Knee Replacements And The Mental Game (Part 3)
After decades of knee pain and injury I had both knees replaced at the age of 47. This is my journey of being torn apart, pulling things back together, and discovering who I am and what I was made to do. Check out my earlier blogs for the rest of the story.
During week two I saw major improvements. I was able to go on a family walk (with the walker) for a whopping 400 meters. Hey, it’s a start. I have also moved away from a walker to a cane and now walking around the house with no assistance.
I have gone up to 11 hours with no pain medication and had my staples removed (61 to be exact). There are still 2 more layers of stitches holding me together.
I bumped my physical therapy up to about an hour each day. I am completing 10 reps of each exercise given to me and it is wearing me out. By the way, I had only two home therapy sessions because we are considered self-pay. But that is a whole other story. This week I started squatting (half-squats/ 45 degrees) and I am able to bend both knees past 100 degrees. Whooooo!
I am still dealing with a few issues. I have trouble sleeping through the night. I get woke by the pain during the night. My knees are numb and do not feel like my own. And I am often very bored and fighting hard not to become a couch potato.
It’s hard to be so mobile and active and then feel like you are starting all over again. Even though I spent my life in pain and was restricted somewhat by my old knees, I was still able to perform in CrossFit, Backpacking, and other high-level physical activities.
I have to keep in mind that in the long run, my quality of life and what I can do WITHOUT PAIN will be worth the short-term setback.
RULE #4 – KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE & FINISH STRONG!
Week 3 was a busy week for me. I must say that no matter how much progress you make, you will continue to battle the negative thoughts. Remember, most people would have considered me extremely active before knee replacements. I still can’t do the things I was doing before surgery. There is always pressure and tightness in both knees. And the fact that I am not working out, I feel my body getting smaller and flabbier. This is unacceptable.
On the positive side of things, I was able to start driving again. I even drove myself to the gym and did an upper body workout/ therapy session. I was nervous to get back to working out but glad I did.
I have cut down my pain meds from 6 times per day to 4 times per day and was allowed to ditch the Breathinator (used to keep infection and blood clots out of my lungs.)
I was also able to do therapy every day this week and made my way down to the low toilet in our house. No more toilet chair!! I increased my reps to 12 for each exercise and felt a bit stronger. Both of my knees have now bent to 112 degrees, although I do deal with more throbbing pain in my left knee. It’s even doing it right now.
My daughters had a parent/child dance (a politically correct daddy/daughter dance) this week as well. As I was leaving the house I passed a mirror. I saw an “OLD MAN” looking back at me. With my gray hair, big salt and pepper beard, cane, glasses, slow shuffle, and shrinking frame, I was a bit depressed. I made it to the dance but really wished I could have been a better, more fun dad to my girls.
I decided to immediately fix what I could. I cut my hair to a buzz cut and trimmed my beard to match. I took off the specs and put my contacts back in. I got back on the nutrition tracking bandwagon. I vowed to continue to work to rehab my legs and build my upper body back up.
RULE #5 – FOCUS ON YOUR VICTORIES AND USE THEM TO FUEL YOU FORWARD.
Week 4 was a mentally tough week for me. Even though I see constant improvement, my limitations, aggravating pain and the feeling they replaced my knees with two softballs got to me and I battled being discouraged and depressed.
On the flip side of things, I was able to drop my pain meds 3 times per day. My left knee is the problem child. It will throb like a headache or toothache. I was assured this was normal. Once this pain goes away I think I could get away with using pain meds just to sleep well at night.
I made it back to the gym 2 days this week and was actually able to break a sweat and make my upper body muscles sore. Believe it or not, this was a familiar and good feeling for me. I increased my reps to 15 for all my therapy exercises. I was also able to squat to parallel (hamstrings parallel to the floor). I videoed this and showed it off to all my friends!
Medically speaking, I’m done with taking my blood thinners, got to take off the lovely hospital compression stockings, all my steri-strips fell off and I was able to start to massage my scar tissue. By the way, scar tissue massage is rather uncomfortable but I was assured that was normal too.
This whole process was way more mental and emotional than I anticipated. But in the end I will be better and stronger from going through it. Stay tuned for Part 4.