In 2015 I had three surgeries
Total right knee replacement March 24, 2015
Incision revision of total right knee April 7, 2015
Total left knee replacement December 29, 2015
This post is a compilation of helpful tips after having surgery especially orthopedic surgery.
1.Make a clear path, remove all trip hazards
You use a walker the first couple of weeks after having total knee replacement. It is essential to clear a path throughout your home to accommodate the walker. Slide furniture (chairs, desk, and tables) that jut out into walking space place back. You do not recognize the small directional changes you regularly make while walking but you will recognize every directional change with a walker. When you drive a car you make a 180 degree direction change by making a 3 point road turn. With a walker it takes a 112 point road turn. Ok, so that is a little exaggeration. However when you first start using a walker it is an adjustment so making a clear, straight path is super important.
It is also imperative to remove ALL area and throw rugs (including the front door mat and bathroom mats). They are a major trip hazard. Again rugs are one of those things you do not notice but get your walker hung on a rug and you will take a nasty tumble. Save yourself the pain and possible injury a fall causes by removing the rugs. Once you are steady on feet and no longer use any assistive devices put the rugs back. Your safety is the most important thing. Under normal circumstances you prevent yourself from falling by quickly adjusting your feet and body for the stumble. You will be unable able to do that in the weeks following surgery. Do not risk breaking your leg or hip because you tripped over a rug.
2. Pre-cook meals and get friends to make meals
I am single woman with no children and I live alone. My first few days home my best friend stayed with me but after that I was alone during the day. Alone or not a girl must eat! Before all the surgeries I recruited several friends and family members to make meals that are freezable. When I am ready to eat, I pop a meal from the freezer into the microwave. Viola! Lunch is served. Breakfast is typically instant grits or oatmeal. Again I stocked my cabinets with food that is easily prepared. After a few weeks your stamina, strength and endurance increases so you can prepare other meals. But for the first two weeks at least opt for easy.
3.Set out needed supplies
Put your daily supplies out on the countertop. I am admittedly a little obsessed with clean, neat spaces. I do not like clutter. I do not collect anything because no matter how cute it is, it all looks like clutter to me. However after major surgery, I take ease and convenience over neat little spaces any day. Currently, my bathroom counter is full. Everything I use on a daily basis sits on top instead of in the drawers it is normally stored in. One side of my counter has:
The other side of the counter has stacks of loose-fitting lounge wear. Each weekend I get a friend to put out a few more sets for the week or wash what was previously worn so I keep clean clothes easily available. I emphasis loose-fitting because I learned the hard way, comfortable is not always loose. I wear a lot of yoga pants. Yoga pants do not feel tight but they are not typically loose-fitting. My leg was so swollen the yoga pants made my leg feel like it was in sausage casing. The pressure from the pants was painful. After about 15 minutes I changed into something more comfortable. Until the swelling is gone shorts or loose pants are best.
I am also a self-admitted hot tea and coffee addict. My morning does not start without 1-2 cups of good coffee and I drink tea throughout the day. In my living room on an end table is a mini coffee and tea bar. The bar has a coffee and tea maker, coffee, tea, creamer, stevia, disposable cups and spoons. I sit on the sofa and fix a cup of coffee or tea at my leisure. Everyone may not need or want this but when I first came home I still experienced the post-surgery blood pressure drops upon standing. Setting the coffee bar up in the living was a small measure to help keep me safe when alone.
4.Continue a daily routine each day
This means get out of bed and get dressed (in your lounge wear) EVERY day. Change your location throughout the day. Do not stay in your bedroom during your entire recovery. It seems very minor. But practicing good hygiene boosts your mood, increases stamina and helps prevent infection.
If someone is with you, take a shower. If you are alone take a sink bath. I know some of you are screaming in disguise but I promise you, you will not die from missing a shower or 2. The main goal is to stay safe. Therefore showering when no one is home is not a good idea. Take the sink bath, stay fresh, stay safe and no one else is any wiser.
Shower supplies plastic wrap, waterproof tape and scissors
DO NOT WET YOUR INCISION while you have staples or stitches. The incision needs to completely heal before it gets wet. To take a shower during the first 2 weeks, simply wrap your knee with plastic wrap and secure it with water proof tape. Your incision stays perfectly dry!
