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My one-year anniversary since TKR has arrived. The first few months went by so slowly while I was consumed with my rehabilitation.
After my formal therapy was over, time began to speed up again and it is hard to believe that it has been a year. A year ago I was in severe pain, taking pain medicine, icing my knee regularly and wondering why I was torturing myself with range of motion exercise.
My doctor had straightened my leg and I was learning to walk without a limp. Now I am able to walk normally without thinking about how to step and I no longer favor my knee doing simple tasks like walking downhill or down stairs.
I am able to engage in my favorite activities without being conscious of a knee that doesn’t respond like the other knee.
Photos of Knee Replacement (1 week and 1 year)
This time last year my knee was enormous, swollen, stapled with a large incision (read my article about two weeks after surgery). Today the knee is close to the same size as my other knee and the scar is a neat thin line down the middle of my knee and hardly noticeable.
My friends that saw my knee after surgery and now a year later are impressed.
I have seen other scars of friends who have had the same surgery and I give credit to my doctor for his good work.
As I continue a routine of exercise, my knee remains very flexible. I think I have reached the limit of my range of motion but I will continue to work for improvement.
I am resolved to the fact that my surgical knee will never have the same range of motion as my other knee. However, it is very functional and it allows me to swim, hike, bicycle, play golf and pickleball without pain or swelling.
I used Carmex hydrating/moisturizing lotion throughout the first year two to three times a day (read my article on scar management after surgery). I no longer apply it on a regular basis.
I do put plenty of sunblock on the scar whenever I am out in the sun.
When Did I Feel The Biggest Improvements During The Healing Process?
As I mentioned in previous articles, the first month to six weeks was a tough but important time for me.
The rehab was demanding and I took it very seriously. The pain and swelling required constant icing.
After the first two months I began to feel much better. The rehab exercises were easier and the need for ice diminished considerably.
I was able to get back in the pool and swim laps. I was also able to ride my bike again. I started off swimming and biking short distances and after a few weeks I was back to my pre-surgery routine.
I was able to take longer and longer walks but I was far from ready to return to my normal activities.
After four months I began to play 9 holes of golf (walking) and I returned to the pickleball courts. I also was able to resume hiking 5 to 7 miles.
Early on I iced my knee regularly after activity. Now a year later, I seldom ice my knee at all unless I do strenuous activity.
Don’t get rid of your ice machine or gel pack and keep your wedge pillow for occasional elevation!
Are Improvements Still To Come?
It has been so long since I have had a “normal” right knee that it is hard for me to determine how much better it might get.
I am perfectly content with the progress I have made to date and if it doesn’t get any better it will still be an amazing improvement compared to how it was pre-surgery.
I know that I can continue to make the muscles around the knee stronger and that my calf still has room for improvement. However, the knee itself is functioning so well that it is hard to complain if I am near the best it can be.
I can do everything that I did before surgery without any pain. Any progress in range of motion or strength will now come in small increments.
Exercises Am I Still Doing To Strengthen The Knee
I continue to go to the gym 3 to 4 times a week. I also try to swim and ride my bike several times each week.
All three exercises are helping to build up and maintain the strength in my knee and my range of motion.
In the gym I use several machines: leg press, leg pulls and leg lifts. I do calf raises and calf stretches. I do squats with the exercise ball on my back against a wall.
I also continue to strengthen my hips by doing bridges and using bands.
For range-of-motion the most helpful exercise for me is using the large exercise ball, lying on my back, heels on the ball and pulling my legs forward and back.
I would not discourage any specific exercises that I have been doing. All of the exercises were prescribed by my physical therapists.
I would, however, caution you to be conservative with the amount of weight you use. You don’t have to keep adding weight.
My therapist suggested I get to a comfortable weight and then increase repetitions. At this point I am working on strength and on maintaining the growth that I have made.
I am not trying to add weight and increase personal bests.
What Piece Of Equipment Helped Me The Most
The leg-pull machine and the leg lift machine are the two pieces of equipment in the fitness center that have helped me the most.
I feel the burn in my muscles and it indicates I’m working all the muscles around my knee. Plus, it is also helping me to develop my calf on the surgical knee.
What Would I Have Done Differently In The Past Year
As I mentioned above I am happy with the progress I have made to date. When thinking back, I don’t think I would have done anything different during my rehab.
I must stress that I was concerned and fearful about the surgery and the rehab so much so that I strictly followed my doctor’s orders and was especially diligent following the plan my physical therapists set out for me.
Talking with friends that have also had TKR, the ones that seem to be having the most trouble post TKR are those that didn’t take their physical therapy as seriously as I did.
I give a lot of credit to my doctor and especially to my physical therapists for pushing me and encouraging me.
Satisfaction – Would I Do TKR Again?
It took me a long time to pull the trigger and have my first TKR surgery. Thankfully my other knee is in good shape and another TKR is not on the horizon for me.
If it became necessary, I would not hesitate to have another TKR surgery. I think the second one would be somewhat easier just because I have already gone through the experience.
I would plan my surgery well and choose a time of year when I could maximize my recovery both indoors and out of doors.
When people ask me how my knee is doing, I reply, “it’s a miracle”. It is hard to believe that a 67 year old can heal so well and rebound like I did this past year (there is more hope for us old guys than I ever expected).
TKR surgery and rehab has come a long way. It now seems foolish to have put up with the pain and the limping for so many years.
It has not been an easy journey this past year but the results have been well worth the initial pain and the hard work post-surgery.
I am convinced that my new knee will last me a lifetime.