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Recovery from Bilateral Knee Replacement
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Pearl101 posted:
Hi, I just found this site, wanted to share experiences. I have had 2 total hip replacements, both complete successes. Then the knees went. 3/15/10 I had bilateral knee replacements. It has been a month now and my first checkup went great but I still have some questions. Is it normal for the tendons and ligaments running up the back of the leg to be tight? I used to be able to sit in bed and read with my legs straight out in front of me flat. Now the back of the knee hurts. The surgeon said this will go away but does it take physical therapy to do so? What about massage? I turned down pt because I exercise every morning and tried it once and all they did was make me so sore I didn't want to return. Any suggestions? Also, I can walk without assistance but have to keep remembering to straighten the knee or I walk with it bent. And it is exhausting to stand still for any period of time. I figure this will get better. There is no real "pain", uneasiness and ache and I am down to 2 or 3 Darvocet a day. I read another post on this site that the entire body feels like it has been assaulted, is this true for others too? I get very frustrated and sometimes angry that I am "stuck" sitting in a chair while my husband still has to take care of meals, etc. Then get up and do too much and pay for it with stiffness. Also, sitting for more than an hour or so creates stiffness. Is all this within the bounds of normal and I just being unrealistic in expecting to be back on my feet fully functioning after about 5 weeks? Sorry for the long post, I am bursting with questions. Any help or encouragment will be greatly appreciated.
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_swank_ responded:
All that you're feeling is perfectly normal after only 5 weeks. Give yourself some time. Your whole body goes through trauma and that alone can drag you down.

I would recommend you see a physical therapist at least once a week just so they can check your progress and help you stretch. Mucles and tendons can get very tight if you don't do the proper stretches.
 
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Pearl101 replied to _swank_'s response:
Thank you for your reply - patience has not always (if ever) been one of my best qualities. I have a call in to my doctor to order physical therapy, hopefully some kind of massage and stretching combination. And you are right, the entire body seems to be "commiserating" with the knees.
Thanks again!
 
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MeSand responded:
I had bilateral total knee replacement 9/30/09. The best thing I did was therapy. Did it hurt? Yes, it brought me to embarrassing tears many times. But it was worth it. However the thing that frustrated me was that no one would tell me how long it would take to recover. They all said "everyone is different" what I learned is the definition of the word "recovery" is different for everyone. My idea of recovery is forgetting that I even had the surgery - and I'm not there yet. I finally talked to someone who had TKR seven years before and she'd had the same frustration. She said she determined it would take at least 2 years, but it could be longer. That shocked me, as I'd expected months. By the end of about 4 months I could do pretty much anything I would ever be able to do. So I had to constantly remind myself that I was able to do more than I could before the surgery. I did PT for 6 months. They got my knees to a much better level of function - both bending and straightening. Range of motion is the key to doing everything and anything. And they have equipment and skill you could never simulate at home or a gym. And massage was part of the routine. They also worked on balance which is important since my doctor has still not given me permission to kneel and it's pretty hard to get up from a fall without kneeling. Right now my knees constantly feel like I have a tight band about 5 inched wide wrapped around them. It's annoying but I've realized that even when I go for long walks it doesn't really get much worse. And gradually that "tight band" seems to be getting smaller especially around the back of my knees. I think a lot of the "tight band" feeling comes from swelling. My swelling is almost gone, but it definitely got worse during the winter. So I felt like my recovery slowed down and even back tracked. My two main goals are to be able to walk long distances and ride a bike. Right now the bike riding seems like a dream that will never come true but I'm hopeful. I can shop for hours or walk around the zoo all day without my knees feeling much different at the end of the day.
 
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Pearl101 replied to MeSand's response:
Thank you for the info - It is now 10 weeks since surgery and I do go to physical therapy between 2 and 3 times a week. Thank goodness I found a good therapist. He combines massage, ultrasound, tens, and exercise equipment. The tightness is nearly gone and the last major challenge is getting the right knee to go perfectly flat. Otherwise I an doing pretty much what I want although if I get too carried away I pay for it the next day.
I have a friend who has a salt water pool and has invited me to swim whenever I want. As we live on country (translate bumpy) roads I doubt I will try a bicycle. But all is going well according to the therapist and doctor. Thanks again for sharing.
 
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newknees67 replied to Pearl101's response:
I had both knees replaced on 2/22 and 24 of this year, followed by 20 days of inpatient therapy, 4 weeks of combined water and on land outpatient therapy and now am doing therapy three times a week. It includes stationary bike, balance training, strength training and stairs. I never had trouble straightening my legs. My internist dr. asked me last week if my knees felt better and I had to answer in "some ways yes in some ways no." I have that tight feeling in the front of my knees and everytime I move from sitting to standing I notice it. Right now I concentrating on "sit to stand" without using my arms for support because my shoulders re beginning to bother me. The only pain meds I take Extra Strength Tylenol. I stopped taking Mobic (NSAID)everyday about two weeks ago and feel more pain, but I only have one kidney so I need to avoid NSAIDs. Because the tight feeling disrupts my sleep, I occasionally take a sleeping pill. I too consider recovery to be when I can forget about my surgery. What else can I do to speed up my recovery?
Thanks for listening.
 
