Everything You Need to Know Before Knee Surgery

elderly man on crutches

Knee surgery is serious, and it impacts millions of people every year. Your knee is a key joint that is responsible for mobility. Knee pain and damage to your ligaments or cartilage can make it impossible to walk.

When undergoing knee surgery, your experience will depend on the type of surgery you have.

Understanding the Types of Knee Surgery

Knee surgery is always complex, but there’s a major difference between a total knee replacement and ligament repair. The following types of knee surgery are performed annually:

  • Complete replacement. Knee replacement is a last resort, and this is only performed when there are no other treatment options to alleviate pain. Perhaps the cartilage has deteriorated to the point where the knee bones are rubbing together. Arthritis may also be so bad that a replacement is necessary. The joint is removed and replaced with a synthetic joint.
  • Arthroscopy. A minimally invasive surgery, this surgery includes a small incision and can be used to remove loose bodies, pieces of cartilage or ligaments or bone floating within the knee.
  • Osteotomy. A more intense surgery that requires the repositioning, cutting or reshaping of the knee bone. The goal is to relieve some of the weight from the damaged part of the knee.

It’s easy to guess which procedures will require the most time to recover. Complete knee replacement is the most extensive form of surgery, and osteotomy is the second most intense. Both of these procedures will take longer to recover from than an arthroscopy which is minimally invasive.

What Recovery Will Look Like for Knee Surgery

Procedures are truly a success when the person can start returning to their normal, active lifestyle. The recovery process is one of the most important, and it’s during this time that you need to follow doctor’s orders.

What to Expect: Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement is very serious, and you’ll need to be in the hospital for several days after surgery. You’ll spend the first few days trying to relieve the pain and prevent blood clots from forming.

Pain medication will be prescribed.

The doctor will often recommend what’s called a continuous passive motion machine. What this machine does is support the knee, moving it while you’re laying in bed. The machine is designed to improve circulation to the knee.

Circulation is very important because it will help with the healing process.

Swelling will also be decreased thanks to the elevation that the machine offers. You will only be allowed to return home when you can confidently bend your knee enough to sit in the car. Muscle control will also need to improve before you’re able to resume driving if the foot you drive with is attached to the leg in which the knee was replaced.

Under the right circumstances, a person will be able to resume most of their normal activities 3-6 weeks after the procedure is performed.

What to Expect: Arthroscopy

Since arthroscopy offers a minimally invasive approach to knee surgery, it’s a quick surgery to recover from. You can expect to be released from the hospital within hours of the procedure’s completion.

You may be in pain, and pain medication may be offered for a few days after surgery.

You can expect to drive in as little as one week and as long as three weeks after surgery. While recovering, you’ll want to keep your leg elevated to keep swelling to a minimum. You will also need to use a mobility aid while the knee heals.

Total recovery time depends on the extent of the surgery, but you can expect recovery to be 6 to 8 weeks. Sometimes, recovery time is much faster.

What to Expect: Osteotomy

Osteotomy will require some form of pain relief, and since the bone is involved, the surgery’s recovery can be intensive. You’ll need to wait 3 to 6 months to return to normal activities. You’ll also spend one to two days in the hospital.

You may or may not have a knee brace or cast.

The bone needs to heal, which will make this the longest form of surgery in terms of recovery. Knee replacement, on the other hand, is the form of surgery that will take the most time to get accustomed to walking again.

It’s up to you to encourage healing after surgery, and it’s recommended that exercise during the first few weeks after surgery be followed. This exercise, which will be recommended by the doctor or a physical therapist, is going to strengthen the knee and keep blood flowing to the affected area.

Your goal from exercise is to restore movement and help rebuild strength that may have been lost.

Exercises are often recommended:

  • 2-3 times daily
  • 20-30 minutes per session

You should also discuss a plan with your doctor or physical therapist on when activities can be performed again. For example, you may not be able to ascend or descend stairs for weeks. You should have a timetable in place for when you can perform such activities again.

There should be a follow-up appointment that takes place a few weeks after the surgery is performed.

