I now operate on two Stryker Triathlon artificial knees, expertly installed by a wonderfully competent orthopedic surgeon. He installed the left one in April 2015, and the right one in June 2016. Artificial knees aren’t for everyone, of course. But for me, they were exactly what I needed.
My recovery from the first knee was uneventful and went quite well. I was thrilled. I observed my recovery would be hampered until I could get my right knee replaced, which my surgeon would have gladly done in late July 2015; however, I didn’t believe I would have been recovered in time to make the annual drive to Hershey, PA. Then my husband developed some troubling health complications, which delayed my planned April 2016 replacement until June. My surgeon warned me that the only thing we knew about the second knee is that it was likely to be different from the first one. It could be better or worse. Generally speaking, it’s been leaps and bounds better, for which I am thankful.
Several things helped me with my recovery. I found the Bonesmart.org site and their forum, which has tremendous support for people with knee and hip replacements or people preparing to have them. Through them, I found Total Knee Replacement and Rehabilitation: The Knee Owner’s Manual. I found both sources immeasurably useful.
From there, I learned physical therapy was not supposed to hurt. It could be mildly uncomfortable, but it’s not supposed to hurt. Fortunately, my surgeon had located a wonderful physical therapy place who subscribed to just that theory — if it hurts don’t do it. While I went to them with mild trepidation last year, I had no qualms this year. Our relationship has been one of collaboration from the beginning. Being more experienced, I was ready for the “What are your goals?” question this year. My therapist devised a program focused entirely on ensuring I meet my goals, which sound simple, but are, in practice, a little more complex. I want to be able to go up and down stairs “normally” and to stand from a seated position in a low seat without pain.
This knee began weeks ahead of expectations this year, which has made focusing on my goals easier. I am able to go up and down stairs normally with the use of a handrail. I still feel it in my knees, but it isn’t excruciating or even painful beyond the 3-4 range, and usually it’s in the 2-3 range. I can tell stairs are going to be just fine in several months.
Last week, we worked on sit to stand from a low seat. Despite experiencing bothersome lower back pain after this, I realized several important things that will help me achieve my goal. The most important thing is after ten years of compensating for my bad knees, my leg muscles have forgotten how to work together to sit on and stand from a low chair. How do I know this? because just last week, I began to feel the muscles try to work together the way they are supposed to to make that motion effortless. I have a way to go before it becomes effortless, but like with the stairs, I can imagine the day when it will be.
Knee replacement recovery is not a speedy process. You need to lay in a huge supply of patience. My newest knee is nine weeks old as of last Tuesday, and it is leaps and bounds ahead of where I can expect it to be, but I have to remind myself of that all the time. I have not needed narcotic medication beyond the second week for either knee. I used acetaminophen, two tablets three times a day (consciously avoiding the max dosage of four times a day) for several months after last year’s replacement. This year, I used an essential oil blend.
I still feel the knee most of the time, although I am pain-free when I am sitting still. The rest of the time, I have a pain level of 1-2 on a scale of 10. I’m confident that will be gone sometime in the next year. My range of motion in both knees is 0-120, which my doctor tells me is the best I can expect. I still have some swelling in the right knee — it is consistently two inches larger in circumference than my left knee. If the left knee is any indicator, I can expect that to disappear at the 11-12 month mark.
I’m able to comfortably walk a mile in the morning. My goal is to walk four days per week, and I’ll gradually be increasing my distance as it is comfortable to do so. I don’t want to walk for longer than an hour a day. So far, it’s taking me around 27-28 minutes to walk the mile. My pace increases to 21 minutes for part of that walk, so I anticipate my time will come down as I build my stamina. Wouldn’t it be grand to be able to walk a 15-minute mile again? That won’t happen in the next few months, but my therapist assures me it’s possible. Maybe in the not-too-distant future I’ll be able to walk the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon? I don’t think I’ll be ready by 2017, but I can hold that on the horizon as a possibility.
Last December, I had a bout of sciatica on my left side. Since then, I’ve experienced numbness in my left foot along the 4th and 5th metatarsal. Earlier this year, my left heel began hurting, but it didn’t hurt in the traditional plantar fascitis way. My primary care physician speculated it may be an Achilles problem. My physical therapist concurred. I have not worn my custom orthotics for over a year because of the new knee. I think either or both of these pains could be related to not having an orthotic. I plan to fix that next month when I’ll be requesting a referral to the podiatrist and be requesting new orthotics for both feet. Now that I have my knees, a new pair of orthotics for my new ergonomics seems to be in order. Maybe that will help my heel pain.