Knee Surgery & The Road Back

On Wednesday, October 13, I had my left knee operated on arthroscopically. Find out what I did in the first 10 days to have a speedy recovery!

On Wednesday, October 13, 1999 I had my left knee operated on arthroscopically. As I mentioned in my previous article, this was my ninth knee operation and the eighth on my left knee.

Bouncing Back

Day 1 & 2

The next day I commenced my recovery by having acupuncture first thing in the morning. I stayed off the leg the rest of the day and iced it frequently. The second day following surgery I started working range of motion. I sat on the floor, and it took at least five minutes to get my leg straight. Then I lay back and let gravity pull my foot down. I repeated the process for a half hour, eventually achieving 105 degrees flexion, or 10 to 15 degrees more than I had before the surgery.

Day 3

Then I did a 60-second wall sit, about one inch below parallel, then iced my knee. The next day - day three - I did the same stretching sequence three separate times during the day, followed by 90-second wall sits and ice. I added a new stretch, where I would start in push-up position and walk my hands back until I was palming the floor. I also added 3 sets of straight leg raises with the left leg, working up to 10 lbs for 15 reps. I was still using crutches to get around, but by that night I no longer needed them. At night I did some Yang style Taiji.

Day 4

Day 4 I did the same stretching exercises but added 5, then 10 lbs in ankle weights to assist gravity in pulling my foot down to normal flexion. Still not there yet, maybe 120 degrees. This was the first day I was able to ride a lifecycle. I started at level 1, and worked up to level 10 (out of 30) over a 10 minute period. The first 2 minutes were very painful, but I knew I had to go through it.

Day 5 - 7

By the end it felt good. I finished with a 2 minute wall sit and some Yang style Taiji, then iced. Days 5 through 7 were much the same only I added in the Lifestep and increased the tension on both it and the lifecycle. Day 5 I worked up to 16 lbs for 15 reps in the straight leg raise and did a 2 minute, 30 second wall sit. Days 6 and 7 I stayed away from those two activities as I was planning to squat on day 8.

Day 8

Thursday October 21, eight days since surgery. Knee feels pretty good, my main concern is my tendency to overdo. I work range of motion with the ankle weights, then ride the bike and climb stairs for a total of about 10 minutes.

Day 9

The next day there is no swelling and my range of motion is improved. I stretch and work range of motion but stay off the bike and stairs.

Day 10

The next day, 2 days after squatting, 10 days after surgery (If I'd messed it up I'd know by now) feels great. I ride the bike and climb stairs, not for "cardio" but to keep the knee working. Next day the same thing. The day after I ride and climb, work range of motion (which is now back to normal by the end of working it) then work up to 22lbs for 15 reps in the straight leg raise, then finish with a 3 minute wall sit. I ride and work ROM the next 2 days, then it's time for my second squat workout, 15 days after surgery.

I did the same warm-up I did before my first squat workout, then squats with safety squat bar, twisting squats and finished with leg presses, nice and slow. I stick with seated leg curls for hams, do two light warm-ups, then 5 sets 10 reps with 180 lbs. I finish hams with stiff legged deadlifts (keystone) with dumbbells 70's then 100's x 15 reps. This week I do 3 sets each of seated and standing calves, working up to 180 lbs and 400 lbs respectively for 15 reps. Now let me explain a few things.

The Difference Between Pain & Injury

First of all, pain; you must know the difference between pain and injury. Stretching those first few days was extremely painful, yet I knew it would get me back on my feet quicker. Now for my poundages, here's how I arrived at them; My best set of 8 reps in the barbell squat is 675 lbs - 635 lbs would be a "good" day. Any of you who have tried the safety squat bar know that not only can you handle more weight with it, but there is considerably less shearing pressure on the knee joint. With that in mind, I simply used 50% of what would be a "good" day with a barbell squat, and did it with a safety squat bar.

I used the same formula for leg press and leg curl poundages, and was very cautious with the twisting squats as they were brand new to me. Of course, I iced after every rehab and/or lifting session.

My nutrition is always excellent, and I supplement with 3000 mgs Glucosamine, 3000 mgs Shark Cartilage, and 5000 mgs Vitamin C per day. I also take 5 tablespoons per day of an oil blend containing Flax, pumpkin, borage and sesame oils.