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Pearl101 replied to newknees67's response:
Hi Newknees67,
Thank you for your reply. I am finding out that the problem straightening my right knee goes back about 10 years ago when I tore the calf tendons and never got medical help, just wrapped them tight and let them heal. They must have tightened and I never realized I walked with a bent knee. But the therapist I have is great and has gotten it just about straight.
Interesting you mention shoulder pain, I have never had any and all of a sudden it feels like I have a rotator cuff problem on my right (the stronger side I use the most). I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out why. Thanks for the suggestion of standing without putting weight on my arms, hope it works. It is so sore I can't lay on it at night.
Pearl101
 
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DUKE MEDICINE
Michael P Bolognesi, MD responded:
Recovery from bilateral total knee arthroplasty can be very challenging. Those individuals that have gone through it can confirm it first hand. Like all things in medicine some people will recover quicker than others. In our practice most people that undergo bilateral TKA spend some period of time in a rehabilitation center after leaving the inpatient setting. I like to think that people are about 75% recovered at 6 weeks but it often seems like people make continued recovery all the way out to one year following surgery. This seems to hold relatively true for patients following single TKA and therefore you can imagine that the recovery process could be even longer and more challenging when both are done at the same time. If you feel like you are making progress each day or week or even each month then you are probably headed to a good long term result. There are certainly times that patients will get discouraged by the challenge of recovery but remember that the overwhelming majority of patients that have the operation experience improvement in pain, function and quality of life.
 
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Gail2247 responded:
I had a partial Left knee replacement in May of 2000 now on May 24, 2010 I had a total replacement on that same knee. The partial had been giving me big problems and my new surgeon told me that the bottom plate of that partial was loose. I was in a rehab facility for only 1 week they said I was doing to good and have been going to PT 3 times a week since. Some days are great, I can flatten my knee straight down on the table and have way past a 90 degree bend. Then some days, like today, stink. Like someone else said I left in tears today. My biggest pain is in the same spot as it was with the partial, and it feels like it locks up at times. My PT tells me it will probably take some time to get better. I too am impatient and probably tend to do to much on those good days. My surgeon says I'm supposed to be like a queen and elevate and ice and no chores. Easier said than done. Will be so happy when that pain is gone because leg and thigh muscles are all doing so good. BTW I am a 63 year old female.
 
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lorrainemld replied to MeSand's response:
MESAND

I could kiss you and hug you. I too am feelingexactly what you describe. Had bilatral 3/23/10 and no one tells me anything concrete so it feels so abstract what I call recovery. I have the tightness around my knees and my PT has no idea what it is. I go for my 6 month check-up in Sept and am hoping for answers. I still go to PT and use the gym.
What I ache for is to feel better than the day I went in and I am not there yet.

Going down steps and getting up after sitting still takes me breathe away for a few seconds. I can walk, get up from the floor, bot to lady like but I get up. I have taken modiefied classes and don't do things that make me hurt or uncomfortable. Long walks still make me weary but the boo hoo pain is gone. I so just want to feel good or know when that is coming.

This not knowing can sometimes leave me forlorn.

Lorraine
 
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lorrainemld replied to Pearl101's response:
would love to hear from you
 
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MeSand responded:
My bilateral knee replacement will be two years ago Oct 1st and I still have stiffness when I stay in one place too long (sitting or standing) I am surprised that complete recovery has taken so long but after asking lots of people it seems 2 years is the minimum. Although I was functional in about 2 months and my function was definitely from what I had before surgery. As for PT -- it's supposed to hurt. No pain - no gain is physical therapist's mantra. I still regret that I switched therapists because one of them hurt me to the point of tears every time I went. Because now I will never have the range of motion I might have had. As for the pain etc the up the back of your legs I've heard a lot of people have that, but I did not.
 
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MeSand replied to lorrainemld's response:
If you get answers at your 6 month checkup please post them. I've never gotten any straight answers from medical people. the most valuable answers were from other victims ;o)
 
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Chuckdet27 responded:
Hi, I havehad both of my knees replaced, 01/07 & 03/07. What you mentioned about the knee unable to lay flat in bed happened to me. I slept with a soft pillow under the knee that helped for about two years. Yes, I still do drugs, oxycodon W/APAP 5/325. On a good day I can only do 2 pills to take the pain away. very time I get up from a chair, pain, stairs, pain. Funny, you get use to it. Prolonged standing for over 30 - 40 minuets caused stiffness and pain either knee or both. When this happens, I find a seat and sit for 5 minuets and get up and continue. Walking long distances, not to much of a problem. Joint pain does get you depressed but, I can do my feet in the shower. Never could prior, I can get on my knees (pads) and do some things around the house. Have to learn to do different ways for the rest of your life. Would I do again, YES! Even with living with the stiffness, sore outside of knees both sides and yes one leg is 3 cm (1 inch) longer than the other. I guess makes up for shrinking do to age. LOL. It is hard, not fair, but I have less pain now than I ever had. Not too bad for an old 82nd Airborne troopKeep the faith, get a soft pillow under the knee when in bed. I know you sleep on your back, however over time, you can sleep on your side. Just takes time. KentWallace


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