6 weeks “post-op”
By this point I felt I’ve been “back to normal” TRULY for about a week.
I suddenly noticed last Tuesday that I was walking ‘funny’…but realized that actually I was walking normally again for the first time in 3 years! That was definitely cause for a celebration, because I’ve been accommodating and favouring for a long time, causing my gait to get very out of whack.
Hilariously, my ‘good’ right knee is now not as good as my ‘bad’ left knee. There’s still some pressure in there that prevents me from kneeling on it, and when I get aches, it seems to be on the right side, now. Having said that, it’s still in pretty good shape, and giving me fewer problems than before.
The Bad Knee, though: wowee. It’s amazing! I have full extension on it, which I haven’t seen since before I tore my meniscus back in 2015. It feels stronger, and somehow more integrated with the surrounding muscles. It feels strong, reliable. It hasn’t felt trustworthy in so long, so this is a HUGE win for me.
I was able to start light exercise again, with the physio’s approval, and I have my follow-up with Dr. Hamilton the next day, so I was really curious to see what she would say.
Other than the physio exercises, I was swinging around a light kettlebell and getting in some walking. The walking did eventually make the knees ache a little, but not until at least the 6k mark, so I considered that to be pretty good.
I hadn’t been running yet, but I had run to catch the bus the previous week and I didn’t even realize until I was on the bus that ‘normally’ that would have been a very painful experience.
I can’t even explain how incredible it was to have a functioning left knee again. I had started to lose hope of ever recovering it, but the stem cells SEEMED to be doing their work! I really hoped the right knee catches up, too.
7 weeks “post-op”
When I saw Dr. Hamilton at the start of the next week, she was very happy with how things looked. It had taken me about 4 weeks for me to be ‘back to normal’; most people get to that point anywhere between 2.5 and 4 weeks, so she said I was right on track.
She also had me squat, because I haven’t been able to for years (properly, and without pain), and we were both squealing a little when I got down to 90%…have been at about 70% for years. Inspecting my knees, she noted that there was no longer any swelling in my left knee…which she’s never seen NOT swollen. Excellent point!
Something that I had also noticed, but she made a point to tell me in order to manage my expectations: people often have a “bad day” (ie painful), but then the next day their knees feel SO much better.
This has happened several times for me…on a day that I walked too far I would end up with some pain and would be a bit stiff the next day, but the day after THAT…incredibly…there was a very obvious improvement. It’s almost as if the pain was a signal to the stem cells that THERE is where their work was most needed, and then they would conveniently go to work to improve the source of that pain. Magic? Probably not…more research is needed to understand. But it sure felt like magic.
So the end result is that she doesn’t need to see me again, and she says I can go back to exercising, now, as if nothing were different…that is to say, start up again slowly, progress at a reasonable rate, but nothing is off the table…I should just be aware of what I’m capable of and work on steady progression. HOWEVER, she also said to push it a little. Going back to the paragraph above, pushing it (sensibly) seems to drive recovery.
More improvements all the time
I went to the physio the next day (Xsenia at Annex RMT), gave her all the good news, so she ran me through a battery of tests. She was REAL happy with how everything was firing, except for a little weakness in the left side from years of favouring the other. Easily solved! More exercises for me to do, but I was diligent with those, because recovery is in sight.
She also had me do some lunges, which I’ve found scary for ages (due to lack of stability and faith in my knee to hold)…but I managed just fine despite my nervousness, and was able to complete them, so more internal squealing.
On top of all that, I can now step off the curb without wondering if my knee will give (it’s the small things, guys)! I ran up the stairs at the subway station! I can pivot on my left foot without collapsing! I can almost fold my legs underneath me, which I haven’t done in years!
Every day I’m noticing something new that’s better. The doctor said I’ll see constant improvements for about 6 months, but then I’ll randomly notice small improvements for up to 2 years.
So basically, I felt like: I’m back, baby! I was determined to be smart about ramping up so that I didn’t damage something else, but that next run is happening. Stay tuned!
Catherine Chan is the Founder & CEO of FitIn.io, a new fitness platform connecting Canadians with personal trainers/instructors, fitness, exercise or movement classes near them in mere minutes. A mental health advocate, she has dedicated a part of her platform to mental health and wellness classes, promoting movement + mindfulness in order to find profound, sustainable health.