Wow!!! It’s hard to believe, that I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee seven (7) weeks ago.
Recapping what was done
Left knee arthroscopic partial medial meniscectomy and minimal chondroplasty of the medial femoral condyle and excision of medial parapatellar plica and limited synovectomy.
Post Operative Diagnosis: Left knee posterior horn medial meniscus tear, minimal grade II chondromalacia of the medial femoral condyle and a portion of the trochlear groove, inflamed medial parapatellar plica, and infrapatellar synovitis.
Yeah, a bit more than the simple “possible” meniscus tear that I was originally diagnosed with. I guess it was more of a 65-year overhaul and repair job, but not anything that needed to be replaced. Thank goodness.
Where am I now?
I have also been hitting goals or mileposts set by the doc and physical therapists early, not being in too much discomfort most of the time, and am in the very initial stages of getting back to running.
So, that is all good stuff.
Although, I know that I still have a couple more months before the knee recovers enough to simply forget about being careful with it. As much as I want to just do everything I did before the injury last May, I also know that the knee still needs more time to heal completely.
I’ve been walking 1.0 to 2.0 miles almost daily, plus dog walks with Bennie, then getting on the elliptical for 20:00 to 40:00 minutes after most of the walks. Also, I’ve kept up with my body weight and rehab exercises most days. Though I have to lose about 20 pounds that crept in while I was “enjoying” the knee’s grumpiness.
Actual running after January 1st’s failed experiment (I did too much, too soon if you can believe it), has been limited to short telephone pole repeats at the end of walks. Although last week I had two rehab stage 1 workouts that I completed successfully which was encouraging.
I am attempting to be conservative with my return to running and limit the number of setbacks that I know will happen. This is me we are talking about — after all.
Physical therapy has been going great and to be honest, I found the idea of being accountable to them for doing my exercises got me through some periods when my own motivation was lacking.
Their suggestion to use a heel lift for my right leg length discrepancy was something that had never been suggested before, even though I have been diagnosed with it for many years by several providers. Who tended to recommend stretching it out to match the other leg and then doing certain exercises. What would happen was that in a few weeks (even when doing the recommended program), it was back to being shorter again and I would end up continuing to deal with the consequences of the imbalance. It became a part of the injury cycle I have endured over the years. The heel lift is more of a permanent solution and something that was too simple. It might be part of the answer, but only time will tell.
On January 11th I was discharged from physical therapy since I had met most of my milestones. The one that I couldn’t quite meet was my left knee flexion, but I wasn’t too far off (my right knee was 34 and I was able to get to 27 so far with the left). This flexion will continue to get better as I heal. Some things just need more time.
I couldn’t really argue about moving on from PT and there are other Vets who need their services much more than I do. It was also done with the caveat that if I started having problems with my leg (hamstrings or right hip) in a few months, I could call to schedule some PT sessions to square my wonderful running form out or look at other tricks of their trade to help me get back to running mostly pain-free. I think they sort of enjoyed the different kinds of challenges that my goals brought to their tables.
Although when the PT watched me run on the treadmill during my last appointment, my form wasn’t terrible. Thanks in part to my hip not dropping down so much and not slamming my right foot as hard when I land. It was more that I am sadly out of shape for running, but I ran 3/10ths of a mile on the treadmill, and the knee didn’t bother me too much.
I was supposed to go see my Orthopedic Surgeon on the 12th, but since I had already passed so many of his 6-week checkpoints at 17 days, he told me if I wasn’t having any issues I could cancel. Yes, I canceled the scheduled appointment.
I just figured it was better to cancel, versus wasting his and my time at an appointment to pat each other on the back for such a great job he did on fixing the knee and how I am doing post-op.
Instead of going to the Ortho, I joined a gym on the 12th. I figured that was a better use of my time. During the past couple of weeks, I had stopped at several of the local gyms to evaluate which one best met my needs. I decided on the Alfond Youth Center/YMCA in Waterville and I am happy with my choice.
Initially, it was intimidating to figure out how to navigate being in public again. I’ve pretty much self-isolated since March 2020, limiting myself to coming off the hill for necessary appointments, and getting supplies, but very seldom just going out for the fun of it. Which meant very little social interaction with others outside the household. This lack of socialization was becoming a real issue for me and starting to affect other parts of my life.
Basically, it’s time to stop living the invisible lifestyle and just start living again.
Part of the reason for wanting to return to the gym was the success I had at the last two sessions of PT when I got to use their treadmill. The knee still gets grumpy but does better running on the treadmill than outside during winter in Maine. The PT warned me that the cold was not my knee’s friend while exercising outside as it continued to heal and that finding a treadmill would be a good thing to help with my rehab.
On my first day at the gym, I was able to successfully complete Return to Running Stage 1 routine, which was a huge confidence builder.
The reality is that
I am making good progress with my left knee rehab and being more realistic about what I can and can’t do (it is something that I find difficult because I do want to do more). Along with having a better understanding of how long the rehab process does take than I did last time.
Any way I look at it, it will always be longer than I want it to be.
Knowing my personality, I also know that I will aggressively push up against those timeframes and progressions. This attitude causes me to suffer self-imposed setbacks that are the result of me being too optimistic about what I can do, along with a bit of being obstinate, stubborn, and all those other things that cause me to rush back to running or doing too much, too soon.
While I will miss the physical therapists who were great, it was time to move on, and joining a gym does a few things:
- First and foremost it gets me out of the COVID-19 self-imposed exile I have been locked into since March 2020 and start getting back into the community again.
- Second – I have always enjoyed the gym and during the winter, I prefer the treadmill over running outside in crappy weather or temps under 20*F. Yeah, I am getting wimpy in my old age, but the body just doesn’t deal with the cold like it used to.
- Third – I also have to be smart enough to adapt to the body I have now, not the one I used to have. Talking with their trainer will help me keep things real and not con myself into that dream world that I tend to escape to about my running.
Now to see how this next phase of my left knee rehab goes. I know that I need to stay smart and not attempt to do too much too soon.
Now to see if can do it. 🤪