Understanding the ABCs of ACL Reconstruction will make a world of difference between you gaining full range of motion in the knee and feeling normal again OR a stiff, painful achy joint leading you down the path to a knee replacement surgery.
History of My ACL Injury
Between December 1998 and May 1999, I dislocated my left knee 4 times. At that time in my life, (my late 20s), I was NOT a big fan of going to the doctor. As a matter of fact, I had never had a major surgery before that fateful day Dr. Paul Constante invited me to go skiing in Southern Indiana of all places.
I just got off the chair lift on my first run down the slopes. My body was full of stress and tension from the computer business I owned at the time. As momentum gained going down the hill, I tightened my legs more to keep from falling. My right leg hit a patch of soft snow on the downhill side as my left got stuck on a frozen icy patch. I started doing the splits which led to a fall and a faceplant right in the snow.
Waves of nausea rushed over me as I tried to maintain consciousness and breathe. The ski patrol got me in a “ski basket” to get me off the “mountain.”
Dr. Paul, being a chiropractor, put my knee back in place back at the ski lodge. Although the knee was swollen and tender, I didn’t give it much thought believing it would heal like all my other injuries…
3 More Knee Dislocations…
Boy was I wrong!
As a result, my knee began feeling very unstable and “locking up” during day-to-day normal activities.
I continued to believe my knee would heal and life would go back to normal.
In January ’00, my knee “popped out” again during Judo practice
Then again in April during a sand volleyball tournament and finally on that fateful day in May of 2000 my knee popped out for the last time throwing a guy out at first base while playing shortstop on my company’s softball team.
THEN I WENT TO SEE THE DOCTOR!
I know what you’re thinking…Yes, my learning curve was “really flat” at the time, I thought I was invincible, and I really didn’t like doctors much either.
It took Dr John Ellis about 30 seconds to tell me, “Bill you tore the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) in your left knee. We could do an MRI, but it’d be a waste of money.”
I left Dr. Ellis’s office with my surgery scheduled in June…
Getting Over the Pain AFTER ACK Reconstruction
I remember coming to feeling groggy and nauseous. The anesthesia was wearing off as I continued to fade in and out of consciousness. Barely being able to swallow, I asked the nurse for something to drink. I vomited after drinking the diet coke she handed me thinking it was water!
The first couple of days were ridiculously painful. The Percocet Dr. Ellis prescribed made me puke and the additional prescription to prevent nausea made me feel worse.
Dealing with the pain as bad as it was, was infinitely easier than how bad the prescription drugs were making me feel.
The left leg atrophied quickly no matter how much I exercised which was terribly disconcerting and the physical therapy I started a couple of days after surgery was extremely painful.
Gaining Full Range of Motion in the Knee Joint
A month into physical therapy, Dr. Ellis made me a deal…
If I got my left leg within 80% of the strength of my right, then he’d “green light” me to go back to training Judo.
But even when I achieved the strength in my left leg, I was still struggling with pain, swelling, fatigue, and stiffness.
In addition, still wasn’t able to get my heel to my butt, which is what I so desperately wanted so I could go back to Judo.
It seemed like my body kept moving the “finish line” for me to feel normal again. This was beyond frustrating and no one seemed to have the answer.
The biggest insight/letdown I had regarding the conventional medical model was Dr. Ellis and the physical therapist did not possess all the tools required nor did they have all the answers.
This was a big “mental hurdle” for me to get to the other side. I needed to accept the fact that the conventional medical model approach was only going to take the healing of my left knee so far.
The medical model was only able to get me so far and it was up to me to figure out the rest of my “knee” journey to feel normal again…
The ABCs AFTER ACL Reconstruction
So here are the ABCs I see as the 3 major steps to achieve “knee normalcy” AFTER ACL Reconstruction:
1.) Accept that doctors and PTs have a limited amount of knowledge when it comes to the body fully healing itself.
2.) Understand the path to fully healing your knee is going to be riddled with lots of self-doubt and uncertainty.
3.) What will work to help your knee will change from day to day, even throughout the day.
It’s important to get support and guidance from someone who has “been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt”
I would not wish an ACL injury on anyone. I had no idea as my teammates carried me off the softball field that fateful day that helping people relieve their knee pain would become my profession.
It’s been quite a journey and I’m happy to help you out of pain and/or increase knee ROM no matter how deep you’d like to go down this rabbit hole.
Just know, that your knee injury has happened for a reason pointing you in a different direction in your life. It’s up to you to discover where that direction leads…
Click the link below to explore the options available to get more help:
Until next time…
(The Knee Pain Guru)