docs and the PT guy said could last another 2, 3, 4 months. Some stiffness, especially in the morning and if I sit too long. Recently the knee has been making curious popping noises, like when you pop your knuckles. It doesn’t hurt and I’m told it’s not unusual and most likely nothing to worry about.

Yet, there are now moments when I’m walking as if this knee has been mine forever.

There is a softball-size area around my knee that remains numb. I’ve been using Vitamin E oil and a topical pain cream and it’s weird to not be able to feel your own leg. Forget shaving, that scares me. I’d be the one to cut an artery shearing my hirsute shins.

I don’t have a caliper, but I believe I’ve achieved close to a 135° bend, that’s almost back to normal. I still have to make a conscious effort to straighten my leg, especially if I’m standing still (like at kitchen sink). If I’m not paying attention, I’ll put most of my weight on my left leg. Don’t want to wear that joint out before its time.

There are so many things I wished I knew before surgery and what to expect post. If, and this is definitely an IF, I have to do this again in the future with my left knee, I’ll do things differently.

My advice to my future self:

  1. Take full advantage of the CPM machine, use it often and for long periods.
    (I thought one of the physical therapist was joking when she said some of her clients slept in them.)
  2. Do any physical therapy exercises religiously at home.
  3. Push through the exercises and stretches even if it hurts, but know your limits.
  4. Wear compression hose for as long as recommended. (Research shows that there is no advantage to wearing thigh high hose versus knee-high – go with the knee-high, thigh-high is not a good look.)
  5. Use a shower seat until comfortable standing on your own.
  6. Ask for help when you need it.
  7. Take the pain meds! Don’t try to tough it out, the doctor is monitoring how much you’re taking. (In Florida, a doctor cannot prescribe opioids (e.g. Oxycodone) unless a patient has had surgery, and then will only order 30 pills at a time.)
  8. Ice packs are your best friend.
  9. Get rest when possible even if sleeping is difficult.
  10. Don’t forget to eat, and drink plenty of water.
  11. Make a conscious effort to straighten the affected leg, and don’t walk peg-legged – focus on heel, toe, heel, toe. Lift that foot up and don’t drag it.
  12. Don’t freak out by the numbers. If you aren’t tracking as your doctor or physical therapist think you should, they’ll tell you.
  13. No two people recover from surgery the same way or at the same pace. it’s not a competition. So, relax. Stressing over perceived slow progress is not helpful.
  14. It may feel like it’s taking forever to get back to normal, but it does gets better. You just had a part of you cut out and replaced with a foreign object. It’s going to take time to recover from that, it wasn’t like breaking a bone, or having a tooth pulled.

A little side note that has nothing to do with medical expertise, so I can give this advice with impunity –

If your surgeon doesn’t mention it, download forms for a temporary handicap parking permit and ask him to sign it. You will need it, even if it’s only for a few months. (I found the forms I needed on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website.)

I’m not a medical professional, so if you’re having joint replacement surgery, talk with your doctors and physical therapists about any concerns. These are just suggestions that will be useful to me.

3 thoughts on “Knee surgery advice for the future me

  1. I agree with everything you said, especially the therapy part. Therapy is the key to a return to normalcy. I have friends who were not religious about doing the therapy. Years later, they still do not have full range of motion with their knees and the pain lingers. Oh, and yes, I fell asleep almost every time I used the CPM machine. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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