Stitches or staples will be removed weeks after the surgery, and if you have an arthroscopy, you can expect to have a follow-up appointment just a few days after the procedure. During the follow-up, your doctor will ask questions, may perform X-rays and will discuss the remainder of your recovery plan.

Knee Surgery Mobility Options

The knee will need time to heal, and there are a few mobility options that your doctor will recommend:

  • Crutches are the most common because they allow you to maintain mobility with no pressure put on the knee
  • Wheelchair when using crutches is unsafe and may result in a person falling or further injury

Knee scooters are not recommended, as the knee that has undergone surgery would need to have all of the weight placed upon it.

If you’re having trouble with your mobility after surgery, you’ll want to consult with your doctor to discuss your options. It may just be a matter of time and healing before you’re able to use crutches or a wheelchair.

Why Fit Seniors Have Healthy Hearts

elderly couple biking

We all know the importance of exercise not only for aesthetics, but for heart and overall physical health. However, did you know that maintaining a healthy exercise routine into old age can slow down the aging process?

According to a report from NPR, people in their 70s who have been exercising regularly for decades can maintain the heart, lung and muscle fitness of healthy people 30 years younger.

Exercise Wins, Study Finds

A study conducted at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University took a look at how exercise affected the health of those who had been active since the 1970s. What researchers found was surprising: 75-year old participants who had exercised regularly for decades had similar cardiovascular health to 40-45-year-olds.

The study divided 70 healthy people into three groups. One group consisted of lifelong exercisers with an average age of 75. These individuals had a history of exercising 4-6 days a week for about 7 hours a week total.

Another group consisted of those who also had an average age of 75, but did not have a structured exercise regimen.

The last group consisted of young exercisers with an average age of 25. These participants had similar exercise regimens as the lifelong exercisers.

To measure cardiovascular health, participants cycled on an indoor bike to determine their VO2 max (maximal oxygen uptake). This measures how much oxygen a person can use during intensive exercise and is a measure of aerobic endurance.

The aerobic profile of muscles was measured by taking a small, pea-sized sample.

The study was relatively small, but the findings were impressive.

Scott Trappe, exercise physiologist and head of the study, said the lifelong exercisers had cardiovascular systems that looked 30 years younger. Trappe notes that this is an impressive feat, as the body’s ability to process oxygen declines by 10% per decade after age 30.

What was even more impressive was that the 75-year-old lifelong exercisers had the same muscles as the 25-year-olds. The results support the idea that aging doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose all of your muscle tone.

By the time we reach our mid- to late-50s, some of our heart muscles have already started to atrophy and weaken. Our major cardiac arteries have also started to stiffen. These changes put us at a greater risk of developing heart failure and other health issues.

In another study, researchers wanted to see if this is inevitable no matter how much you exercised.

They looked at four groups of people: those who were sedentary throughout adulthood, those who were casual exercises (worked out 2-3 times for at least 30 minutes), those who worked out 4-5 times per week, those who were categorized as athletes (exercised 5-6 times a week and competed in sports).

After scanning and testing everyone’s hearts, researchers found the following:

  • The sedentary group showed the usual effects of time. Parts of their heart muscles were shrunken and less powerful.
  • Casual exercises saw the same changes.
  • Those who exercised 4-5 times per week and athletes had hearts that functioned like people decades younger.

They also looked at the cardiac arteries of both sedentary and active people. The long-term committed exercisers and athletes still had relatively flexible arteries that were still youthful and healthy compared to the other groups.

Why a Little Exercise is Better Than No Exercise

The results of this study are impressive, but Trappe notes that you don’t have to be a marathon runner or competitive cyclist to get similar results.

Just 30-45 minutes of walking per day will provide a huge benefit, he says. Will you get the same benefits as those who train for competitive performances? No, but you will be in better shape than those who lead sedentary lifestyles.

Unfortunately, sedentary living has become the norm for most Americans. The federal guidelines for exercise recommend 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week, or 1.5 hours of vigorous exercise per week. But 77% of Americans don’t come anywhere close to that amount of exercise.

It’s Never Too Late to Start

Some of you may be wondering whether it’s too late to change your heart and overall physical health. Maybe you’re middle-aged and you haven’t been exercising regularly (or at all). Don’t be discouraged – it’s never too late to start.

