10 lessons learned after knee replacement surgery

10 Things I Learned After Knee Replacement Surgery

Thanks to TKR I learned a few new things about myself at the age of 67. TKR was definitely a learning experience and there were good and bad lessons.

I learned that I didn’t have to live with pain.  I learned that good preparation makes the transition from the hospital to home much easier.

I learned that there are many kind and considerate people who made my recovery very smooth. I learned that I had the personal fortitude to persevere when the going got tough.

My hospital stay reminded me of the professionalism of the medical staff and also reminded me that there were other people in the hospital that were not going home after one day. I learned what a blog is and surprised myself when I discovered that I could write a successful blog that can be a help to others facing TKR.

Finally, I learned that my recovery process and rehabilitation will continue for a long time after the formal physical therapy.

1. The Less Time In The Hospital, The Better

Prior to TKR, my only experience being a patient in a hospital was when I was in my twenties. I had a spiral fracture of my right tibia and stayed in the hospital for two weeks.

That was not a good experience but it made me appreciate my situation when so many others around me had much more serious injuries and illnesses.

The first stay in the hospital recovering from the fractured and pinned tibia eventually led to two more overnight stays for knee surgeries and then, years later, total knee replacement.

I appreciate all the good folks that were part of my medical team. They made my stay as comfortable as possible despite my discomfort.

I was only in the hospital overnight but I was anxious to get home to familiar surroundings and to start my recovery process. Hospital stays, operating room costs, and medical professionals’ fees are expensive.

Thankfully, my medical insurance paid for all my knee replacement bills because the total cost was astounding.

2. It Pays To Prepare For TKR Surgery

You may have read my article ”16 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Knee Replacement Surgery”. When you come home from the hospital you’ll be glad to be in a familiar setting.

You want to settle into a space that has everything you need nearby. I was diligent about preparing the spaces in my house where I would spend most of my time.

I ended up spending more time in my recliner than in my bed. Having all the necessary items at hand right off the bat made recovery much smoother.

Cleaning the house, washing your clothes, having meals in the freezer all make the recovery process easier but having extra space by your chair and your bed stocked with all the necessary items you will need is the key.

3. The Toughest Days Are Right After Surgery

It is nice to get home from the hospital, but the work of recovery begins as soon as you arrive home. You must adjust to a new routine and rely on the help of others.

You will find that everyday activities like bathing, using the toilet and sleeping are not so easy. You will need an aide, a walker, walking sticks or a cane to get from one place in your house to another.

Two days after my surgery my home physical therapist showed up at my door and put me to work on the road to recovery. The pain from the surgery was one thing, but adding 3 daily workouts that emphasized strength and range of motion compounded the pain.

I received a lot of encouragement from my physical therapist and she was up front about how painful the early days would be and that I needed to be strong and not take shortcuts.

I was reminded of high school basketball practices where the coach pushed us to the limits. During practice I always wondered why we were pushing our bodies so hard.

Once the season started it was evident in the 4th quarter that our team was in better shape than most of the other teams.  We always finished strong.

As I look back on my early days of physical therapy post TKR I see some similarities. I did have a home physical therapist and an offsite therapist that coached me 3 times a week through the first 8 weeks.

That helped, but for the other daily workouts I was on my own and I had nobody looking over my shoulder. I always had little voices telling me to take shortcuts or to just quit, but thankfully I hung in there and was diligent about my workouts.

Similar to the 4th quarter in basketball, I now look back on all that hard work and see how important it was in my recovery process. 

4.  Having Family/Caregiver Helps TKR Recovery

Family and/or a caregiver were crucial for me during knee replacement recovery. If I had made adequate preparation before surgery I may have gotten by on my own.

However, I cannot imagine life after TKR surgery without help.

Preparing meals, washing dishes, washing clothes, help with icing and physical therapy are just a few things I would not have wanted to do on my own.

The encouragement I received from my caregivers and family was also an important boost to my moral. Keeping me company in the house and on walks was also a big plus to help keep my mind off the pain and the random negative thoughts than can affect you after TKR with so much down time on your hands.

