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Friday, October 26, 2012

Still Keeping On

Proof of the rack. Here I am, as of last Wednesday (October 24, 2012), on the diabolical stretch machine at the physical therapist's office. Weight on my right knee: 20 lbs; left knee: 25 lbs. I haven't been able to increase the weight for quite a while, but I do feel a slight softening, a little less pain over the 10 minutes I am stretched. I am thinking of adding just a teeny weeny bit next time.

It has been over a year since my second surgery. Being in therapy this long is NOT typical. Most people are out completely within about three months. So please do not take my experience as an example of typical. Further, everything works well except for one thing: the extension. Getting the knee straight is the whole point of my being there. Yes, I also have hip pain but that is a separate situation.

In some ways it seems like I have gone backwards lately. I have had a lot of restless leg issues, in one leg or another and sometimes both, making getting to sleep very difficult. Many nights I am restlessly trying to get some sleep unti as late as three or even four in the morning. No longer the morning person, me. My hip has also made a lot of everyday activities difficult. I give in to it too easily. I start to do something around the house and the pain makes me want to sit down. I sit down. Getting up again isn't fun. I need to turn this around, just get out and do. Get out, get up, get around.

Related to the pain is the eating. Clearly I have been gorging. It is hard to stop. Overeating is the story of my life, nothing new. I have managed to control it at times but am not doing so well right now. Nobody needs to tell me that extra weight puts more strain on the joints. I do know this.

But hey! I have a nice haircut. It makes me feel more "professional", in a way, more "legitimate". I can't quite explain this feeling. But I'll take it. I am also getting out with various groups of photographers more often, always a challenge. There is a lot of walking, standing, and hauling involved in photography, although one pro told our club that he never goes far for a good photo. He finds them not far from his car! Not a bad example for someone like me, who gets a little afraid of doing lengthy hikes to get to the right place. It really helps to be learning, to be working on getting that photo, on doing better this time than the last.

Food: for those of you who have been suggesting various diets or supplements and possible allergic reactions, believe me I have been there. I make no bones of my not being a fan of supplements. Don't get me started on that. But I have also done elimination diets to determine if there are certain foods that increase inflammation. So far I have not found any that made any significant difference. I continue to eat a vegan diet, but unfortunately I do have these long-term issues with food, and unfortunately there are many foods that are vegan and not healthy. At least I am avoiding animal proteins. Give me that.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One Year

It has been one year since my second knee surgery. It seems hard to believe that I have been in therapy for that long! On the other hand, it really has been getting old. Yet I plug through the routine three times a week, occasionally upping the weights or number of reps.

It is frustrating to me that my hip pain causes me to limp sometimes. Others usually attribute this to my knees, and I feel like a broken record saying "no, not my knees, my hip", and having to explain that yes, I see hip surgery in my future. I bore myself just getting the basic info out.

I was at the gym today for an Aqua class, but the class was canceled because not enough people showed up. It was raining, and rain tends to keep a lot of people away. I went upstairs to the weight machines instead. I did fifteen minutes on the bike, six on the elliptical, and fifteen on the treadmill. I devise my own little intervals on the treadmill, upping the level three or for decimal points for thirty to sixty seconds, then upping it again, and then taking it down twice. I do that a few times during the total fifteen minutes. I felt mild discomfort in my hip when on the treadmill today, but nothing I could call pain. That's an improvement over when I first took to the treadmill some months ago.

After doing the above cardio exercises I did several exercises on machines, strengthening my upper body, core, and back. I think I should head for the gym after physical therapy M,W, and F, to fill out the workout with these upper bod and core exercises. Making for an all-around effort.

At times I do wonder if I will ever see that light at the end of the tunnel. Did I mention in my last post that other clients at physical therapy have told me they suddenly hit the straight leg? That after a long time working on it, their knee finally went straight and there was no more pain? God, I want that so much. Will I be that fortunate?

I continue to take meds for restless leg syndrome and a recurring rash, but nothing else most of the time. Sometimes my leg (usually the right) aches to the degree that I cannot sleep and I end up taking some sort of pain killer, usually tylenol. Just to take the edge off. Sometimes I resort to Tylenol PM when it looks like it's going to be a LONG night. But I don't make a habit of it.

I have been doing a lot more work with photography in the last many months, partly because I upgraded my camera. But one difficulty I have faced is that photography field trips offered by photo groups in the area tend to involve standing and walking and not much chance to sit. Depending on how my hip is doing this can be quite a problem. I brought a "shooting stick" - also called a seat stick or something like that - to an outing at the Oceano Dunes not long ago. I found it a bit difficult to put the stick in the sand and lean against the seat, though. Other places should not present as much of a problem. Photography is usually a physically demanding activity for those who are really good at it. Well, sigh. I am doing better than I was before surgery. That is the point.

One year down. What will I say next year?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Keeping on Keeping on

It has been a long time since I have written anything here! It isn't that there hasn't been anything to say. I just have a habit of getting out of habits after a while. Writing here was a habit.

It is almost a year since my second surgery, and I am still in therapy. I must emphasize that this does not mean that anything went wrong or that this is any kind of typical experience. Whatever the cause, the muscles in the back of my knees have been resistent to change, particularly to stretching, so that my legs can get straight. My legs do not know what "straight" is. The rest of my body doesn't, either. It has been accommodating this bent person for so long that it doesn't know how to help.

This is not meant to be a tale of woe. I am doing so very well overall. I have a higher energy level (I have always been lazy so it may be hard to tell!), I can walk more, I have many days of almost no pain. The pain I do get is usually in my hips, which is a complicating factor. I still have difficulty at night, although this has not been consistently true through these many months. Mostly I am facing the "restless leg" situation, and it seems to have gotten worse in the last few weeks, after being almost nonexistent for quite a while. I can't make sense of that.

A few weeks ago I went out on the Oceano Dunes to take photographs. It was hard going but I did it, and I was out there for 90 minutes. I can't imagine doing anything like that before surgery. It simply would have been inconceivable. I have done smallish hikes, sometimes finding that any pain in my hip would go away after a while. I really am getting stronger and having less pain overall.

The flex in my knees is great - somewhere around 130 degrees, maybe more. It does not hurt my knees to walk (it often hurts my hip, which is why I don't walk more than I do), but I do tire sooner than I should, because the muscles in my knees never get that moment of rest that they need. When we straighten our knees as we walk, we release the muscles momentarily. I never get this rest. This, at least, is the way my physical therapist explained it, and it makes sense. He says when my legs get straight I will be able to walk much longer and will less discomfort all over.

A couple of other patients at the therapist's office have told me that their legs suddenly went straight. After much time working on them, they suddenly gave in. More, the pain went away. It was no longer painful to have somebody push on those muscles. Lately I have felt greater pain when I stretch on the machine, but less pain when the therapist pushes on my knees. I am taking this as a sign of progress, whether it is or not. A few other patients have told me that I am walking much better, that they see the improvement. It is much harder for me to see, so I am happy that they thought to say so.