I knew a total knee replacement (TKR) was a major operation and everyone keeps telling me I am doing very well but I am now in the 16th week since my operation and my patience is wearing thin.
To be fair the operated left knee isn’t doing too bad, it can get a bit stiff after exercise and still ‘aches’ a lot above and below the knee where the knee replacement mechanism is attached to the leg bone but now the right knee is starting to hurt and I fear a similar path to the left knee may be ahead. The bottom line is that cycling remains limited and touring plans are out of the question – I had hoped to return to Martigny just outside Dieppe in September for some short, easy day-rides but even that is now doubtful – I am fearful that I’ll ever get back to ‘proper cycling’ ever again!
Notwithstanding, looking back at the path of my recovery shows I have already travelled (metaphorically) a long way. I have kept a detailed record of my recovery as a future guide as: (i) there is a strong likelihood the knee replacement will wear out in +15-years and will need to be replaced, and (ii) it is very common for both knees to fail!
My approach to recovery has been slow but with gradual progress, that up until week-13 was going well. Basic walking was initially difficult but from a few laps of my small garden I have now progressed to a 1-hour local walk, though the knee can still get quite stiff afterwards and requires icing; I stopped all medication after 12-weeks.
Following my second arthroscopy two years ago and on the suggestion of the physiotherapist, I purchased an old bike and turbo trainer to aid recovery. At the time this helped a lot and 6-weeks after my TKR I again started to use the turbo trainer, thus marking an important milestone. The Holy Grail for TKR patients is knee bend, with a target of at least 110o, which with difficulty I managed after four weeks. Notwithstanding, pedalling on the turbo trainer was initially painful and took another 6-weeks to ease up. However, it did prove very helpful in re-establishing movement and flexibility, as well as bolstering my morale.
The seminal moment came at 10-weeks, when all the previous week’s pain and effort paid off as I got back on my bike again – this time on the road. It was difficult and quite painful setting off but I was now back on the black stuff i.e. real cycling. Despite the turbo trainer work I was conscience that road cycling could be another perhaps more challenging experience, so have been taking the Joey folding bike by car to a nearby quiet countryside location that critically is mainly quite flat. Starting with a 5-mile loop every other day, I have since built up to 10-miles and the left knee has performed well but, unfortunately, on increasing to 12.50 miles pain in my right knee started to appear. I subsequently rested for a week and have now successfully returned to 10-miles every other day.
It is a real pleasure to be back on the road and in the countryside again, particularly at this time of the year but I am concerned about the future – we’ll have to see. On a positive note, walking does not seem to unduly affect either knee, so it may have to be Shanks’s pony for the time being – which is nonetheless a major improvement.
I met a cyclist at Dieppe ferry port a few years ago on my way back from a Normandy cycle tour, he had had a TKR operation and was arriving at the port at the end of a two week ride from Venice! Ever since I have been motivated by that experience and am hopeful that one day I too can resume touring.
Recovery History: The Story So Far:
|1 – 2||Rest, various medication & basic physiotherapy|
|3||Daily x5-laps of the garden walking|
|4||Daily x10-laps of the garden walking|
|5||Daily x20-laps of the garden walking|
|6||Daily 20-minute walk from the house + allowed to drive againDaily 10-minute turbo trainer at minimum resistance; 15 minutes too much|
|7||Daily 23-minute walk from the houseDaily 15-minute turbo trainer at minimum resistance|
|8||Daily 35-minute walk from the houseDaily 15-minute turbo trainer at low resistance|
|9||Daily 40-minute walk from the houseDaily 20-minute turbo trainer at low resistanceDoctor indicates doing too much!|
|10||Alternate days 45-minute walk from the houseBACK ON THE BIKE alternate days 5-mile ride on the flat|
|11||Alternate days 50-minute walk from the houseAlternate days 7.5-mile ride on the flat|
|12||Alternate days 60-minute walk from the houseAlternate days 10-mile ride on the flat|
|13||Alternate days 60–minute walk from the houseChange to 12.50-mile ride on the flat but right knee hurts – rest for one week|
|14||Alternate days 60–minute walk from the houseReturn to 7-50 miles cycling on the flat + high cadence – OK but right knee soreSwimming OK|
|15||Alternate days 50-minute walk from the houseAlternate days 7.5-mile ride on the flat + high cadence|
|16||Alternate days 60-minute walk from the houseAlternate days 7.5-mile ride on the flat + high cadence|