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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stretching It

The focus of my work in physical therapy is stretching my leg so it will get straight and stay straight. I now sit on the modern version of the rack for ten minutes, while it stretches both legs. It's as much as I can take. When I am home I also work on stretching by placing a five-pound weight on my knee while it is resting on a low stool, straight.

The other day I did the ten minutes and later the weights at home. When I went to bed that night I had a bad time with spasms -  restless-legs. It went on and on and made a hell out of the night.

My theory is that the stretching brings on the spasms later. It makes sense, particularly because the leg that is pushed the hardest - the right- is the one usually going into the spasms. If this is so, then there should come a time when my legs are straight and the spasms slow down and even stop. I hope this is the case.

In general, I am walking better. I have been going without my cane some of the time now and I am starting to walk down stairs alternating legs, rather than stepping down with my right leg and then bringing my left down to meet it. I think I'm making real progress.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Adding Weight

At the end of my physical therapy session today, the therapist asked if I were stretching my knee at home. I said I used some weights but they are light, I need heavier weight. He went to another table and grabbed a heavy weight, asked me to lie back down on the table, and he attached the weight to my knee. Said to take it home, borrow it, put it on when I am sitting with my leg on a short stool, keep it on for several minutes.

I have put it on several times today and intend to use it several times a day. Hoping it helps. Certainly can't hurt.

I think I'm walking a bit better in general. I wonder if the leg-straightening is part of the reason.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Good Day

It didn't start out with a lot of promise. As usual, I caned my way to the kitchen to feed the cats early this morning, bent over and feeling pressure and pain in my right leg. Each time I got up I had to grab the cane. Finally it got close to time to get ready for Aqua.

I changed into my swim suit and swim shirt, added jeans, socks, and shoes, and packed my gym bag. I grabbed my cane and made my way to the car.

At that point I thought maybe things were going a little better. I used my cane to help myself down the steps but it was not arduous, it was pretty easy. By the time I got to the gym and out of the car I knew it was a good day.

I walked in, flashed my tag, walked to the locker room without limping. I did not take my cane in with me. Once ready, I walked out onto the cold concrete deck, swearing yet again that I would get some kind of deck shoes for these cold winter months, and headed to pick up the bouys and noodles, then for the water. So nice. No pain. Pressure, stiffness, but no pain. Another classmate noticed and commented on it. She assumed this was a permanent change but I know better. Still...maybe it's a sign? Yesterday, after all, Chuck, the therapist, said, "Good!" in a way that was different, after pushing my knees down. Straighter, is what he meant. We are getting there.

I went to the dollar store after class. My right hip pain kicked in and made that not the best experience but I could recognize that it was the hip, not the knee.

Another sign that it's a pretty good day: I have been cleaning up spots on the carpet, washing and sorting clothes. Doing a little vacuuming. When my legs feel better I have more energy.

That's Stretch behind me in the pic.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


It seems like I am stuck. Suspended. No change, or change for the worse. I recall feeling less pain a week after surgery than I do now. Of course I was taking painkillers at the time and not feeling it all. But the memory haunts me, makes me wonder what I've done wrong.

There is no percentage to thinking like this. No gain to be had from dwelling on my disappointments.

But there might be a gain from listing them here. Listing them may help me free myself from them, from dwelling, and of course it will help down the line to see where I was at this point. Useful information.

Walking. I usually feel a tension, a tightness, in both legs, when I walk, and a part of that is a kind of pain in my right leg. I often now have more pain in my right hip and in my right foot than in my right knee. Seems like I might have expected that, given that I broke my foot in 12th grade, so it is a natural place for arthritis to thrive, and the arthritis in my right hip is well established. So I still walk in pain or in discomfort if not pain, but maybe the pain of my knee is the least of it.

Stiffness. I am very much aware of the stiffness in both knees when I do Aqua classes at the gym. We do a lot of exercises that call for raising my legs, kicking them, marching type moves, and more, and when we stretch at the end I can never grab my ankle when I bend my knee back. Either ankle.

The cane. I hate that I am so dependent on my cane. I thought I'd be tossing that thing out within a few weeks of the operation. But it hurts too much to go without it, most of the time.

Getting up. Still there is discomfort when I get up from sleeping or from sitting for a little while. I want so much to be able to jump out of bed without considering ahead of time how I am going to avoid pain.

Restless legs. Seems to be getting worse, happening during the day as well as night. It is mostly my right leg, though, which suggests that this condition might lessen as I get better, as the knee heels completely.

Getting in and out of the car. It still hurts. I can usually drive all right, without pain. Just getting in and out is hard.

My body is a cage. Let my body free. Let my spirit free.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Waiting to Sleep

I went to bed at about nine, with a book. I took a hydroxyzine tablet (for the recurring hives) and a ropinirole tab (aka Requip) for my right very restless leg. It would not quiet down. I took another a while later, and then took a shower, tried relaxation techniques, then took a third ropinirole tablet. And here I am, almost two hours later, my leg just as uncomfortable as it was at the start.

Fortunately, this does not happen every night. I wish I could figure out if there is a trigger or something that I do to either set it off or prevent it happening. I have not been able to come up with connections yet.

Perhaps I will scan some medical bills, write a book review...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Inauspicious Beginning

Like many others, I like to do something symbolic around New Year's Day to suggest a change for the better. Today I did not do much of anything, and certainly nothing symbolic. I tried to talk myself into going to the gym but did not get there. In my defense, I am still recovering from a cold and I have three cold sores on my lips, which does not make me persona grata anywhere I can think of.

But here it is, January 2012 and I need to take a look at myself. Look back at 2011, see where I've been and where I am headed.

Not a great pic but it's current, taken today. You can see that my legs are straight, meaning no longer knock-kneed. In April of 2011 my left knee was replaced. In October my right knee was replaced. So it was the Year of the Knees. My focus for the whole year was on my knees. Not much else got done, frankly. And I am still at it.

Some signs of progress: It doesn't hurt to drive any more. It still hurts to get in and out of a car. My left knee generally does not hurt. Every now and then there is a bit of pain at night but mostly it is just stiff. Very nice. I feel discomfort when I have to stand for any length of time. My legs both feel a kind of tension, and uncomfortable tension, and often my right knee or my right hip will hurt as well.

I do time in physical therapy three days a week. I bike fifteen minutes, isokinetic. Then step (on a sitting-step machine) fifteen minutes, at level four. Then leg press: four sets of twelve with both legs, then four sets of twelve with one leg, 3.5 lbs for both, 2 lbs for one leg. Then the isokinetic leg kicks, 8 sets of ten, followed by curls- four sets of twelve, then extensions, four sets of twelve, and finally a seven minute stretch of both knees, all at 12.5lbs. Finally I land on the table, where Chuck, the therapist, pushes and pushes both knees. We're gradually softening the muscle, working to get the legs to zero extension. What a dream! Will this spring be the time it happens??

When I am not sick, I also go to Aqua classes three days a week. I am considering doing more work in the gym either on the Aqua days or the therapy days, focusing on arms and aerobic activity for now.

I am no longer taking pain meds. I was taking one vicodin per night but when I ran out the PA at the surgeon's office left a message that they don't normally continue addictive substances longer than I've been on it, that I should go to OTC NSAIDs. Never mind that I can't take NSAIDs. I get tired of having to remind them of that little detail. So I'm off all pain meds unless I take a bit of tylenol now and then. I am still waking up with my right leg in pain for hours, but not every night. Fortunately. I seem to be sleeping more hours between wakeups.

Not much of a report but I think it will be helpful to review later, when some of the remaining issues have been resolved.