In fact, research suggests that you can still remodel your heart substantially by starting an exercise routine in midlife – as long as you exercise enough.

Recent studies from Dr. Levine, published in Circulation, looked at the effects of those who started an exercise routine in midlife. There were two groups: a control group that began stretching and balance training, and a group of sedentary middle-aged adults who started exercising 4-5 times per week.

The exercisers completed at least one session of HIIT (high intensity interval training) per week, while the other sessions were moderate (e.g. jogging or brisk walking) that lasted at least 30 minutes.

The exercisers continued with their routines for two years. At the end of the two years, the exercisers were the fittest they had ever been, while the control group were not.

The heart muscles of the exercisers had changed – they were stronger and less stiff than at the start of the study. Essentially, they had turned back the hands of time and their hearts were actually younger.

But to maintain these results, you would likely have to continue exercising 4-5 times per week for years. That’s why exercise is a life-long commitment, but one that always pays off.

It is easy to get started. Here are some simple exercises that most people can handle with little to no pain.

7 Mobility Aids Myths

elderly woman using a walking cane

Mobility aids are designed to help people get around safely and more efficiently. They can be used by a wide range of people of all ages and for a variety of reasons. However, like many other things in life, there are a number of stereotypes that surround mobility aid users. Many of these myths prevent people from using wheelchairs, walkers, canes and other mobility aids out of fear of what others might think.

Today, we’re going to debunk some of these myths.

1. People Who Use Wheelchairs Can’t Walk

It’s a common misconception that people who use wheelchairs – and most other mobility aids – can’t walk on their own. While this is true for some wheelchair users, many are able to walk unaided. They just may not be able to walk consistently or for long periods of time.

People use wheelchairs for a wide range of reasons. They may have multiple sclerosis, or obstructive pulmonary disease. Others, like a relative of mine, use a wheelchair because they had a heart transplant and have difficulty walking long distances.

Those who suffer from chronic pain may not be able to spend the day walking around the zoo.

Wheelchairs can help people with a wide range of ailments, and many of those ailments have absolutely nothing to do with the use of the legs.

Please don’t mock or ridicule someone for getting up out of their wheelchair and walking around. You have no idea what type of ailment they’re suffering with and how it affects their life. No one chooses to use a wheelchair.

2. Walkers are Only for the Elderly

Walkers have somehow become synonymous with the elderly, but just like with wheelchairs, walkers can be beneficial to people of all ages and who have a wide range of ailments.

Walkers can prevent users from falling and allow them to spend more time on their feet. They help prevent injuries for those who have balance issues or are unable to stand/walk for long periods of time.

No one is every too young or old to use any type of mobility aid – and that includes walkers. Do not let this myth stop you from using a walker if it would benefit your life. You may find that it can help you start enjoying the activities you used to love. You can find out more about walkers here.

3. People Who Use Wheelchairs That Aren’t Paralyzed are Just Lazy

One frustrating misconception about wheelchairs is that the users are lazy if they’re not paralyzed. There is nothing easy or simple about getting around in a wheelchair. It’s safe to say that anyone using a wheelchair would rather be able to get up and walk around just like everyone else.

Using a wheelchair can be a hassle, whether you’re getting around on your own or someone is pushing you around. Most doors don’t open automatically. Not all ramps are safe or easy to use. Not every walkway is wide enough to get through.

A day in a wheelchair is more challenging than spending an average day on foot. No one ever says: “I want to take it easy today. I think I’ll use a wheelchair to get around.”

Wheelchairs certainly have their benefits and help many people get around who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. But it’s still challenging to get around in many parts of the world.

4. People in Wheelchairs Always Need Help

Many people assume that people in wheelchairs always need help. Strangers perpetuate this myth by offering help when it’s not needed. Although thoughtful and kind, those using wheelchairs are often quite capable of getting around on their own and managing their daily activities with minimal or no assistance.

If you see someone struggling, it’s certainly polite to offer assistance – regardless of their mobility level. But never assume that every person in a wheelchair needs help.

Most wheelchair users just want to be like everyone else and are capable of doing most things on their own.

