Sunday, December 12, 2010

A little rehab background

"You really have to work to strengthen your leg muscles supporting the knee."  

"Yada Yada Yada", I said back.  

And then I paid the price.  Torn meniscus.... both lateral and medial. " Huh?"  I said?  That means inner knee and outer knee, and when it's bad enough, surgery.   I held off for a year or two until I couldn't take the pain and couldn't walk the dog, and then, I chose a surgeon. At the time of my choice, his Houston Oiler knee doctor credentials impressed me.

Thus began my journey of learning more about my body.   Having ignored the wisdom of those who knew better than me for so long, I was determined to do things right after surgery.  I started rehab immediately after my day surgery to trim away the torn meniscus and other degenerative issues in my knee.  Since my surgeon sent me home with a constant motion machine to use 4-6 hours daily, I went beyond the minimum and strapped my foot in at bedtime too,  adding 10 degrees range of motion every day until my knee bent all the way to my waist and awakened me at 2 am, about the time my narcotics wore off.  I awoke gasping at the sensation that my leg was caught in an animal trap.

In addition to the machine, I also brought home some crutches.  I was a 60 year old crutch virgin, wondering how such a hobbled experience as I was having with my new third and fourth leg could possibly lead to healing.  For three days, wearing the same pajamas, I rolled my coffee cup around on an office chair and tried to figure out the mechanics of walking.   Then I took a Saran wrapped shower and went to meet my PT guy, who taught me to walk on one crutch,  and I regained a hand with opposable thumb.  I was back in the business of carrying my own coffee.

Meeting my PT guy also meant I could dispense with the few terse instructions on rehab my surgeon sent.  I had read  them over and over, unable to make sense of

         Therabands (black silver gold) 20-30 reps no discomfort to anterior infrapatella area

These were the surgeon's instructions to an Oiler trainer, I realized, but I had absolutely no frame of reference for them. Any another time, not on pain pills, I would have searched the web for information that might have cleared things up.  But instead, I just started doing the routine the PT guy gave me, because his instructions came with pictures. By the end of my first week, I was feeling pretty proud of how much I could bend and straighten my knee and walk on that one crutch.  I was practically flying from chair to bathroom to the coffee pot.

Things were looking up until I cruised into my one week checkup on one crutch.  The surgeon was incensed that after all his valiant effort and painstakingly clear explanations that I would listen to a crazy PT man and walk on one crutch, much less stop taking pain pills because I was falling asleep.  “Why do I knock myself out with instructions?” he lamented.  "Take the pain pills, have some coffee," he said, "and do more squats."

Show me your squats," he ordered.  I squatted.  He corrected my technique.

I pulled out my list of questions, such as, what exactly did you find when you looked inside my knee, what did you do, what should I expect down the road?

“I fixed it,” was his answer, and that I should expect to get presents at Christmas.
“No, seriously, I want to know if I can hurt it.”  
“Well, you can get run over by a car.”
“Am I just closer to a knee replacement?”
“I thought I explained all this to you already.”

Surgeons, got to love them.

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