If you know me or have followed me for any time you know that my knees have taken a beating over the years. It all started that fateful day jumping that XR500 and destroying my knee and taking out the ACL when I was 22 years old. This started me down a path of many knee surgeries. I have dreaded the day Dr. Harrison would say he can't carve out any more arthritis and a metal replacement was my only option. That day happened in the fall of 2021 but I resisted. The thought of a metal knee made me afraid that I wouldn't be able to do the things I love.
After muzzleloader elk hunting in November of 2021 I tried and tried to ride my mountain bike as much as possible to strengthen my knee enough to make it another year. Sadly it just wasn't recovering from that last long hike in November. I had to make the call to Dr. Grunander and after meeting with him on May 3rd, reviewing my x-rays from the summer of 2021 and him flexing my knee maxing out at only 108° it was an easy call to get it replaced. A cancellation that day on his surgery schedule and I was scheduled to get my knee replaced two days later on May 5, 2022.
The surgery went well and I was walking not long after I woke from surgery. I didn't use crutches from day one. The pain of walking on it was no different than the constant pain I always had. The pain was quite intense, to say the least. I mean quite intense. I had a horrible time sleeping at night for several months after the surgery. At one point a couple of weeks out from surgery I broke down at took a narcotic pill to help with the pain... that was a mistake. I was still in horrible pain and now very nauseous.
I have had 18 surgeries and after the first couple of surgeries I learned that the narcotics the doctors prescribe for pain just make things worse for me and I stopped taking them many years ago.
For the first week and a half, I had a home health care physical therapist working with me and then I started with Alan Kerbs and his team of physical therapists three times a week. I quickly became a "special" patient for them. My knee wasn't bending well at all. I was around 10° off from being able to straighten my knee and flexion at around 90°. At first, I was made to feel that I was doing something wrong. Maybe I was overdoing it or something... Over time the PT team came to understand I was just not able to bend my knee. It just wouldn't bend.
In August I had a manipulation surgery to help get it bending. A manipulation surgery is basically putting you under and then bending your knee breaking up the scar tissue. After this surgery, the lower half of my quad was bruised a bunch. It would appear not only was scar tissue preventing my knee from bending but also my quad muscles as my quad muscles were stretched further than they had been in many years.
This manipulation surgery helped greatly improve my flexion but after a few months, I still could not bend my knee enough to ride a bike or go down stairs. I met back with Dr. Grunander a number of times and we discussed our options. He felt that the insert size was the correct insert for my knee but that all of the surgeries and the associated scar tissue were to blame and that it was just going to take some time. We decided to do one more manipulation surgery in December of 2022. If after another 6 months my knee wasn't bending enough we would look at going in and placing a thinner insert in the middle of my knee.
This second manipulation didn't bruise my leg any and my flexion improved even more. I can now go down stairs and peddle a bike with only a little pain at first before my knee warms up.
We will see but I do not think I will need a thinner insert installed.
At 10 months out from my replacement I still have some near-constant pain in my knee, especially when I lay down at night. Before I get out of bed each morning I lift my knee up and let my lower leg dangle. My knee usually will bend to a little over 90° and then slowly over the next couple minutes bend to around 120°. Once i get my knee bent to as far as I feel it is going to go I then lift my lower leg up and down bending my knee up and down through 70 to 120° over and over several times. This motion is smooth with no additional pain. I also try to bend my knee a couple of times throughout the day in much the same fashion. Hopefully, the day will come when my knee will just bend right to 115°+ without any warmup. That's my goal. I need to be able to ride a bike to stay in hunting shape so my knee needs to bend.
May 29, 2023
I'm now 13 months out from surgery and am mountain biking four to five times per week. The knee is working but I am still seeing considerable stiffness, especially on the days I mountain bike. My knee is a lot better than it was the last couple of years before I finally gave in to getting the replacement. Looking back I probably should have had the replacement a few years sooner.
Because of an ablation surgery on my heart in March of 2023, I need to work on getting my heart back into shape along with my knee. I've gained far too much weight the last few years in part thanks to my knee failing on me and now my heart. I'm not giving up yet. I still have some good hunting years left in me.
I was able to hunt some in 2022 with my sons even with a knee that didn't bend so well. Even with it not bending very well it was nice to hike all day and not have my knee getting inflamed at all. I'm confident that if I just keep working on bending it my knee will eventually come around to bending naturally.
One thing I will say about total knee replacement. The recovery hurts like Hell! And it keeps hurting and hurting for months. This is far worse than ACL surgery or any of the 20 other surgeries I have had in the past.
Here are my first hunts in 2022 after my total knee replacement.