Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life after knee replacement

Some people say I am one of the lucky ones.  I have spent the better part of almost 2 years struggling with arthritis.  I've dealt with minor flareups over the years and after rest and ice, everything would feel better.  In July of 2010 however, I was on a plane going to Washington DC and experienced a bad landing.  It caused my back to go out and I spent the few days at the conference in quite a bit of pain. That flare lasted several months, getting better for a few days only to come back again. People told me it was stress ~ and I am sure that made it worse ~ but I knew this was different from my typical tension backache that usually came on after a period of stressful events. It affected my work and my health in general.

My back continued to give me problems for months until I finally went to the doctor who took several X-rays.  They showed that I had spondylolisthesis, an arthritis that causes the vertebrae in the spine to shift due to cartilage breakdown.  In my case I had significant degeneration of my spine. I was told to go to bed, take a strong anti-inflammatory, rest, decrease my stress, lose weight, and ice my back. That was in December 2010.

There are over 100 different forms of arthritis. The disease causes inflammation in the joints throughout the body; the wearing away of cartilage in the joints is what causes the pain and creates conditions that make the joints swell. In February, 2011, after gaining 10 pounds from doing nothing, I was finally given the ok to begin physical therapy. While doing the exercises with the physical therapist, I felt my knee pop.  It turns out, I tore the meniscus and the best course of treatment for that I was told, was arthroscopic surgery (AS) to repair the damage, and while they were in there they would also scrape the worn cartilage that had not caused any pain thus far, but was certain to after awhile. It appeared that my body had become overwhelmed by arthritis, and having worked under stressful conditions, and gaining weight over the years, my body was finally telling me that enough was enough.

After surgery, again I was sentenced to encouraged to participate in physical therapy. Now remember, my last experience didn't go so well.  Also, exercise has never been my thing.  I would walk with my husband but nothing strenuous so for me, learning that the best way to live with arthritis was to lose weight and begin a daily exercise routine was like being told you need to eat liver and onions every day. Up to this point, the only consistent aerobic exercise I endured was my heart rate increasing at the sight of anything chocolate and running to eat it. 

After AS, my knee didn't improve.  I was doing physical therapy off and on, icing and resting, and still taking twice daily doses of an anti-inflammatory medication that by this time was causing side effects. My back miraculously improved a great deal during this time so the original problem, was now under control. Perhaps that was because 2 weeks after surgery, I lost my job.

My knee however, was still inflamed and in a tremendous amount of pain 3 months after surgery. I had spent the spring and early summer letting the meniscus heal but the arthritis was still there.  By this time, I had very little cartilage left so it was like bone rubbing on bone. While I was lazing around recovering, my husband was still going strong on his fitness plan and even participated in several 5K's - one being in Green Bay and he even got to walk around Lambeau Field and through the tunnel that the Packer players run through. While I limped along the sidelines in pain and watched. That was when I decided something else needed to be done.

My orthopedic surgeon had suggested knee replacement at the beginning of all this, but some people do not do well after replacement so I was afraid to go that route. Especially when I had really only started having problems with my knee.  We decided to do a series of 5 supartz injections instead.  It hurt like hell, the effects only lasted a day or two, and when it was all done, there was no improvement.  The inflammation in my knee was worse than when I originally hurt it because of the arthritis that was never going to go away. We scheduled my knee replacement 2 weeks after my final injection and at the end of December, I joined the ranks of those who now sport a fake knee.

And I am so very happy I did it. Now, I walk with NO pain.  I am almost to the 5 month post replacement point and while it still gets stiff, I am told that is normal for the first 6 months to a year. My back has improved because I can walk right again and do the exercises. I have also lost 30 pounds which was one of my earlier goals to treat my back pain. I went to a wonderful physical therapist after my last surgery and he was so different from the first two I worked with that I am convinced he is the reason I saw improvement this time. What is even more important however, is that he changed my whole attitude about exercise and fitness.

On July 28, 2012, 2 years almost to the day after that plane landed and launched me into a nightmare of ongoing chronic pain, and depression, I will participate in my first 5K walk, in Green Bay. I love the Packers and I wanted to run through that tunnel too!

I love exercising now. Walking energizes me.  Stretching relaxes me. And watching my weight consistently go down motivates me to continue. I can finally say, I feel good again.

1 comment:

  1. If you have pain in your joints or bones, be careful and without wasting time consult with your doctor because if you delayed you may need surgery.

    Private Knee Replacement