Tuesday, May 27, 2014

No pain, no gain? (6.5 weeks)

Summer finally came to Toronto, and I have been busier than a bumble bee with working, rehab, exercising, barbecuing, and otherwise enjoying life.  Can I be blamed for missing an update or two?   With some delay, here is then a comprehensive update on my progress.


Its been almost a month since I wrote about ambulating in Walking the talk shortly after I ditched the crutches and was working on loosing the limp.  It was challenging and sometimes painful, but the limp did go away after another week or so, and I was also able to walk greater distances without the leg numbing up.  When I say "greater distances" I don't mean miles and miles across the knolls and ridges - no, more like a couple of blocks from my house.

Before the surgery I installed Moves on my phone to track my daily walking.  Thanks to that nifty piece of technology I figured out that in general I walk every day:
  • less than 1000 steps (0.5 km) just to go to my car and office
  • around 2500 steps (2 km) if I add a short stroll in the neighborhood
  • 4000-5000 steps (3.5-4 km) during a longer weekend walk in the park
The longer walks were getting manageable and all was well and good, until this happened last week:

At first I was like "Whoa!!! I can't believe I walked a whole 8 km, just 5 weeks after surgery while still spitting stiches." The next day, however, was more like "Wait... Ouch... It hurts! and not in a nice post-exercise way."  Turned out that despite the gym workouts, something about walking across uneven surfaces is inherently knee-intensive and these 9901 steps fatigued mine so much that I had to take two days off exercising to let it heal.

On top of that, as if to drive the point home, the knee developed a new attraction called Bursitis - inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid filled sac that prevents friction in the joint.  This new joy, that I likely got by bumping into something, pushes on the already over-strained tendons making walking more uncomfortable.  The physiotherapist says its not dangerous and will eventually go away on its own.  Oh, and yes, I am well on track to becoming an expert on knee anatomy.

This did not deter me from walking, but I do try to take it a bit easier for the time being.  Here's what my history of walking looks like since the beginning of May:


The doc told me to be at the gym four times a week and gave me the green light to use almost any machine for glutes, hamstrings, calves.  Karla also showed me how I could do the same using cable machine or the exercise ball.  With some variation, my typical leg routine consists of about 80% of the following:

  • Step downs (15x3)
  • Step ups (15x3)
  • Squats (half way) (20x2)
  • Glute bridges 
  • One-legged dead-lifts with 10 lb weight (10-15x3)
  • Calf raises (10x3)
  • Hip abductions, adductions, glute and hamstring swings with cable machine (10x3 each)
  • Rolling the exercise ball with one leg (for hamstring) (15x3)
  • A medley of stretches
I do this set 3 times a week.  I also have been doing 15-20 min of stationary biking once or twice a week for cardio.

Motion and Pain

I still experience some pain when I tire out the knee with walking or exercising, or when it gets tense after being in the same position for a while.  Being immobile for long periods of time is becoming easier, but sometimes will cause tension.  It makes driving unpleasant, especially, when I get stuck in traffic.  Stretching or biking helps loosen up the tendons and alleviate some discomfort.

I have been very carefully testing whether I can put pressure on the patella by kneeling on it lightly.  It is still sore and numb, so I can't kneel fully (i.e. won't be able to propose to anyone just now), but it is getting less unpleasant gradually.  
I can also drop the knee sideways more and hold it for a few seconds (sitting in a cross-legged position).  And I can sit with my legs crossed on a chair without any discomfort, though only with the operative leg on top.
Its still early to really judge this, but I think I feel more stability in the joint.  There is less discomfort in other parts of the leg, hopefully meaning that they don't need to compensate for the knee as much.
My range of motion is pretty much back to normal, with some pain remaining at the extremes that I will work through eventually.


... still spitting stitches, eh.  Outside of that, its healing nicely, and I think the scar will be really small.

This update has been brought to you by warm late May weather. Transmitting directly from the balcony, I wish everyone a great week and healthy knees.


  1. Gradual linear progress. When we don’t hear news we subconsciously assume exponential healing. Your writing does great job communicating what you are going through. Keep getting better and even more awesome!

    1. Thanks! Its definitely my intention to get better sooner!