I have mentioned some of the gifts that my son gave me before my surgery that I thought at the time were unnecessary. The icing system and the wedge pillow were two items that I now know that I could not have done without.

Scheduling your TKR around your work schedule and the best time of year to have surgery are two subjects that I have previously written about in my blog.

You also may have to schedule your surgery when your spouse or caregiver can take time off to assist you post surgery.

5. I Was Still Up For A Challenge

TKR also reminded me that I still can give that extra effort for something that I want really bad. After accepting the pain and the limping for so many years, the thought of walking normally and participating in activities that I enjoy pain-free put the fire back in the belly.

I remembered sports injuries in my younger days when I listened to coaches and therapists, followed their advice and worked hard in order to return to the playing field as soon as possible. I learned then that hard work and patience were important.

Hard work and patience were both important to my TKR recovery.

The first several weeks were indeed trying. Looking back now 9 months later, I am very satisfied and proud of all the hard work and the time that I am devoting to my recovery.

It is still easy to quit exercising or to take shortcuts, but I continue to give rehab my best effort and I have seen positive results.

6. Why Did I Accept The Limping And The Pain For So Many Years?

Until I began walking normally again without a limp or pain, I did not realize how the quality of my life could be improved.

For forty plus years I just lived with the pain and discomfort, the swelling and the restrictions my knee put on my favorite activities.

I also relied on anti-inflammatory pills, cortisone shots and lots of ice over the years.

I enjoy all of my favorite activities and even routine exercise post-TKR since I am now able to participate pain free. Because my mobility has improved I not only compete pain free but also at a higher level of play.

7. Writing A Knee Replacement Blog Was Good Therapy

Following TKR surgery you will have a good deal of time on your hands. Physical therapy is most important but it will only take up a small fraction of your day.

I had planned to spend some time reading and doing crossword puzzles, which I did.

My son suggested that I write a blog about my TKR experience and I began doing research.

I wasn’t looking forward to the writing early on, but I figured it would be like writing a journal and I thought I could do that. I made a point to write about events and topics as soon as possible after my experience, so I wouldn’t forget them.

Writing about each step in the process, pre and post-surgery helped me capture all the small detains and experiences I was feeling. 9 months later, I’ve already forgotten a lot about the small details of the preparation and recovery process.

Writing has been good therapy and it helped keep me busy.

Many of my articles mention the importance of physical therapy and exercise and how important it is to work hard and to stick to the routine. This continually reminded me to do the same.

As I look back at my blog, I have a detailed record of my TKR experience and I have been able to share my experiences with other people who are considering TKR.

I hope that I can encourage others and help answer questions that they may have about their own TKR. 

8. The Best Advice about TKR is Word of Mouth From Former TKR Patients

When I was doing research prior to my TKR surgery I searched the Internet and found very few articles about patient personal experiences. Most of the articles contained information written by medical professionals with general information about what to expect.

My best information came from friends and acquaintances that had previously experienced TKR. They gave me valuable information that helped me prepare for my surgery and what to expect during my recovery process.

No two stories were the same and it was good to hear several different personal TKR experiences. I took their advice when selecting my surgeon and also the time of year they suggested to schedule my surgery.

If you don’t know anyone who has undergone knee replacement surgery, I hope you can learn from me.

9. The Affect TKR Can Have on the Entire Family

Prior to my surgery I must admit that my thoughts pretty much centered on myself. I made TKR decisions based on what was best for me.

Now, after my TKR experience I see the need to think of what is not only best for me but also what is best for my family and especially my caregiver.

My caregiver (my wife) had her own interests and commitments that were definitely impacted by my surgery. She had to miss regular exercise sessions, and meetings she was involved in.

She made me a priority especially during the first several weeks after surgery.

She encouraged me, prepared meals, helped with the icing, took walks with me and was basically at my beck and call.

Initially, she even had to drive me to physical therapy appointments until I was finally able to use my right leg well enough to drive on my own.

Fortunately we were not working and she did not need to take time off work. I was also fortunate to have my son in the area and he helped out and gave my wife some much-needed relief.

