Monday, December 08, 2008
Getting Back on Track: Part One
It is almost three weeks since the arthroscopic surgery on my knee and my rehabilitation is well underway. I seldom share personal health stories here, but as a physiotherapist, this first person journey into a significant joint problem is worth reflecting on. I can safely say that in the thirty plus years I have worked, I have treated thousands of patients. Knee, hip and back treatment routines are as familiar as the back of my hand and I can give ready advice on all types of joint and muscle problems.
My surgeon reported that I have stage 3 to 4 osteoarthritis in all compartments of my knee. He tidied the mess the best he could and trimmed the torn meniscus that was blocking my joint movement. He hoped he had deferred a knee replacement for 5 to 10 years. While this news is nothing compared to a diagnosis of cancer or other debilitating illnesses, I was in shock. I walk a lot and my knee had never caused significant pain or stiffness until the month before surgery. I know I do not want a knee replacement. So this is the time to explore ways to extend the life of this joint (and others) and to see first hand if my advice works.
It was alarming to note how quickly I lost strength and endurance in the three weeks before surgery. My knee was in a splint and I was on crutches. Following surgery, swelling and pain continued to limit my activities. Within a month I felt physically and mentally depleted and realized the climb back to normalcy would be harder than the fall into dysfunction. Winter arrived at the same time with snow and ice making outdoor ventures risky on crutches.
A new arena and sports complex just opened up a short distance from our home and I decided to check it out. It features an indoor track above the ice surface and is open to the public free of charge. Six laps of the track equals one kilometer and nine laps equals a mile. I purchased a pair of Urban Poles to provide the joint support I still need. Nordic walking poles are gaining popularity as a general fitness tool as they provide a good upper extremity workout when walking. Poles are readily available at a number of local stores and a good pair costs about $100. I bought a pair that has various tips for use in snow, sand, mud and stone and is suitable for rough terrain and hiking. The store fitted me and gave me a lesson on their use and I also received an instructional DVD with the purchase.
I have been going to the track daily and have worked up to a distance of 1.5 km before I have to rest. As well as allowing me to walk without a limp and with a good stride length, the poles provide me with an increased aerobic workout and work the upper arm and back muscles safely. One half of the track has windows that look out on a wooded area. I am not ready for trails yet but the view gives me hope that I will be back soon.
I plan to post information on joint care and rehabilitation related to my condition about once a week and will discuss specific knee exercises and the importance of proper footwear. Here is a link about walking poles as well as an excellent site about the knee joint.
Urban Poling Inc. - This is a commercial site and I am not endorsing this product over others. However the site has good links relating to research, technique and fitting of poles.
KNEEguru - A British site with plenty of relevant information on knees. Click on the Information Hub when navigating from the main page.
Getting back on Track: Part Two