5. Wheelchair Users Live Different Lives

It’s a common myth that people in wheelchairs are not able to live “normal” lives. Sure, they may have to adapt their lifestyles, but they generally do the same things that everyone else is doing.

They go to school, they go out with friends, they do chores around the house, they have children, and they feel emotions just like everyone else. Life may be different in some ways, but you’ll find that most wheelchair users carry on with their daily activities just like everyone else.

6. Mobility Aids Will Make Life More Challenging

On the contrary, mobility aids will make your life more accessible. There is no shame or harm in using a mobility aid in order to do the things you love doing.

Perhaps you can’t walk long distances because of chronic pain. A wheelchair or walker makes it possible for you to spend the day at the mall or at the zoo with your family. Without a mobility aid, you may not be able to enjoy this family activity.

7. Wheelchair Users are “Wheelchair-Bound”

Many people assume that people are confined to their wheelchairs, or are “wheelchair-bound.” Those who are paralyzed or have severe mobility issues may use their wheelchairs the majority of the time, but it’s important to remember that a wheelchair is an assistive device that helps people get around.

No one is confined to a wheelchair 24/7.

Many people only use wheelchairs when necessary, such as when they have to walk for a prolonged period of time.

3 Tips to Receiving Quality Care Post Surgery

care post surgery

Care, following surgery, can mean the difference between pain, suffering and loss of mobility, and feeling better than you have in years. Quality care, post-surgery, is just as important as the surgery itself in many cases.

When you want the best care possible for yourself or a loved one, you need to prepare ahead of time.

1. Truly Take An Interest in Caretakers

A major mistake that a lot of people make is that they don’t want to “annoy” the surgeon or staff. When you don’t ask questions, you’re not going to receive the best quality care possible. It’s important to ask questions, but it’s also just as important to be as polite and thankful as possible.

The patient, the one that just had surgery, will be better off if they appreciate the staff members that are helping them through this tough time.

Hospitals are very stressful environments, and while the patient is going through recovery, all of the nurses, techs and doctors are also under a lot of pressure. Everyone has their own life problems going on, but when you do the following, it makes receiving quality care natural:

  • Thank all of the nurses, techs and doctors that enter the room
  • Build a relationship with these individuals
  • Ask these individuals how their day his going
  • Genuinely care of those that are taking care of you or a loved one

When a patient is loving and caring, their caretakers will go the extra mile to ensure that they receive exemplary care.

2. Prepare for Post-Surgery in Advance

Surgery is always serious, and a major hinderance on the quality care a person receives is often their own mental state. When going into surgery, the person should take time to really research the procedure.

You ought to ask your doctors questions to fully understand the extent of the surgery.

You may need extra help getting around. This may mean renting or purchasing a walking aid. If you will require one, then securing a wheelchair or walker beforehand is a good idea.

The goal is to leave no question unasked. You want to know what will happen after surgery, and it’s important for the patient to prepare for everything mentally. A lot of the issues that happen post operation are mental in nature.

Depression, fear and worry are amplified when a person comes out of surgery and doesn’t know what to expect.

Mind, body and spirit all need to be the center of attention at this time. I am not saying you need to take on a new religion or anything of that means, but it’s important to:

  • Mentally prepare for the surgery
  • Understand how long the hospital stay will be
  • Call friends and family for added support
  • Make plans for the future

Illness and surgery are just one part of life. There is a lot that you’ll want to prepare for, and oftentimes, one of the best things that you can do is prepare for the future. Looking forward to doing something or seeing someone after surgery will make the time recovering in the hospital easier to deal with.

3. Understand the Importance of the Rehab Required After Surgery

The surgery you have performed may or may not require rehab. If rehab is required, it’s one of the most important aspects of quality, post-surgery care.

Rehab centers, or therapy centers, will work with the patient to ensure that their needs are met.

However, this level of care will not be the same level as the intensive care unit. Expect response times to be slower, but also make sure that:

  • Rehabilitation centers have all of the patient’s information
  • The patient follows their rehabilitation plan inside and outside of the hospital
  • The patient understands that asking for “help” is acceptable

You also need to take charge of the patient’s care. Don’t assume that all of the proper information is passed from one facility to the next. If the patient isn’t allowed to eat a certain food, ensure that they do not eat it.

