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Total Knee replacement was a major decision for me. I can’t emphasize enough what a BIG decision it was.
I put TKR off for almost twenty years after the surgeon I saw in my late forties told me it would be necessary. After an extensive evaluation he simply told me to return for a TKR when the pain became too severe to live with.
Living With a Bad Knee
I was in my mid twenties when I first hurt my knee in a city league basketball game. I knew right away when I landed on the knee that something wasn’t right. I left the gym immediately and went home.
The knee began to swell so I applied ice as soon as I could. The pain and the swelling were something I had never experienced. I had sprained my ankles several times but this pain and swelling was on a much larger scale.
After a restless night’s sleep I called in sick to work and made an appointment to see my primary care doctor. He drained the fluid from my knee and told me it could be a cartilage tear but time would tell. Soon after I had my first of two knee surgeries.
The second surgery temporarily fixed my problem and I was able to continue my previous activities. From that point on until my sixties I began to favor the knee and adjust the way I used the knee in activities.
When playing basketball, no more jumping off or landing on my right leg (knee). I did all the rebounding and landing with the majority of weight on my left leg (knee). I was a poor defender on my right side so I had to overplay opponents to one side hoping they would go to my left.
When playing softball (shortstop) my range diminished and I started cheating to where I thought the ball would be hit before it was pitched. At bat I no longer could push off and torque with my back foot so I hit off the front foot and used my arms more.
I tried braces, pain relievers, lotions and creams to make activity easier. I iced the knee after competition and kept it elevated when I slept.
As time went on my quality of play decreased and by the time I was fifty basketball and softball were no longer a sport of choice for me. I could no longer perform.
At fifty I began to swim, cycle and hike. I used hiking poles but it still wasn’t long before I developed a limp. Going down hills and stairs became a challenge.
During walks around the neighbor and hiking along trails I found it more difficult to keep up with others. Finally at age 66 I was convinced that it was time for a knee replacement.
Activity at 60: Knee Pain And Management
I have been able to swim a mile 3 times a week. I ride a bike 10 miles 3 times a week. I hike twice a week from 6 to 10 miles. I play Pickleball 3 to 4 times a week for an hour and a half.
Pain free? NO!
Swimming by far is the least painful activity I participate in. The water resistance puts very little pressure on my knee. The only pain I have experienced while swimming has been when I tried to use fins.
The extension puts more pressure on the knee and I can really feel the bone on bone. While on vacation when snorkeling I opt to not use fins.
Riding my bike is relatively pain free unless I overdue it. If I ride much more than ten miles the knee will often swell up afterwards.
Hiking can be painful but I am unwilling to give up the outdoors and the scenery. I just suffer through it. I usually take ibuprofen before and after the hike. If there is a lot of elevation gain and descent I suffer.
Playing Pickleball is a new activity that I have been introduced to in my sixties. Playing doubles all the time makes it possible for me to play. I could never cover the court as a single.
The hard surface is a disadvantage but I don’t play over and hour and a half at a time. It is a physical challenge but this is the only activity that keeps me sharp reaction wise and I love the challenge.
What My Bad Knee Won’t Allow Me To Do at 60
I can shoot baskets but there is no way I could play a basketball game, not even half court. As an adult, basketball became my favorite activity and not being able to play was a big loss for me physically and mentally.
I enjoyed the physical workout as well as the quick decision making that is involved in basketball. It also eliminated a cardio activity for me not to mention the fellowship I enjoyed with the group of guys I played with for years.
Playing softball is no longer possible. Fielding and running the bases is too much for my knee. It isn’t so much the pain, my knee is not physically able to perform.
Why I’ve decided to go through with TKR Surgery
As time has gone by I have realized my mobility and my ability to perform physical activity as well as daily activities has become increasingly harder for me.
Over time I have been able to live with the pain. It is the inability to perform that made me decide it was time for TKR.
I love to compete and engage in activity. If I can do the same activities I do now at a higher level and I can do them with much less pain, I am willing and ready to go under the knife.
In the past few years I have also noticed an obvious deformity in my leg as the knee bows inward because of the lack of cartilage. My limp has become more pronounced and friends and relatives are remarking more about me limping and favoring my knee.
I was also fortunate while on vacation in Australia to be seen by a family friend who does knee replacements. After taking an x-ray he was astounded that I was able to walk and function at the level I do.
He recommended TKR and assured me my quality of life would improve. He would not be doing the surgery and had no ulterior motives to encourage me to have TKR. This impressed on me even more that TKR was necessary.
My Knee Replacement Expectations
Choosing a surgeon is important.
Once you have chosen the surgeon, matching patient expectations and the expectations of the surgeon with the expectations of what the surgery can achieve is important. It is important to be on the same page.
Mental and physical preparation is of paramount importance for a good result. That preparation is totally up to the patient. In my case I decided to do everything I could to prepare for the surgery and to work just as hard after the surgery to have optimal success.
My expectations are that TKR will dramatically improve my quality of life and restore function in my knee. I expect my performance to improve somewhat but I also am realistic that a 66-year-old body isn’t going to ever work like it did when I was twenty.
Knee Replacement Success Stories
Since moving to my new community a year and a half ago, I have met several people who have had not only one knee replacement but I met 2 people who have had both knees replaced. A man plays pickleball daily, plays tennis 2 days a week and also surfs occasionally with his son and grandson. A woman who plays tennis, pickleball and Bocce every week. They both say it was the right decision for them and that they wished they had had the surgery years earlier.
Knee Replacement Failure Stories
During my research I read many articles about TKR. Most were success stories but there were also occasional failures. Infection and revision surgery were the two biggest concerns for me.
Revision surgery as far as I could learn was that after TKR there was a failure in the new knee joint that made it necessary to exchange a component in the new joint with an additional surgery.
TKR is a BIG decision. Do your research and find out what is best for you. If you can function and live with your pain you may want to put off surgery. If you desire to improve your quality of life and you realize the Pros and Cons of TKR your decision to have the surgery will be easier.
Your expectations and the expectations of your surgeon need to match. Your expectations need to be reasonable. You are never going to feel like you are twenty again. But, you can improve the quality of your life and increase the function of your ailing knee.