So, you have gone and done it. After years of knee pain and knee problems, and natural remedies and pain medication you had gone ahead and had Tibia Tubercle Transfer surgery. It’s now been a year since your surgeon broke the main bone of your lower leg (your tibia), realigned your knee cap and threw some screws in there to hold it in place. Yeah, I know how you feel. You never want to go through that again.
But here we are, a year later, and was it really worth the months of being laid up, the pain, and the months of therapy?
In my case, the answer is yes. However, I wouldn’t suggest having the surgery in the middle of winter like I did. It tends to get really complicated and chaotic to maneuver yourself outside as well as the drive to physical therapy when there is a foot of snow and ice on the ground. This was a major issue for me and after 4 months of physical therapy with a lot of missed therapies due to lack of transportation or bad weather, my doctor discontinued my physical therapies and put me on a home physical therapy program to do on my own.
The home physical therapy program consisted of the following exercises:
Ankle Pumps – Lie down or sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. I suggest lying down for this. You want to point your toes up and then point your toes down. You want to repeat this about ten to twenty times. Make sure you perform with both legs simultaneously.
Glut Sets – Lie flat on your back, keep both legs straight then squeeze your buttocks together as tightly as possible. Hold for about five seconds and repeat in sets of ten.
Quad Sets – Lie down flat with both legs straight. Tighten your thigh by pushing the back of your knee to the ground. Hold for about five seconds and then relax for a few seconds. Repeat this set about ten times.
Heel Slides – Lie down on your back and slide your heel towards our butt and make sure you keep your foot on the floor, bed or couch. The more you bend the better. Repeat this in sets of ten or more.
Straight Leg Raises – Lying down with one knee bent at 90 degrees, lift your straight leg upwards till it’s even with the height of your opposite knee. Repeat this about ten or twenty times then switch legs.
Wall Slides – With feet shoulder width apart and 12 – 18 inches away from the wall, slowly lower your buttocks toward the floor. Go ¼ of the way down only and squeeze a ball between your knees. Hold for five seconds then return to the starting position. Repeat ten times and do at least two sessions per day.
Standing Bilateral Ankle Plantar Flexion – Raise heels off the floor as high as possible and repeat 30 times at least 2 times per day.
Balance – Simply stand on one leg, while holding onto a chair for about 10 seconds and repeat 25 times at least 2 times per day.
I eventually took these physical therapies and created my own daily session based on my tolerance and my capabilities. It’s okay to push yourself a little bit, but never overdo it. The last thing you want to do is to undo what your surgeon had done. Always remember that home therapy isn’t always the greatest and to consult your doctor and physical therapist before doing any of these exercises. I’m not a doctor of any kind; I’m just a victim of knee problems just like you are.
When the summer months soon came, I found it very hard to keep up with my physical therapy at home. However, I was able to get outside and realize the activities I was able to do that I have not done in years. I was able to walk around the block without any pain at all. I was able to stand for 5 hours at a concert and not even notice that I hadn’t had the urge to sit down due to pain. Six months after my surgery I actually ran up my stairs without even realizing it.
After all of those months laid up and stuck in the house, I’m one of those people that ended up gaining weight. Not a lot, but enough that my clothes didn’t fit and I felt very uncomfortable. If this starts to happen to you, do not wait a few months to start exercising, start now and get your body back into gear, if even it’s the littlest amount of exercise.
My physical therapist refused to let me go on a treadmill. But of course after they didn’t wish to assist me anymore and I was stuck with home therapies and having a home treadmill, I became curious about 8 months after my surgery. My first time back on the treadmill after the surgery I gave myself 15 minutes of light walking and found it to be quite beneficial. There was no pain and it was enough to get my heart rate up. I kept this up for about a month, slowly increasing the speed as well as adding another 2 -3 minutes.
By the time the 10th month came around, it was Halloween, I had a new job, life started to get into the way of exercising and therapies and I just quit cold turkey. BAD IDEA!!! The stiffness starts to return, there is a slight twinge of pain, and with the winter closely approaching, you start to feel the cold weather soak through your skin and settle on those screws making you feel every movement. Your legs are weak and doing one set of physical therapy you feel like your right back at the beginning as if it was the first day of physical therapy right after your surgery. You try to jump on that treadmill for 15 minutes and you can barely make 5.
Putting it off until the New Year just makes it worse. Trust me, it’s January 3rd and I’ve just started to resume my home therapies with all the stiffness, pain, and not to mention since you have just eaten your way through the holidays, those extra pounds aren’t helping your knee at all. Do not procrastinate!
Another barrier that has been overcome over the past year is that nerve running across your leg that may have been sliced from your surgery. My doctor told me that it would never grow back and the tingly feeling would always exist in the knee area down to about 5 inches above your ankle. If your recovery has been as successful as mine, you will notice that the tingly feeling is gone, but when that part of your leg is touched, you’re able to feel a little bit of feeling. However, if you kneel down on your knee, the tingly feeling is back. Personally, I think this is great considering it’s only been a year.
Some of you out there may be more worried about the scar than the nerve damage. As for me, the scar is healing nicely and there is maybe a half an inch of the upper portion of the scar that is still a little bit purple. When summer rolls around, wearing shorts or a swim suit, no one will notice the scar. Even if they do, you have a story to tell, and who knows, the person you are telling it too may have a knee problem as well.
The last issue that has to be addressed is one that will be with you’re for quite some time… For years you have suffered from limitations due to your knee problem. When thinking about how easy it was for your knees to dislocate you quiver at the thought and it takes you into this black hole where you limit yourself again. You want to try to run but your terrified, you want to try to jump rope, but you’re terrified, you want to do this, you want to do that, but fear rips through you. Yep, I’m there too. All I can say is to take baby steps and keep up with your physical therapies. The stronger your knee and legs become the more likely you are to do all these things again.
In conclusion, a year after your surgery is only as good as you make it. Your body will heal on its own, but it’s up to you to care for it and make it stronger to live your life to its fullest without striking fear in your heart. You’ve dug up the courage to go through with the surgery so why not keep that courage going and push yourself through every leg lift and every mile you walk. You’re not only doing this for you, but for those who love you. Your kids miss playing baseball with you, your friends miss going out and dancing the night away, but most of all… you miss the way you used to be.
Okay, the article is over… what are you doing still sitting there?? You have some exercises to do!
*Reminder: I am not a physician or a therapist. This article is based on my specific situation and recovery. Please consult your physician and therapist before trying anything new.*