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Two friends have had knee replacement surgery in the past month. One is a single woman (Type O) whose surgery was in Texas and whose rehab was at a live-in nursing facility. The other was a married man (Type A) whose surgery was in England and whose rehab was at home. Both of them agree that rehab from knee surgery is excruciatingly painful.
Both of their doctors were very honest before the surgery. They said rehab would be pain worse than childbirth. Pain that would daily bring them to tears. Both of my friends thought that the doctors were exaggerating to make sure that they took their therapy and exercises seriously. Wrong; the doctor was painting an accurate picture.
The man described his experience using words like “torture” and “the rack”. The woman said, “More than once I was reduced to quivering and blubbering.” I’m not sure either of them would have had the surgery if they had known how horrible the recovery would be. I will follow up in a year, after they have had a chance to use their new knees, and see how they feel about it then.
But for now, they had two bits of advice for me, which are worth passing on to you.
First – keep your leg muscles strong now. If you don’t have knee problems, be thankful and build up the muscles in your legs so that your knee joint is supported. If you are overweight, all those extra pounds are adding stress to your knees. Think preventive. Be proactive.
If you have knee pain now (as I do) obey your physical therapist. Exercise those quads. Stay active and flexible. A lot of knee surgery can be avoided. When you strengthen your leg muscles, you take pressure off of the joint and give it a chance to heal. My husband had a tear in his meniscus. Physical therapy for several months and continuing to do his exercises has him 100% pain free without surgery. My patella femoral pain is more difficult to treat, but I have improved so much. The minor twinges I still get are a warning to keep up the exercises. Women my age have trouble building muscle because of hormone changes. I really have to work at it.
Second – If your knee pain is debilitating, and you are headed for knee replacement surgery, my friends recommend 3 months of work with a physical therapist or a personal trainer before the surgery. They say that the stronger your muscles and the more flexible your ligaments before surgery, the better off you will be in rehab.
Walking, biking, lunges and squats were all recommended for leg strengthening without stressing knees.
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