Form Of Self Help Motivation
I was asked by quite a few people, especially those had recent ACL injuries and surgeries about my own experience after watching my recent Motivational WebTV episode on my ACL surgeries. The last ACL surgery I had which was on my left knee, was a few years back now. The rehab for both of my surgeries was definitely a form of self help motivation for me as I had to work through very painful exercises to regain function.
Many patients shy away from the post knee surgery exercises and do as little as possible because of the pain but the physiotherapists claim that if proper rehab is not done, great loss of flexibility and strength could be permanent. They didn’t have to sell me on this!
They now use a machine on your leg to start the physio process pretty well right away while you are still in your hospital bed. The difficult thing of course is all the swelling from the surgery itself. In my cases, there was some bleeding which resulted in staying at the hospital a day longer.
Loss Of Flexibility And Strength Post Knee Surgery
They want you to start regaining flexibility as soon as possible but the swelling did make it very difficult to bend the knee. After knee surgery, I couldn’t even bend the knee past what it was already in with its pretty well fixed slightly bent position in bed. But the physios wanted to force it and of course, I went along with it since I had faith that this painful activity will help me gain my motion.
Straightening out the leg was also very hard and the physiotherapists actually spent time over the next couple of weeks pushing on my knee to straighten out the leg. This was also painful too and if you look at the photo below, that’s exactly what the physio is doing to my knee (I’m not smiling in the photo, I’m actually grimacing in pain).
Not only was flexibility completely lost post knee surgery, so was the leg strength. My leg muscles looked and felt like jelly with no muscle tone at all. They were so weak that I couldn’t even lift my leg off the bed – this was no exaggeration. So the physio exercises also included both isometric exercises to get the muscles working again as well as to try and lift the leg in small movements. Needless to say, these were also uncomfortable to do as I really had to swallow my pride when my leg could barely handle the smallest amount of weights initially.
I kept looking at my goals of regaining enough function to not only compete martial arts at an international level again, but also to downhill ski. These provided plenty of self help motivation for me each time I did my rehab both at the physio clinic as well as at home. When the physios asked for ten repetitions of an exercise, I gave them twenty!
The formal rehab was a few months long and it got me functional again but it took many more months at home to get the legs back into being where I wanted them in terms of both flexibility and strength. I got a custom (and expensive) knee brace from my first ACL surgery but for my second one, the orthopedic surgeon didn’t recommend one since he claimed that bracing didn’t really influenced future injuries. So I stopped wearing that brace but I might go ahead and get the second brace anyway for next ski season.
So my recommendation for anybody who must get ACL knee surgery, is to do everything the physiotherapist tells you to do and possibly even more. This is not something to take casually. You must be committed to the program if you want to recover to a level where you can function almost like before again. I say almost because the knees never feel the same as I still get some soreness from intense activity but at least I’m able to do most of the activities that I enjoyed before.