Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

Topical vacation


That’s not a misspelling. Let me explain.

I’ve been struggling to get through physical therapy for the past few weeks following my DeNovo NT tissue graft. I’ve been working hard to build strength in the muscles around the knee to help stabilize the joint, and I’ve been working to strengthen the muscles in my hip and my glutes to help take some of the pressure off my knee. It’s been a tough cycle of doing my exercises, having my knee swell and get painful, icing and elevating, and starting over the next day with the exercises. I’ve taken two steps forward and three steps back for the last four weeks, and I’ve been dialed down on the therapy twice. It’s been pretty frustrating, and I finally hit my breaking point a little over a week ago when I dissolved in tears after a particularly frustrating session.

This past week was better. I didn’t do my exercises twice daily because the rebel inside me simply didn’t want to do them when I couldn’t see the benefit anymore. Instead, I went biking on Saturday for the first time. It was a nasty, awful day–rainy and cold. But it didn’t matter because I was back out on my bike! I made it for 30 minutes; I felt every minute for the rest of the day, but it was totally worth it. Don’t worry; T-Bone approved the biking as long as I avoided hills. I did.

One day, I did no exercises at all. None. Not one. For the first time in 84 days, I did not do one single straight leg raise. And I felt good about it. My knee felt better after the short reprieve, too. Which leads me to believe that, at this point, I should push harder in fewer sessions.

My PT session last week was short because I couldn’t do the weight-bearing exercises very well at all. T-Bone called it quits 20 minutes early and said he’d make sure to talk to my surgeon before my appointment at the end of the week.

I met with my surgeon and, for the first time, was genuinely discouraged. I was disappointed because it’s clear that I’m not making the same progress I was the first 6-8 weeks of recovery. I was most disappointed when he asked me what I thought about continuing physical therapy–did I think that it was helping? I didn’t have a ready answer. It’s pretty clear that my leg isn’t strong, and the surgeon mentioned that I’m not extending my leg all the way when I stand, so there are some obvious deficits to overcome. I don’t know how I will get better if I were to discontinue PT. But therapy also seems to exacerbate the inflammation and pain. Is therapy the answer? I don’t know. It didn’t seem like there were too many answers for me either.

I do at least have a “plan” for the next 6 weeks, until my next appointment with my surgeon. I use air quotes because I don’t really understand what I’m supposed to do other than not take oral anti-inflammatory medication because they might negatively impact the growing cartilage behind my patella. Instead, I’ve been prescribed a compound topical medication to help with the inflammation. Something so special it has to come from a compounding pharmacy in another state. It will be here tomorrow. And for the price, it better be made of unicorn horn or something else equally magical. At the very least, the cream will hopefully make my knee feel pain-free and relaxed–like it’s in Fiji laying on the beach with a martini in hand. Better yet with an empty martini glass in hand to match the 3-4 others already discarded by the lounge chair. On a related note, I need a lemon drop. Stat.

In the meantime, I’ll continue with weekly PT sessions. Not sure exactly what I’m doing, but I know I’m not satisfied with where I am right now. I’m seriously considering breaking out the powerful narcotics to get through the PT sessions, just so that I can work to strengthen my quads. But then I can’t have my lemon drops. Decisions, decisions.

Author: Laura

I have a fern I named Frankenstein. I like leprechauns, practicing kung fu moves on my dining room furniture, and pretending that one day I will move to Fiji. I dislike my neighbors' kids, anything that is chartreuse, and Ben Roethlisberger.

6 thoughts on “Topical vacation

  1. Pingback: The world did not end « Just What I Kneeded

  2. Pingback: Too legit to quit « Just What I Kneeded

  3. Hey Laura, I quit my anti-inflammatory pain meds after reading this…my PA doesn’t think they impact the DeNovo graft, but I want to be on the safe side. The other thing she recommended to me was Traumeel ointment, which looks like a mix of homeopathic remedies. But I’m anxious about putting ANYTHING in/on myself since learning that Aleve might actually be working against my cartilage growth. I know your topical med wasn’t OTC, but I’m wondering whether your docs have ever mentioned/OK’d Traumeel for you…?

    (Here’s what it is: [link disabled])

  4. Hi shankrill. I TOTALLY understand not wanting to do anything to screw up the new cartilage growing in your knee! I’d just make sure you’re following the recommendations of your own care team because every person/recovery is different. The topical anti-inflammatory cream that was prescribed for me didn’t really help that much, and I stopped using it after about two weeks. I’ve never heard of Traumeel before, so I can’t speak to that one. If you end up trying it, let me know what you think! I hope your recovery is going well!

    • Oh yeah, definitely following doctor’s orders! The oral anti-inflammatories and the Traumeel are both optional in my case. Sorry your topical didn’t work out; if I decide to try the Traumeel and it works, I’ll stop by and let you know. Thanks for replying to my comment…it makes rehab a little less lonely!

      • I agree that finding people, at least online, who have been through similar surgeries helps. Otherwise, you’re right, recovery and rehab can be very lonely. Have you ever posted on the Knee Geeks forum? There’s a wealth of experience there and lots of people to provide comfort and encouragement. :)

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