Knees Part 5 - The Conclusion
This is the "exciting" conclusion to my recovery from bi-lateral knee replacements. The next step?? Taking millions of steps across the eastern part of the United States.
This week was consumed with getting ready to hike the AT (Appalachian Trail). There is a whole lot to prepare for. Food re-supplies, family visits, gear, gear replacements, and weather to name a few. I also have to prepare my body the best I can. I am still recovering from surgery. My knees are still swollen and stiff. I have lost a lot of conditioning and strength that I am used to having. It’s very hard for me to think that I will be able to hike up and down mountains daily for 5-6 months. So far I have walked 1.2 miles at one time around my neighborhood. But, I WILL OVERCOME!!!
I have been doing one long therapy session a day (about 90 minutes) since I was released from physical therapy about 5 weeks ago. At the end of the day, I felt very limited in mobility and swollen. So I tried spitting up my workouts into 30 minutes segments (3 to 4 per day). It seems to be less stressful on the new knees.
In addition, I alternate between ice, elevation, and compression for 20 minutes throughout the day. This really is a full-time job if you do it right. And if you really want to do it right, give yourself some astronomical goal to achieve. See above.
Some good news is that I am now down to one painkiller per day at the end of the day. It feels really good not to be dependent on those strong drugs for my comfort.
RULE #9 – SET A SMART GOAL TO HELP KEEP YOU MOTIVATED AND MOVING FORWARD.
This week started off with me going to my 8-week post-op with my surgeon. I had a list of questions and he actually took the time to answer them all. Remember, I am only 48 years old, which is ancient in the CrossFit world but young in the joint replacement world. So, my doctor is concerned with helping me make the joints last as long as possible. I will be able to run but it's something he does want me to do on a regular basis. And heavy weightlifting will be a thing of the past.
There were 2 things I wish I would someone would have told me before I embarked on this journey. These are not deal breakers but if you are considering joint replacement, you will want to know these things. Number one is that my knees feel “weird”. They are numb feeling and when someone touches them or I kneel on them, they just feel like they have been injected with Novocain. Nothing I have read or heard has been able to tell me whether this will completely go away.
Number two is after 8-12 weeks of being on a narcotic painkiller like oxycodone, a person will develop an addiction to that drug. Maybe a small one, but nonetheless, it is an addiction. I came off my painkillers this week because I really felt no more pain. My knees are still tight and stiff but again no pain. When I came off the oxy I had trouble getting comfortable to sleep and felt anxiety and nervousness in the evenings. This has improved throughout the week but is still there 5 days later.
On the positive end of things, I am walking pain-free and I have been released from physical therapy. I worked really hard to get to this point but still have so far to go. I am back to the gym to strengthen not just recover, but to prepare for my hike on the Appalachian Trail!
RULE #10 – FOLLOW ALL THE OTHER RULES!!
Week 9 was a pretty uneventful week. The lack of progress can be a little depressing. I have been taking pictures of my knees to see the progress of swelling and returning muscle. Well, after almost 3 weeks from the pictures I could see no progress whatsoever. This would be the equivalent of eating as clean and strict as possible for 3 weeks and seeing no difference in the scale or mirror. It sucked. I work my ass off with icings, elevation and stretching, and exercise. I have added compression and tens unit sessions to combat the problem. Time is probably the only thing that will help.
I began my actual training for the trail this week in the gym and on the road. I was very sore but this is a welcome and familiar feeling to me.
I would have to say that this week has been the most mentally and emotionally tough week for me yet. I bet my wife is tired of hearing about all of this and my best friend has been MIA with his own issues. The sun will come out tomorrow.
This was a much better week for me. I was able to get my swelling down by being consistent with icing, elevating, compression, and tens unit therapy multiple times per day. My knees have to be a major focus in my life right now. Kind of like when you have a baby. When you bring them home, they consume all of your time and energy. As time goes on they become more and more independent. I hope I don’t have to go thru knee puberty or put them thru college.
I was able to hike 1hr 40min with absolutely no knee pain. This was amazing and one of the strangest things to experience. My knees have hurt for so long, I didn’t know what it felt like to have no pain.