Wednesday, June 23, 2004
I know what you're thinking. "What exciting new methods of torture has your physical therapist come up with this week, Brian?"
You're one sick little puppy.
But I have the answers...
1. Standing on one leg. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, with a swollen knee, not so much. Actually, standing on one leg is good exercise for old folks because it requires that you use all of the muscles in your leg, as well as most of the muscles in your torso, just to keep your balance. Plus, it's no-impact. So, for all of you 80-year-olds reading this blog, stand up now!
2. Cycling. I actually made it all the way around on the exercise bike on Tuesday. This had been my goal for the week, so I guess I'll have to come up with a more advanced goal, now. I sort of cheated a little, because I'd lift my hip slightly when the bad leg came around, but I was told I probably won't even do that for my next session come Friday. We'll see.
3. Hurdles. No, not like this. Little tiny hurdles. Maybe four inches high. Although, for as much as I can lift my leg, they could just as well have been four feet.
Okay, that's not completely true. I can lift my leg forward using my quad muscle, so that my thigh is parallel to the ground. However, what I CAN'T do right now is use my hamstring to lift my lower leg up, like this. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that the surgeon cut out a piece of my hamstring to use for my ACL graft. So until my hamstring heals, I won't be able to walk with a normal gait.
Maybe this can be my goal for the week. By Friday, I'd like to be able to pick my trailing toe up off the ground more than the half-of-an-inch that I can currently do. Frankly, I have no idea if that's a reasonable expectation or not. I don't have any idea how long it takes a hamstring to heal. I do have a funny hamstring-pain story, though.
About five days after surgery, I had a pain in the back of my thigh that felt like a charlie horse. This actually worried me a lot. After all, at that time, I probably only had about 50 degrees of flexion, and I was scared that the cramp would be competing with my unflexible knee to see which one would give out first. Not a pleasant thought.
I mentioned this to my physical therapist the day after it happened and she said that the pain wasn't a cramp, it was phantom pain from my missing hamstring. So, I wasn't dehydrated and cramping, rather, I was hurting because part of my leg was missing.
Okay, so maybe it's not really "funny," but it is instructive. Just because something hurts doesn't necessarily mean something's wrong. It pays to ask someone who knows, though.
Updated at 11:36 PM
2 WEEKS POST-OP.
Yay, me. So, some of the things I've learned in the past two weeks.
1. You know all of that complaining I did about the drugs? Although I didn't care for them at all, in retrospect, maybe spending the first two or three days in kind of a haze isn't all that bad of a thing. I still think the femoral block got rid of most of the pain, so the painkillers might never have actually done anything, but in talking to other people about their first few days after ACL surgery, all they talk about is the pain. I never really had any. I'm going to chalk this one up to my doctors learning from their mistakes.
Besides, it's not like I was doing anything requiring great mental agility those first few days. Channel up. Channel down. You don't need to be real sharp to figure that one out.
2. If you have the choice, postpone your surgery for a month and do your PT beforehand. I work with doctors, which means I've spent this first week back at work continuously showing off my knee to people who keep saying "let me see!" I haven't met one yet who wasn't amazed by how much I'm walking or how much flexibility I already have just 14 days out of surgery. A quick timeline: I injured my knee on March 25. Between then and my first pre-op PT session on May 5, my leg went from in-shape to a big, atrophied tub-of-goo. One month of working out got it back to semi-reasonable shape, and that's paying off now big time.
For instance, when I saw my surgeon on Monday to get my stitches out, he told me to work on getting 90 degrees of flexion in the knee. (For those who don't know, 0 degrees of flexion would mean your leg would be straight out, 90 would be a right-angle bend, and if you could somehow bend your leg completely back and kick yourself in the butt, that would be close to 180). In PT on Tuesday, I was measured at 100 degrees. PT works.
3. Oh, and PT? It sucks. You'll hate it, hate it, hate it. But it still works. I know it hurts, and I know you don't want to spend 45 minutes to an hour every night (and I mean EVERY NIGHT) doing it. But every night you'll get a little bit better, and if you're consistent about it, you'll see results every single day. Not results as in, "Now I can run down the street!" It's more like, "Now I can stand for 30 seconds without falling over...now I can stand for 35...40..."
But it's better. Every time. Don't be a wuss.
Updated at 11:04 PM