Andrea’s Knee Replacement story

It’s hard to believe that I just had my 2nd knee replacement in the past year and I am 56 yrs old. I have learned so much about knees, joints, osteoarthritis, repetitive movements, pain control and stress in the past 10 years but sure did not think I would be replacing both my knees in my 50’s.

I started Pilates with Archer Pilates during this time with the goal of strengthening my muscles, moving my body and working out. This helped a lot to strengthen all the muscles around my knees and to keep my entire body strong. It probably postponed the inevitable by a few years.

My knee story actually began with my dad, my uncle and my aunt who all had knee replacements, but at older ages. You see a part of degenerative knee process is hereditary, so I got a glimpse in my childhood about my joints. My first issue with my knee happened around age 13 years old  while I was running in middle school and my kneecap locked on my right side many times. After seeing an orthopedist and being told my knee cap was tilted, my first knee surgery was scheduled. I had a pretty easy recovery as it was arthroscopic and I was back at school a few days later and back in PE in a week.

Fast forward another 30 years and I had torn my meniscus on both knees that required surgeries and was told I was developing osteoarthritis of both knees. Osteoarthritis—the gradual breakdown of cartilage in the joints which causes pain with movement is what I was experiencing. I tried to deal with the pain and stay active and completed 2 marathon walks for charity but now looking back, this most likely caused more and more breakdown of my cartilage. I started seeing an orthopedist at UCLA and began the steroid injections, hyaluronic acid injections, PT too many times to strengthen my quads but all were temporary measures. Finally as a last ditch effort in 2021 my orthopedist recommended I see the pain control Md’s for a consult and likely a nerve block procedure. I went ahead with this Genicular Nerve Block in both knees which was very painful but did give me about 6 months of lessened pain. I continued doing Pilates consistently with Melanie Archer during this time as movement, strengthening and flexibility is crucial.

My amazing work wife made a very eye opening comment one day as I was trying to walk without immense pain and that opened my eyes to the reality of looking into a knee replacement. To me, knee replacements were only for people in their 70-80’s or more those more sedentary. Yep I was in denial. Off to 2 consults for orthopedic surgeons to find out they were actually treating more people closer to my age as the quality of life greatly improved.

I chose my surgeon, scheduled surgery and my first knee replacement was done in Aug 2022.  After having my 2 consults and MRI’s, X-rays, my surgeon and I decided to replace the knee causing the most pain even though it was not as diseased as the other. This surgery and recovery are no joke!!!  Lots of pain, nausea, constipation, and sleepless nights but I was able to take steps just a few hours after surgery. Within 3 weeks, my extension was around 2, so not quite straight leg yet and my flexion around 115 deg. PT early is critical to get the new knee to start passively moving. My surgeon’s plan included home PT x5 visits, home RN x1, home knee bending machine or a CPM, home ice machine and the ever so tight compression stocking. I completed 2.5 months of outpatient PT , worked so hard and excelled. I restarted Pilates at week 3 and really focused on strengthening my quads and hamstrings.  I went back to work at 10 weeks and by 3 months my pain was well controlled.

I do remember my surgeon discussing with me that I would eventually need my other knee replaced and sometimes it happens sooner than later.  My “good” knee had been supporting my “bad knee” for so long and now that the new knee was up and running of course the good knee now started to have worse pain. We did x-rays of the old knee and upon review it was worse. How could I wrap my head around having another knee replacement so soon???  So I bit the bullet and scheduled it for April 2023 and the Surgeon said “ you can always cancel if the pain improves.”

What a difference a knee makes!!!!  I had my 2nd knee replacement 3 weeks ago and it’s amazing this time around how fast I recovered. I learned so much the first time that I proactively decided to make some changes to assist with my healing. Pain control was key—this time, no narcotics, none as they made me so sick the first time.  I knew what the recovery was all about and maybe not as nervous to push myself. It is Imperative to have 100% trust in your surgeon and their team which I completely had.