ACL Recovery Update: Things to be Grateful for at 7 weeks post-op
(Last Updated On: January 1, 2017)
I’m no stranger to ACL recovery. In fact, I’m on my third one and this one is the hardest one yet. Since this latest ACL tear is “revision” (where the orthopedics are repairing an ACL that has already been repaired), they often present themselves as being more difficult. What was a 5 or 6 month recovery in my 2 prior repairs, is now a year – and not one, but two surgeries.
I am now 7 weeks post-op from my 2nd of the two-staged surgeries for my revision, which also included a meniscus repair as well. I have been lucky to not have had a meniscus repair during my two prior ACL repairs, as it does make the first few weeks of recovery more difficult.
Indeed, it’s always amazing what injuries can teach you – they teach you about yourself and remind you about all the little things that you take for granted when you’re not injured. So, instead of focusing this post on what exactly I’ve been doing for my recovery for the last 7 weeks, I’d like to focus on what I am now grateful for at this stage of my recovery.
7 things I am grateful for at 7 weeks post-op ….
1) Losing the straight leg brace – As part of the recovery for my meniscus repair, I was required to keep my leg straight while weight-bearing. So, if I walked, I had to be in a straight leg brace. If I was sitting, I could bend the knee as much as I wanted. But, my body frankly likes movement, and after weeks of being in this leg brace, my leg, back, and knee were pretty much hating life. At week 4 I finally could ditch the damn thing. Immediately, I hopped on my stationary bike for 10 minutes and my knee instantly felt so much better!
2) Increased activities – With the loss of the straight leg brace I was able to begin riding my stationary bike, and I rapidly increased my time on the bike as it always made my knee feel better. I now ride 45 minutes to an hour 6 days a week. I have also been increasing my strengthening exercises and at week 6 I was able to add more balance and dynamic stability drills. The entire time, I have not neglected the rest of my body. I have been lifting weights for my upper body and also doing core exercises – although what I have been able to do for those was limited at first and has also greatly expanded.
3) Good range of motion – After having two prior ACL repairs, it’s been ingrained in me that range of motion is a big deal. The longer you wait to deal with it, the harder it is. So, I worked my ROM religiously and it is nearly 100% compared to my other knee. Having the graft from my quad tendon has impact the ROM on my flexion some as that muscle seems particularly tight. But, I expect in another week or two to be back to 100%.
4) Preferred parking – I hate admitting that I’m a gimp and try my best not to indulge in gimp-status. . But, being a gimp in winter in a ski town like Crested Butte can be especially hard. I regularly wake up to inches, if not a foot, of fresh snow which I have to tromp around in while trying to clean off my car at the same time. When there isn’t fresh snow, there’s ice – so slick that crossing the street might as well be crossing an ice rink. So, I gave in. I asked for a temporary handicapped parking permit. I needed it, and I still need it here. It was the best “gimpy” thing I have done for myself.
5) Getting past the week 3-4 hump – The first couple of weeks of my recovery went relatively smoothly. But the third week was a challenge. My knee began to hurt a lot more, and with increased movement, it began to make some horrible noises – not the typical grinding noises you hear, but a squeaking noise. It literally sounded like I had a squeegee in my knee. After three prior knee surgeries and never having experienced this before, it was quite worrisome to me. I was out of town, and didn’t have my physical therapist to consult. But, I listened to my body, and it told me that my quad was WAAAAY to tight, a result of having the graft taken from there and also from not being able to bend it freely due to the straight leg brace. I realized this was probably causing patella misalignment. I began stretching and massaging my quad intensively, and my condition improved. After I rode the bike for the first 10 minutes, all those problems instantly went away.
6) A good support network – While recovering is basically equivalent to a part-time job, I can’t do all my healing on my own. I am thankful to have a great support network – my husband, my family, my friends, my physical therapist, and my doctor. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people to help me on my long road to recovery.
7) The future – I am looking forward to improved recovery. While certain improvements happen fast, others happen slow. But improvement is just that, I’m looking forward to more of that in the future. I am looking forward to more trips to the physical therapist and gym to improve my strength. I’ll ride the bike a ton, but I’ll start using elliptical machines too, to prevent me from getting bored. At three months (mid-February) I will be able to start riding my bike outside, and maybe even do some super easy classic cross-country skiing.
So, there it is. I’m well on my way on the road to recovery, but I still have miles and miles to go. Until then, I’ll just keep trudging along, putting the necessary time and energy into the healing process. After all, it’s all about the skiing. I always say I am a woman of many things, but first and foremost I am a skier. And I can’t wait to slide on two planks again!
Brittany Walker Konsella
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