June 25, 2013
” I don’t believe how much this thing hurts”. “It’s crazy”. “If I would have known that it was going to hurt this much, I never would have done it”. These are just some of the comments that I’ve heard from people after they’ve just gone through a total knee replacement.
Pain is something that most of us don’t like and try to avoid (however, there are those special cases that actually like pain, I guess). It’s normal for you to “not like it” since it’s a pretty unnatural and abnormal feeling. But, you know what? In the majority of cases of those who’ve had the procedure done, having pain is something that you’re just not going to be able to avoid.
Pain After Knee Replacement Surgery Is Normal.
If you haven’t done it yet, take a few minutes to watch any video that you can find showing you just what a total knee surgery is. Once you’ve watched one of those, you may start to understand why your knee may be hurting you. Once you get an understanding of how intense and invasive a total knee surgery is, its easier to accept the fact that after a total knee surgery, having pain is as normal as breathing. It’s something you just can’t avoid. But, you can minimize it and get rid of it quickly by following the doctors orders.
Even though you may not be able to avoid it, you shouldn’t have to suffer. There are a couple of tips that people who’ve had total knee surgeries don’t know regarding what could be causing their increased pain. With that in mind, let’s talk about what is actually causing the pain in the first place.
In most cases, after a surgery like a total knee arthroplasty, there are 4 major culprits that seem to cause (or at least contribute to) the pain that you may be experiencing.
Pain from the cutting of the tissues. Remember, having a total knee surgery is like cutting your finger with a knife, but only more so. When you cut yourself, or get cut by someone else, your body goes into “defense mode”. It starts the swelling process, the inflammation process, and generally with cuts or surgical incisions, you have pain from nerve endings that have been injured.
A lot of your pain may be due to this natural response to any bodily trauma. Many people find that when they focus on keeping the swelling and inflammation down with ice and elevation, pain that’s caused by swelling and inflammation goes away pretty quickly.
Muscle guarding. This is a natural response to any injury. It’s a way that you protect the injured leg. But, the problem comes when you’re doing this subconsciously. Keeping your leg muscles tight and rigid will cause a lot of pain. A lot of people do this when they are just sitting watching TV or laying in bed. Instead of letting the operated leg go limp and thereby letting the muscles rest, the leg muscles are kept in a constant state of contraction and this really increases the pain.
Another way you may be getting more muscle pain is by trying to lift (or lower) your operated leg all by itself and under its own power. You shouldn’t try to lift a leg that’s been recently operated on. The muscles are just too weak for that. Instead, use your hands, the other leg, or, just have someone else help you position your sore leg.
Doing too much. It seems that there are a lot of people who have a misunderstanding about knee replacement recovery. Some people think that “If I can do more, I will get better quicker”. And so they start “trying to get back to normal” too quickly.
There are a bunch of ways that you may be tempted to do this. Some people try to start walking without using their walker. Others try to actually start doing more work around the house. Some people just don’t do the exercises and elevation because they figure “if I lay around all day, I won’t get stronger”. All these attitudes usually end up with people “doing too much” and being in more pain than they really need to be in.
I don’t like taking pills. Here’s another common misunderstanding with people who’ve had knee replacement surgery. There are many people who don’t take their pain pills the way that the doctor has prescribed them. That’s because some think that they’re “going to get hooked” on narcotics. While this is a valid concern, you probably won’t have to worry about it because with resting, ice, and elevation of your sore knee, the pain will subside relatively quickly.
Now you may not have caught on to this yet, but you have direct control over 3 out of 4 of the above causes of pain after knee replacement surgery. This is what I hope you take away from this article. Remember, having pain after any surgery is normal. And, it’s something that you can’t avoid. But, by following the directions of your doctor and physical therapist, you can probably minimize your pain significantly and cut it short in the long run, if you know what I mean.
While there may be no way of avoiding it, you can decrease it significantly and shorten the length of time that you do have pain by using ice, resting it and by not doing too much and being to eager to “get back to normal”.
If you’ve had any experience with knee pain after total knee replacement surgery, please share a little about what helped you in the comments below.