5.Polar Care Use
A Polar Care is a device that circulates cold water around the joint. It is already in place when you wake up after surgery. It helps with post-operative swelling and pain. It goes home with you. You continue to use it for many weeks. Swelling is the body’s normal response to injury. It goes down temporarily but often returns after standing, walking or physical therapy (PT).
The device is a small cube that is filled with ice and water.
In 2010 when I had my ACL reconstruction, this little device was a God send and a major headache all at once. Trying to change ice and water while on crutches resulted in a big mess every time. (When ice melts it creates water so before you add more ice you must remove some water).
The remedy to this problem is …..FROZEN BOTTLED WATER! (Did you hear the angels singing)? Frozen bottled water is the answer to this problems completely!!
Simply freeze eight, 12 or 16 ounce bottles of water. The Polar Care holds 4 at a time. Freezing eight make sure you always have some frozen bottles available. When 4 thaw, remove them from the water and put into freezer, then insert the frozen ones into the water. The frozen bottles typically last 8 hours. Ice and water only last about 2 hours. Save yourself the heartache and work and use bottled water. Some people suggest using frozen cups of water. For some reason unbeknownst to me, the frozen cups of water last longer. However, when ice melts it creates more water so you have to empty the extra water before you add more ice. Save yourself or your family the extra work, use frozen bottled water.
Warning TMI (too much information) about to be shared!!
6. How to relieve the big C…..Constipation
Every surgery requires some type of pain reliever. Painkillers do a wonderful job of keeping you comfortable but they bring an unwanted guest, opiate induced constipation. Opiate induced constipation is a beast. It makes you doubly miserable. There is nothing worse than the feeling that you gotta go, wanna go but can’t go. It is like sitting on the highway in a traffic jam. You need to get to exit 110 but you are sitting at exit 1. Traffic is not moving at all.
Opiates lock the bowels up. There is no way around that but there are ways to help get traffic moving again.
a. Implement a daily routine that includes
i. Stool softener
ii. Fiber – fresh fruit, flaxseed, or powered fiber to add to juice
iii. Water, lots and lots of water
iv. Use a good probiotic.
Honestly everything above except the stool softener should be a part of your healthy lifestyle already…right 😉 But if for some reason this is not your regular routine, start it several days before the surgery. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Constipation is no laughing matter!!! Go several days without a bowel movement and you will want to cry.
The above is my routine and I still needed more help. I added a teaspoon of olive oil with lemon juice to the routine each morning before eating anything. The olive oil stimulates the digestive system and get things moving through your system (plus olive oil is a healthy fat). The lemon juice also stimulates the digestive system and enhances the flavor of the olive oil. You can take either alone but I wanted something to work and work quickly.
Now that I follow this complete routine (Stool softener, fiber, water, a probiotic and olive oil and lemon mix) I am back to normal. Miss any part of this 1 day and the next day the traffic jam returns.
Keep constipation at bay by implementing a plan and sticking to it.
The last tip is…..
7.Be patient with yourself
Pain makes you impatient with yourself and others. The truth is there is no getting around the pain. It is a part of the process. But once you get beyond the pain you have an opportunity for a new life.
During the process be patient.
You feel happy, sad, mad, glad, frustrated and irritated. Did I mention that this all occurs in an hour? One minute you are happy you had the surgery, then you feel sad because you cannot go outside yet, then mad that you cannot reach that jar in the back of the refrigerator, and overall irritated. The frustration is the worst. You get excited because you reach 90 degrees flexion today in PT but then wake up the next day at 70 degrees flexion again. This happens over and over.
Be patient with yourself. Recovery is a long process. Over the coming weeks the stiffness in the morning decreases. In the beginning it is a daily occurrence. Be patient.
I know this because I had at least 8 surgeries that required physical therapy. So put your measuring stick down. You know the stick you measure yourself against. Just be patient.
When I started PT in 2010 after ACL reconstruction, there were 2 other people in PT that had the same surgery. They were in PT 4 weeks, I was there 16. I was so sad. I was disappointed and a little mad at myself because I was not doing better. I talked to my therapist. That talk made me realize that I could not measure my progress by someone else. The other 2 patients were teenagers, I was 40. They had otherwise healthy joints, I needed both knees replaced. There was no way I could recover at the same rate they did. Yet I expected too and beat myself up horribly when I didn’t.
I made up my mind to do the best I could and let that be enough. My leg got stronger and it healed, it just took longer.
Be patient with yourself.
I hope this helps you along your journey.
I am not a medical professional. This post is not and should not substitute medical advice.