Training and Complications after Knee Surgery
In August 2015 Beth Thomas went into hospital to have a meniscus repair for torn cartilage in her left knee. In her last article she talked about the first part of her journey to recovery and the first weeks after her meniscectomy. Today she talks a bit about the realities of her recovery – the workarounds and the setbacks. Tell us what you think. If you’ve not read the previous article you can find it here: Climbing Injuries // Meniscus Tear Repair: Pt 1
Week 3-9 after Cartilage Repair Surgery
About a month after the knee operation to repair my torn cartilage I found myself ready to start upper body training for climbing. Before my operation I did some sessions with Laura Zambianchi; she had got me feet-off campusing for the first time ever, so I felt confident going back to her.
A month after Meniscus repair surgery
With just a few weeks off climbing training, I could barely manage one pull up. This was down to some nausea that lingered after the operation, but was mainly due to loss of strength and technique. I was more psyched than put off by this and I was able to go to the training gym again! Lifts from kind training buddies, as well as Laura adapting my sessions, meant that once I began training regularly again I started to get strong and have more of a focus.
Although being unable to bend my left knee was very limiting I found ways around this such as straight legged pull ups. In no time my upper body strength had returned to how it was pre-op. In terms of lower body at this point I was useless and still on crutches. I was still not allowed to bend my knee past 90 degrees, however, due to the rushed discharge from hospital, I had not been given good enough advice and so had kept my leg completely straight. This meant that it was incredibly painful to bend it even slightly and my leg muscles and tendons were weak.
Physiotherapy after knee surgery
It’s really important. The physiotherapist was my lifeline throughout my recovery process and I had to find a way to put my controlling nature aside and trust what she was asking me to do. I learned to sit back and gurn through the agony of groin massage.
Then I hit a wall. Mentally. I was just not making the progress I expected after 6 weeks. Up to this point I had accepted my recovery was going to be slow and hard but passing the 6 week marker was a huge realisation that something was not right. I was in pain most of the time and my left leg was a different colour to the right. I also had a painful lump on the place of the tear. My quads in my left leg had totally disappeared. (Find out more about the quads, what they are and what they do).
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
After an MRI it turned out I had developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This is a chronic pain syndrome that can occur in the body after trauma. There is no root to the pain apart from the body reacting to the trauma, for me this was the surgery. This explained why I had been in so much pain and why my leg was discoloured. The scan also showed that my knee tissue had not reabsorbed the stitch anchor, causing the painful lump I could feel. I was told I was too weak and the CPRS too severe to take this out. I was given another appointment in 3 months and told to take painkillers and continue physiotherapy.
I was now 4 months post-surgery and still couldn’t do much strength-based work, such as lifting my knee off the floor in a bent position. I was frustrated. I wanted to climb.