Life Goals After Knee Surgery
The power of mobility, and what it can mean to you.
(Part One of a Four Part Series)
By Yvonne LaCrosse, PTA
So you have had a knee replacement (or other knee) surgery and have gone through therapy to rehabilitate and gain function, but what is next in life for you? Many people will still be working, many will retire if they haven’t already, many will join some sort of activity or pick up a new hobby; but there are a lot of people who fall into a sedentary lifestyle which can be detrimental to their physical health, ability to function, mental health, and ultimately, shorten their life span. Below are some helpful hints on how to live a meaningful life in your senior years- life expectancy is up, and it’s not age that matters as much as quality of life. Goals After Knee Surgery, right here!
MAKE A PLAN: What are your interests? What have you always wanted to do, what have you been daydreaming of as you worked away so many hours, weeks, years of your life? It is helpful to make goals and plans for yourself, especially once you retire from the workforce. What are your passions? Whether you want to volunteer to help the less fortunate, start golfing, or see the world, you will need to make a plan that fits your budget and abilities. People who continue with some sort of schedule following retirement are known to be happier and live a higher quality of life.
I suggest you get up at the same time each day and have a plan, as opposed to sleeping until afternoon, staying in your pajamas and falling into a pattern of watching TV all day. A great life is out here for you and you have a new knee (or two) with which to take it on.
STRENGTHENING: You most likely strengthened while having physical therapy following your surgery. Have you ever heard the popular phrase, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”? This would apply to the knee after surgery. If you do not use the strength that you gained and continue with strengthening exercises you can become weak in the muscles that surround the knee and offer support and stabilization to the joint. If this happens, you usually end up back in therapy, complaining of knee pain and instability. Strength is a life-long goal that requires work to maintain, and even more work to keep gaining.
Many people fall into a pattern where they feel their daily routine is busy enough, or they go for daily walks and they feel this will take care of any strength issue; this theory is incorrect, as you need to strengthen the individual muscles that surround the knee. Before finishing physical therapy, you can ask your therapist for an advanced strengthening plan that you may be able to do at home or if you prefer to go to a gym, ask for advice on appropriately and safely using gym equipment to keep your legs strong. Another option could be to hire a personal trainer, or many physical therapy clinics will offer a membership plan to use their gym for a monthly fee. Below I have identified the muscles that attach to the knee that will require continued strengthening in order to keep your knee functioning well; please perform strengthening exercises on both legs.
ITB (Iliotibial Band)
STRETCHING: Many people forget to stretch their muscles; but what they do not realize is that tight muscles cause pressure at the joint and can result in pain and a return to physical therapy. The same muscles we discussed above for strengthening are priorities for stretching: quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors and iliotibial band And always perform the stretches on both legs.
I go into great detail on stretching in Part Two of my post knee surgery series.
PRE-SCREENING: It is important to keep up with your yearly primary care doctor visits and check ups, and any recommended pre-screening tests to be sure you are healthy. We all have genetic factors to battle, even if we follow all of these steps to keep our bodies healthy, we cannot beat family history; this is where early detection for any serious health risks becomes so important. For example, if you exercise, eat well, drink water, stay active, but due to family history have the mis-fortune of having high blood pressure, it is better to have this condition detected early and treated appropriately by a physician.
If you are a knee replacement patient you will also need to visit your orthopedic surgeon yearly for an X-ray of your knee to make sure the plastic spacer is retaining its size and thickness.
NUTRITION: The importance of eating a well- balanced diet and drinking water can also help to improve the quality of your life. Foods that are fried, processed, high in sugar or have a longer shelf life than most of us do, can make our bodies feel sluggish, cause depression, inflammation, among a myriad of health concerns. Think about it- if you owned a beautiful classic car, are you going to put in cheap gasoline, or the recommended premium gasoline to keep it running in tip top condition? We should give this same respect to our bodies and give ourselves the type of nutrition that gives us energy and makes our bodies move and feel well. Statistics show that the majority of seniors have some type of malnutrition or dehydration.
It is important to drink water to avoid dehydration- remember, caffeinated beverages do not count as part of your water intake; in fact, they have the opposite effect and are called diuretics which pulls water from your system. When you think of caffeine, you have to think negative water intake. For more on health foods to eat click here. For foods to definitely avoid, click here.
STAY MENTALLY STRONG: Exercise, good diet, and participating in activities of interest can help you to combat mental illness, including Depression, Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Many older individuals battle with these disorders, but they are not a normal part of aging. Older adults who have retired without a plan of how to make their days meaningful, who have had to deal with surgeries and physical pain, who isolate themselves from friends and family can be more prone to these conditions. Keeping yourself mentally strong means embracing each of these categories we have discussed.
Eating healthy, exercising, participating in social and physical activities- all of these can help to keep your mind strong. Statistics also show that mental strength can be improved by reading, solving puzzles and trivia, etc.
AVOID A FALL RISK: One of the biggest concerns among the aging population would be falling. It is the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older Americans, according to the NCOA, or National Council On Aging. Here are a few statistics on Falls in the aging population:
1. One in four Americans aged 65+ fall each year
2. Every 11 seconds, an older individual is treated in the ER for a fall; Every 19 minutes, an older individual dies from a fall.
3. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal trauma related hospital admissions among older adults.
4. Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
5. In 2014, the total cost of fall injuries was $31 billion.
6. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
Take Care of Yourself
You did not have a knee surgery (or even knee replacement) just to sit around. Sure one of the big reasons was probably pain. And a good surgery can usually solve that. But now that you are on-the-mend think about the opportunity you have to get back to the ‘you’ that you love so much. Save this page. Follow the links. Learn about the stretches. Spend time strengthening. In the end it is up to you to take good care of that body… new (or fixed) knee and all.
Look for three companion pieces to ‘Life Goals After Knee Surgery’ coming to the blog soon. I will focus in great detail on Stretches, Strength, and Avoiding A Fall Risk.
The X10 Meta-Blog
We call it a “Meta-Blog” because we step back and give you a broad perspective on all aspects of knee health, surgery and recovery.
In this one-of-a-kind blog we gather together great thinkers, doers, writers related to Knee Surgery, Recovery, Preparation, Care, Success and Failure. Meet physical therapists, coaches, surgeons, patients, and as many smart people as we can gather to create useful articles for you. Whether you have a surgery upcoming, in the rear-view mirror, or just want to take care of your knees to avoid surgery, you should find some value here.