Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

So you’ve had a knee replacement


I don’t often wear shorts in public, but when I do, random people like to ask about or comment on my knee. The latest one was just a simple statement, “So you’ve had a knee replacement.”

Actually, no. I’ve not had my knee replaced. I’m way cooler than that. I had cadaver cartilage stuffed in behind my patella. My traumatized, ruined cartilage replaced by the biological parts of another human. It still amazes me to this day how the DeNovo NT transplant works. As if that wasn’t enough, I then had a tibial tubercle transfer; this is where the surgeon cuts through the tibial tubercle (where the patellar tendon attaches to the tibia), moves it over a bit and screws it back in place. Again, way cooler than a “simple” replacement.

Once before I told someone that I’d had an adamantium knee put in. But only awesome people would get that reference, and this person wasn’t awesome enough to know that’s what Wolverine’s skeleton is made of.

Knee sixteen days after surgery.

“There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.” -Harry Crews

DeNovo NT Update

Now that I have my head back in the game and my knee behaving once again, I’ve made some strides in PT. Last Thursday, for the first time ever, my patella tracked straight when I engaged my quads while sitting on the table with a straight leg. Not really a huge deal, but kind of a huge deal. It’s a start.

After taking three weeks to control pain, swelling and heat in the knee with every tool and technique imaginable, I’ve been able to slowly start adding some exercises back in to my routine that actually make me sweat. And it feels so good.

I’ve started swimming 5 days/week for 30-60 minutes. I do this in the morning and the PT exercises in the evening. The basic PT routine is below.

Bike 5-10 mins at moderate resistance OR elliptical for 5-10 mins at low resistance for warm up.

Bosu ball exercises include:

  • Single-leg balance
  • Forward/backward tilt
  • Side-to-side tilt
  • Hip abduction
  • Single-leg hip hinge
  • Deadlifts

Y slides holding a 90° bend (I wish I could find a video of these because they’re pretty tough to do. PT commented before that not too many of her clients could pull these off.)

Y slides with small ROM (To protect myself from pain, I keep this movement to no more than 30° of bend.)

Single-leg deadlifts with 25 lb kettlebell

Cable column, 4 ways (Here’s a video of the hip abduction, so you’ll have to imagine it in the other three directions.)

Mountain climbers (This is a new one this week. Here’s a video. I look dead sexy doing these in the gym–more dead than sexy.)

Reverse plank on bench with leg lifts (Another new one.)

Walk out to plank with leg lifts (One more new one.)

Seated march on stability ball with 6-second hold with each raise (Here’s a video that’s close to what I do. I don’t do the hand part, and I get yelled at if someone catches me touching the ball for balance.)

Bridges on stability ball (Here’s a video wherein the trainer says “booty” several times. Now imagine me doing this on one of the tables in the therapy room with, like, 23 other people in there. I feel like I’m on display, and I really hate it. PT says they’re just impressed with my mad skills, but I don’t believe her.)

Hamstring curls on stability ball (Here’s a short video. Sorry for the loud, annoying music.)

After I’m done with each session, I ice and then ice some more. Sometimes, I use my shock box on a TENS setting. I also massage my knee in several different ways to both help with the swelling and desensitization. Once about every other day, I still prop my leg on the wall, at almost 90°, for 30 minutes to help with the swelling as well.

So far, so good. Last week was a good week, and it’s been at least two weeks since I had the bad swelling. Nor has the knee gotten hot in the last two weeks. All good progress.


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 “So you’ve had a knee replacement

  1. When did you have your surgery?

    • Hi Melissa,

      I had the DeNovo NT graft and TTT in September 2012. I just recently (in January 2014) had the hardware from that removed and the knee cleaned up a bit through an arthroscopy.


  2. Hi Laura,

    I had an Elmslie Trillat and lateral release done on December 17th, 2013 and am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just got rid of the crutches today for good and have been going to physio 2 times a week since January 8th. I have just started doing step ups, leg presses, and balancing stuff on the balance board. I really hope I don’t have to get the screws taken out but it seems to be common with most people. It has been nice to read about someone who is going through a similar situation. Hope things keep going well for you!

    • Hi Shelby! Thanks for stopping by. Good on you for ditching those crutches!! Sounds like you’re making some progress with PT, too. The hardware removal was a piece of cake for me; it felt like nothing compared to the TTT. So I wouldn’t worry too much about that one. :)

      I hope everything continues to go well for you, too!


  3. Hi Laura,

    I know it has been awhile since you had the Denovo surgery but I’m sure you remember it. I had Denovo on January 14th, 2015 and to be honest, I’ve been miserable. This is my 3rd surgery to fix the half dollar sized hole in my femoral head and by far the worst as far as recovery. Screws didn’t work, microfracture failed and a graft of my own cartilage was out of the question. Denovo seemed to be the only fix.
    Did you have trouble with drainage and swelling? I’ve had to have blood/fluid (over 80cc each time) drained off 5 times in the past 3 weeks. Did your knee ever feel like it was “asleep” and any touch, even clothing, felt like pins and needles? My pain is still uncontrollable and has me taking more meds then I have ever taken or would like to take.
    My doctor is awesome and there for me whenever I need him but I’m pretty discouraged right now. He hasn’t started me on any PT regimen and I’ve only been doing heel slides and straight leg lifts on my own. At what week did you start PT? I’ll be a month out of surgery in two days.

    Thanks for any encouragement.

    • Hi Nicole! First, all the well wishes, healing thoughts and good karma points I have stored up are headed your way! I can certainly empathize with you on how much of a struggle the recovery is after a surgery like you’ve had (it’s been more than 2 years, but the struggle is hard to forget). It sucks. There’s just no other way to say it. I tried to be positive in the moment during recovery, but it’s getting easier for me to admit now that it really sucked. So hang in there! You’re at the beginning of a long journey, and things will get better.

      I did have a lot of swelling, and I kept my knee on ice most of the time for the first couple of months. I didn’t have trouble with drainage, so that’s something I can’t comment on other than to say holy crap. Sounds like you’ve had a rough go of it. I can’t imagine having to have the needle stuck in the joint to drain it. The HA injections I got were bad enough. Is your swelling and drainage getting any better? I imagine it might be harder since you’ve had what sound like pretty extensive surgeries already.

      Has your doc considered nerve pain? The pins and needles pain that you describe makes me think nerve pain. I had a nerve cut during the surgery that never completely healed; to this day, I still have a large numb patch on the outside of my leg. I say that just to say that the nerves can get twinged and cause pain either because they’re messed up or because they’re trying to heal.

      I started formal PT 10 days after surgery. I started with the very simple things like trying to get my VMO to activate. And leg raises. I don’t recall exactly how quickly I progressed from the PT–it took a long time before I was even allowed to actively bend my knee. I did start to very slowly begin passively bending my knee after the first PT session. I was on a CPM full-time for three weeks. Do you have one of those?

      Hang in there! I hope you start seeing improvement in the pain soon. Once that’s under control, the PT should be easier to start.


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