Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

My way

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So, no more formal PT. I’ve been left to my own devices for the past two months. Finally, truly on my own (at least in the sense I no longer have healthcare professionals telling me what to do), and I’ve been trying new things with/for the knee. I do what I want! I’ve made awesome happen. Whether that’s true or just my perception…

As soon as formal PT ended, I signed up with a personal trainer to start working on all the body parts that have been neglected as I focused on my right leg. I interviewed four different trainers until I found the right one. He asked a lot of intelligent questions and made suggestions that aligned with everything that my PT had been telling me for months. Turns out, he’s been able to help me a bit with leg exercises so that I can continue to build my HEP (home exercise program). The new exercises both help and keep me from getting bored.

My trainer makes me WORK. I can barely lift my arms as I write this because I had a session with him yesterday. I enjoy working with him because it feels like I’m actually doing something when I hit the gym. I’m no longer there to simply get through my leg exercises. In order to make this possible, I’ve had to adjust my HEP so that I didn’t overwork the knee. I’d been doing the PT exercises at least six days a week for months, but I changed that to three days a week so I could fit in time with the trainer, as well as biking and swimming.

To be perfectly honest with you, I haven’t done a single PT exercise in nearly two weeks. WHAAAAAT? True story. Well, except the stretching; I make sure to do the stretching and rolling. This fact kind of fills me with a mischievous glee. I feel like I’m getting away with something. I’m not, really. I’ve simply adjusted the methods to reach my goals. Since the top goal is to continue to strengthen the leg, I’ve added fins to my workouts in the pool, and I’ve started riding small inclines on the bike. I’m able to push myself more in these ways because I’m not pushing it with the HEP.

At this point, I’m swimming 1.25 miles four days a week. I hit the gym three days a week to do strength training. I also make sure to fit in a few bike rides every week because that’s the one thing that makes me incredibly happy and helps clear my head. For the first time, I’m learning to incorporate active rest days. These are helpful because I don’t feel as though I should be doing something when all my body really needs is rest and time to repair itself.

Now, if I’d stop self-medicating with cupcakes and fro yo, I’d probably lose the weight I gained while sitting around.

In addition to the trainer, I’ve also been working with a chiropractor for about eight weeks. I talked to a number of different people who have seen chiropractors because I’ve always been a little leery of the profession. Once I made the decision to see one, I started calling around to different offices. I found one conveniently close to my home who, in his previous practice, saw mostly athletes who had lower extremity issues. When I called and left a message with his office, he’s the one who called back. He got points for that. He also asked thoughtful questions and made recommendations that jived with what PT said.

I started going to see him, but I still had a lot of uncertainty. The one thing I didn’t want to do was make the knee worse in any way. I asked tons of questions before I even let him touch me; I wanted to make sure that he knew what he was doing. He also gets points for patiently answering every single question I ask. He’s been focusing on active release of the upper leg (mostly, the hip muscles and the hamstrings), and he’s been doing ultrasound on the lateral side of my knee.

Within three weeks of seeing the chiropractor, I could tell a difference in my leg. It’s hard to articulate, but the whole leg just started feeling better. I was noticing improvements in the way I was able to my PT exercises. For example, the hip hinges no longer pulled in quite the same way, and I was able to better control my rotation. I don’t think I ever realized how tight my entire leg had gotten while trying to compensate for the knee.

One big improvement that I noticed about a month ago is that I’m able to tolerate standing much better. I spent the July fourth weekend with family and friends, and there was a lot of activity. I didn’t do a whole lot more than stand, but I was fine on Monday morning. In the past, especially when you throw in traveling by car, I’d usually have a massive ache in the knee by Monday. It wasn’t a fluke, either. I’ve had a couple busy weekends this month, and each time, I’ve been ok. There has been some achiness off and on, but it’s much better.

I’m hoping that these improvements continue and that I start seeing more improvement in the knee during activity. I’d be happier with where I am now if I didn’t have such trouble with some activities. Take stairs, for example. They’re so painful that there are times I just have to stop mid-flight and take a deep breath before I move on. Some of my exercises still cause pain. I’m completely unable to do some things because I have a righteous pain during a specific ROM. The one that annoys me most is that I have pain when I’m in the pool. It’s not bad enough to stop me, but I have a general tightness and pain through the front of my knee for most of the time that I’m swimming laps. Good news is that it dissipates fairly quickly, and I’m ready to go again the next day.

Last thing! In addition to the trainer and chiro, I’ve dabbled a bit in massage. The first one was a hilarious experience. A friend of mine gets regular massages and recommended that I try it out. I’d never had an actual massage because I couldn’t fathom getting naked under a sheet and having someone rub me. But I was looking for new things to help my knee, so I decided, heck, why not. So I went. She gave me an “energy massage.” She did this weird thing where she barely touched me at all. She’d put one hand somewhere around my ankle and the other one somewhere higher up on my leg and just hold them there for a minute. Her touch was so light that I couldn’t even feel it each time. It was supposed to fix the flow of energy in my body, but I didn’t notice a change at all. I didn’t go back. I’ll stick to the sport massages that are painful because they’re releasing knots deep in the muscle. I don’t get naked for these; I can wear my compression shorts and t-shirt, so I feel much more comfortable.

Doing things my way has been kinda wonderful. It’s certainly been good for my mental health, and my leg continues to get stronger. Slowly, but surely. Now, I just need that to translate into total pain relief, and I’ll be good to go.

I’ll post one more update tomorrow, and then I will stop inundating you. You’ll be all caught up.

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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.

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