Name: Robert G.
When I began experiencing significant knee pain that was preventing me from running, I decided to pay a visit to a doctor. After several incorrect diagnoses and expensive treatment that did not address the problem, I found out I had to have ACL knee surgery. Here are some things I wish I knew before recovering from my surgery:
- If an x-ray does not show anything conclusive, ask for an MRI. The x-ray of my knee showed little other than arthritis, so I let the doctor treat me for this and iliotibial band syndrome, which is what he thought was causing the most pain. I actually had an ACL tear, which was not diagnosed for several months until the doctor finally agreed to send me for an MRI.
- Prior to surgery, take some time to set up your house to ease moving around. After my ACL was replaced by surgery, I had to move around on crutches for several weeks. This was not the time to move objects around to help avoid bumping into or tripping over them. De-clutter everything before surgery, and make sure that there is ample space to ambulate with crutches.
- Rehab is important, but much of what I did at rehab I could have done at home. For an ACL tear, rehab is critical to rebuild the knee and return to full, pain-free movement. I went to rehab twice a week for a month, but many of the exercises and therapies that they had me perform were things I could have watched on Youtube for free. Co-pays for rehab can add up quickly, so look into the possibility of finding a rehab regimen online.
- Make sure you have somebody to assist you during the first two to three weeks. Driving, getting in and out of a bathtub or bed, and performing other necessary daily tasks are simply not possible for the first few weeks after surgery. With regards to getting in and out of the bathtub, purchasing a shower chair would be a wise purchase. It is quite dangerous to try to shower without one. Without somebody to come and assist at least a couple of times a day, you will be miserable and frustrated.
- Make sure your doctor gives you a handicapped parking sticker! For the times that you have to go out, getting stuck at the back of a parking lot can be very painful. For the initial weeks following surgery it is important to get a handicapped sticker so that whoever is driving you around can limit your pain by parking close to buildings.
- Get some old, used pairs of pants or shorts that you will not miss if they get ruined. The type of brace used on the knee for an ACL injury is virtually unwearable over a pant leg. I used a Revolution 3 Post-Op Knee Brace that is adjustable but not meant to go over pants. Either get some crummy pants and cut one of the legs off a few inches above the knee, or use a less-than-favorite pair of shorts. Surgical dressings can ooze, and antibiotic ointments and other skin cleaning preparations may stain. Have something loose, comfortable, and cheap to wear until you can walk without the brace.
I wish the best for anybody recovering from an ACL tear. Complete rehab takes 8-12 months, so make sure that you are committed to the time and effort required. While it takes a long time, it is definitely worth it.