The last thing I remember before going under was the anesthesiologist telling me to begin counting back from 99. I don’t think I got to 96 before I was out cold.
I had no idea how long I was under but when I woke up I imagined that this is what it feels like to come back from the dead. My mouth and throat were parched. I could barely swallow. When I asked for something to drink, imagine my surprise when they offered me a diet coke to quench my thirst. Between the nausea from the drugs and the diet coke, I vomited.
Recovery was slow. I was so groggy and tired there was no keeping my eyes open and I kept dozing off and on while the nurse was cleaning up the diet coke and the contents of my stomach.
The nausea was awful and I just couldn’t wake up. The doctor came in and told me if I wasn’t alert enough to get into a wheel chair and out the door they would have to admit me as an overnight patient at the hospital. This was supposed to be outpatient surgery and at this point I’d “worn out my welcome.”
I mustered everything I had to get me and my leg (now in an immobilizer brace) off the recovery table and into a wheelchair so I could get into the car and my girlfriend could drive me home. With puke bucket in hand and my crutches across the arms of the wheel chair, we left the hospital. My lurching stomach felt every bump in the pavement just getting to the car.
The drive home took forever. Like some insane amusement park ride, it felt like Jennifer slammed on the brakes at every traffic light and hit every pothole the city of Louisville had to offer. Sweat-soaked, nauseous and struggling to stay awake, I finally plunked on the living room sofa.
That night the anesthesia wore off and my skin began to itch like crazy. Reality struck as I started to feel the throbbing in my knee for the first time since the surgery. The feeling was overwhelming and the doctor had prescribed me Percocet to handle the pain. The only catch was that Percocet made me vomit. I was in quite the dilemma. Do I suffer with the unbearable pain in my knee without drugs or numb the pain slightly with the drugs and vomit? I really didn’t like my choices too much.
The absolute worst were my trips to the bathroom. Try sitting on the toilet with one straight leg, it’s nearly impossible to get the right angle to relieve yourself.
A couple days later I couldn’t stand my own stench and decided to take a bath. I managed to get my left leg wrapped in a garbage bag secured with rubber bands to keep water away from the dressing and the staples holding the knee shut.
Getting into the bathtub was ok, I had gravity on my side. Getting out of the tub, well, that really didn’t happen. I was essentially stuck naked and wet with a garbage bag on my leg in my own bathtub. My girlfriend wasn’t strong enough to pick me up, I couldn’t push off with my left foot, there was nothing to hold onto to pull myself out and the tub was slippery. For the life of me I don’t remember how I ever got out of the tub but I’m here to tell the story!
I found out later I was so miserable to be around that my girlfriend began taking the Percocet that I could no longer take!
You may be wondering if the answer to ‘what comes after knee surgery’ is misery, pain, complaining and alienation but I’m living proof that those things are only temporary. Without question, those first few days will suck. But healing does come and the speed with which that will happen depends on you.
Every person heals at their own rate and that healing depends both on the type of knee surgery they undergo and things such as physical factors, restorative diet and healing mindset. Hardly earth shattering revelations but let me explain.
When addressing your knee physically after knee surgery you need to understand how your body gets stuck in the “Pain-Tension Loop.”
Following surgery your body naturally tenses to brace itself from the trauma it just experienced. This reaction locks the body into a protective mode. This protective mode continues following the initial injury in order to protect the body from further injury.
The problem is tension “squeezes” the body and reduces space in the knee joint. Have you ever heard of a pinched nerve? How does a pinched nerve feel? The pain in your knee is just like that. The tension reduces space, puts pressure on the nerves, in effect pinching it, creating pain. This pain causes the body to tense further. The tension creates a protective mode. The protective mode reduces space…and around and around we go.
I call this process the “Pain-Tension Loop.”
To reduce or eliminate the pain you must BREAK THIS PATTERN!
The first thing that needs to happen is a “Pain Pattern Interrupt” which first interrupts the “Pain-Tension Loop” by getting the pressure off the painful nerves in the knee which then starts to reverse the process so the body can heal the knees faster.
I have developed a series of very simple passive stretches specifically designed to create a “Pain Pattern Interrupt” for the knees.
Have you seen people stretching in the gym or in yoga?
Well these stretches are NOTHING like that.
The first step is get relief from “The Pain-Tension Loop” with the “Pain Pattern Interrupt”. This puts your body into a relaxed state and speeds up the process of recovery.
The next essential element to resolving knee pain is diet. Specifically, we want to consider a diet that addresses inflammation in the body. When we talk about inflammation, there are 2 types: Local inflammation in the knee from the “Pain-Tension Loop” and surgery, and Global inflammation in the body from the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the stresses in our life.
The total inflammation in the body uses up all the available resources your body needs to heal the damage to the knee from the surgery. The more the total inflammation, the slower the recovery process. When we reduce the total inflammation we speed up the recovery process and reduce recovery time.
Finally, the last essential element for resolving knee pain is Mindset.
The reality is, getting out of knee pain is NOT linear. You’re going to have good days and bad. When the knee feels good it’s easy to have a positive mindset. When the knee feels bad it’s important to have created both an environment and habits that are going to carry you through those tough times. This will give you even more momentum for healing and recovery after knee surgery.
Essentially we have to keep ourselves from doing something careless that will keep the knee in pain longer than it has to be. It comes down to reframing how you view the pain you feel in your knee and focusing on the future when you will be pain free. This positive mindset is a powerful part of getting you there.
These 3 components: Physical, Diet and Mindset are essential for resolving knee pain. Overlook any of these and your body misses out on the resources it needs to get out of pain and heal your knee as quickly and easily as possible.
Here’s a link to set up a time to learn more about the 3 essential elements for resolving knee pain and how you can create a customized “Pain-Pattern Interrupt” plan for your knees!