Therapy: Painful but very necessary for full recovery

In my first column about undergoing a knee replacement in April to alleviate arthritis pain, I ended with a promise to discuss the physical therapy part of my recovery.

Once I got home from the hospital, I was allowed about a week before home visits from a physical therapist with Susquehanna Health began.

During the weeks I did physical therapy with their therapist, I got just a taste of what I was in for when I began outpatient visits at Elite Therapy in Mansfield.

The exercises and stretches began with quad presses, lying down on my downstairs bed and pressing my surgical joint against the bed as hard as I possibly could, which at first wasn’t much.

The therapist was very patient with me and didn’t push me too much, at first, but before I was done at the end of the two or three weeks, I was beginning to understand how difficult the physical therapy was going to be at Elite.

I started going three times a week in May, and my first visit consisted of an evaluation by one of the medical therapists there.

In order to determine what exercises and stretches I needed, she had to find out which tendons and muscles were the tightest and needed to be stretched the most to accommodate the prosthesis, which I was told is larger than a normal knee joint and get rid of the stiffness and swelling around the new joint.

This determination required about an hour of “manipulation” that was not pleasant to say the least.

The pain I experienced during this process took me somewhat by surprise, and I found myself gritting my teeth and crying at one point, begging her to stop.

The same thing happened about a week later, when a different therapist tested my leg strength and ability to straighten my leg and bend it towards my body, intense pain followed by tears and asking her to stop.

In between these “torture sessions” as I thought of them, I did intensive exercises and stretching for almost two hours each session.

I found myself getting stronger and stronger with each passing week, with less and less pain during the evaluation sessions, which were getting easier as my flexibility and range of motion increased.

By the time I was finished at Elite, after about two months, I was finally cleared to back to work July 2.

Since coming back to my job I have jumped right back into my hectic schedule of covering meetings, gathering court news and going to events and done it all with no pain or weakness in my leg, and very little swelling and stiffness.

My advice to anyone undergoing a knee replacement is to do everything you are told by your doctor and physical therapists, no matter how difficult it is, and you will get better.

It can seem like it is taking a long time, but it is worth it in the end.

Clarke is the Northern Tier reporter for the Sun-Gazette.