His schedule was also impacted by my TKR.

10. Recovery Is An Ongoing Process

The TKR process once again reminded me of the remarkable healing abilities of the human body. Even though time seemed to pass slowly, I was amazed at how quickly my wound healed and how soon I was back on my feet on the road to recovery.

I also learned that the recovery process does not end with your formal physical therapy. It is up to you to determine what the final outcome will be.

I am now in my 9th month of recovery and I am still working hard to strengthen my knee and to improve my range of motion. I honestly do not see an end to the process.

I want to stay in a routine that will focus on building strength in my knee and leg and continually improve my quality of life. For me, this means a routine that includes favorite activities like pickle-ball and golf but also swimming, biking, hiking and time in the fitness center exercising on a regular basis.

Conclusion

Above I wrote about the importance of working hard during basketball practice during my high school days in order to prepare for the fourth and final quarter of the game.

At age 67 I know that I am in the final quarter of my life and I want to finish strong. I will take to heart many of the lessons I learned from my TKR experience.

The recovery process for me will go on forever, or until I reach my goal of two matching knees and legs. If that happens, I will still continue to work hard to maintain my fitness.

Quality of life is important and I will do whatever it takes to enjoy life until that final buzzer goes off in the fourth quarter of my life. Thanks for reading my blog.

Comments

  1. My KRS is coming up next week. It is very helpful to read about your experience – from someone who has gone through the procedure successfully! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Author

      Glad my experience could help. Best wishes to you and your recovery.

  2. I have been reading your blog over the past couple of weeks and really appreciate the information in it. I am 72 and love being active. I was a runner but gave that up years ago and have no plans to return to it. (I can’t even run for a bus now.) I discovered pickle ball and was really enjoying it, but had to give it up about a year ago when I went on the wait list for TKR surgery. (It is now scheduled for June 10th.) I took up swimming instead and hope to continue that along with the biking that my partner and I do pretty much daily (short trips around town). I dream of being able to return to pickle ball and to hiking so any advice you have for those activities would be great. Thanks again! All the best with your continued progress!

    1. I too am having my surgery on the 10th of June………I am having both knees replaced. I too am a little nervous but am ready to be able walk without pain after surgery and physical therapy. Hope your surgery goes great!

  3. Thank you for your encouraging words.
    My TKR is scheduled for 6/19.
    I am overwhelmed and a bit scared.
    I know how important PT is to the road to recovery.
    I have been trying to get my house ready for my arrival after surgery.
    Thanks again for your blog!

    1. Author

      Glad you found my experience useful. There are many of us in the same boat. Uncertainty and doubt – we all have it. I’m very happy I made the decision and went through with it. I hope you feel the same way after yours. Stay positive and prepare yourself accordingly.

  4. I have been reading your blogs for a couple of weeks. I have my tkr surgery June 18th. I’m nervous and hope I do as well as you are doing.

    1. Author

      It’s understandable to be apprehensive. I feel a lot better now than I did prior to my surgery. Prepare yourself and take the post-op recovery exercises serious!

  5. Thanks for your forthright and honest blog. I’m almost three weeks since having TKR. So many of the things I’ve done right are because of you!

    You chose the ice machine and wedge pillow as your top two purchases. Absolutely agree. Next would be a good quality walker and a comfy recliner.

    Keep on writing and I will keep reading. There’s always more to learn.

    Sherri

  6. Thank you for writing about your experience.
    I had my surgery and I am now starting physical theapy out of house. I am not liking it but I am told I have to do it so I am. I would be interested in learning when you stop doing pain control
    Thanks

  7. I had RTKR in Aug 2018 and LTKR in Nov 2018. Right knee hurt like heck following surgery, just as read it would. Left knee was less painful, probably because I knew what to expect pain-wise and also knew I could push into the pain in PT to make it feel less painful. Your outcome following knee replacement is totally up to you. Work EXTREMELY hard during PT and keep doing it. Why go thru the pain and expense to end up with a stiff leg. Best thing I have ever done. Love my new knees

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