This may mean that the patient received the food erroneously from a staff member, or the patient may be trying to sneak the food.

Take charge and ensure that all care recommendations are followed.

And if something isn’t working out well, don’t be afraid to bring your concerns up with staff members and develop a new treatment plan.

Staying Active – Sports Activity Ideas for Seniors

senior exercise ideas

Seniors need to stay active, but the idea of walking around town or going to the gym might not be enticing for many seniors. When a person hates an activity, they’re far less likely to engage in it.

When a senior is engaging in an activity that they like, they’ll be more inclined to continue the activity.

Seniors that fail to stay active face the risk of:

  • Muscle loss
  • Weight gain
  • Poor circulation
  • Brittle bones

Most seniors won’t be able to play the contact sports that they did in their youth, but there are great activities that are gentle on the joints and can be done at any age.

A few sport ideas that seniors are following today are:

Swimming

Swimming is a great sport because it allows you to perform a full range of motion exercise without gravity getting in the way. The buoyancy of the water is often utilized by physical therapists to help retrain patients to walk.

So, it’s an environment that even a person with poor mobility can enjoy.

Water activities can also include aqua classes that bring seniors together to exercise and stay fit.

Taking a few laps around the pool will help:

You can also get a good cardiovascular workout if you swim faster laps.

Golf

There’s a reason that a lot of people retire and take up golf as a hobby: it’s great for seniors. Golf is a great social activity that can be shared with friends and family. Seniors won’t be able to play the game like they did when they were younger, and flexibility may impact a person’s swing.

If a senior chooses to walk between all 18 holes, they’ll also be engaging in a four-mile walk.

The course’s terrain can challenge the person further by forcing the body to engage different muscles to stay balanced. Seniors can also choose to try and walk to some of the holes and use a golf cart to get to the rest of the holes.

Golf will help a senior increase or maintain their flexibility, and the sport will also increase a person’s lower body and core muscle strength. Other muscle groups that are engaged when you make a swing are the forearms, back, chest and buttocks.

Yoga

Yoga classes, or even yoga done by following an instructor on the television, can be very beneficial for seniors. What’s great about yoga is that it can be a very gentle way to stay in shape.

Local community centers have yoga classes, or seniors can choose to buy a DVD that teaches them how to do yoga at home. There are also many online options that are completely free.

Hatha yoga is highly recommended because it’s able to improve flexibility and is more gentle than other forms of yoga. This form of yoga can also help:

  • Increase balance
  • Tone muscles

Practicing yoga can also be done in classes where it’s more of a sport and community atmosphere.

Bocce Ball

Bocce Ball is an easy game for seniors to play, and it’s a great option for anyone with a disability. Bocce can be played with two to eight people, and Howcast has a great video that explains how to play the game.

Teams will play by throwing balls at a marker, or at the smaller ball, which is thrown first to act as a marker.

Fun and social, Bocce Ball is best played with multiple people that want to mix the following three sports in one:

  1. Bowling
  2. Skee-ball
  3. Shuffleboard

While not the best game for muscle tone and maintenance, this sport will allow seniors to get out of the house and enjoy social time with their friends.

Dancing

Yes, dancing is considered a sport. If a senior has a spouse, dancing can help them get out on the dance floor and rekindle their love. Dance classes for seniors are available, and dancing has been shown to:

  • Improve a person’s energy
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Improve balance
  • Boost memory and mood

If a senior can’t dance while standing up, chair dancing is another option. This seated dance is still going to help a person’s mood, memory, balance and heart, but it’s easy on the joints and is low impact.

Bowling

The sport of bowling can be very competitive, and it’s never too late to get into bowling. There are bowling alleys scattered around cities, and there are also groups that go to play together to act as a social event.

Bowling can be done in a wheelchair, too.

There are special ramps that can be used to guide the ball down the lane. But when standing and bowling, seniors will benefit from increased arm strength due to the weight of the ball. Balance and coordination will also be benefitted thanks to the throwing of the ball.

A social sport, bowling can offer friendly competition and mental health benefits, too.