Lessons from 2 knee replacements at age 45
Yes I’m much younger than your average knee replacement patient! I am frequently asked about it, so here is my story and 6 lessons I’ve learned from this event. My hope is to inspire others regardless of where you are on your own physical journey. ❤️
Lesson 1: Always get aches and pains checked out… don’t wait even 1 year, let alone 10.
I’ve had knee pain since my 30s- but as someone with an active lifestyle I thought it was normal, or tightness I could manage with muscle and tendon management (stretching/strengthening)… I mean, who doesn’t have achy knees at some point? I waited until I was 44 (so over 10 years) before I sought any medical intervention. I had no idea the level of deterioration. (Turns out this is highly genetic… now we know!). General rule of thumb- if it doesn’t start to feel better in a month, get it checked out.
Lesson 2: Always strive for the least invasive measures.
If I’d had them checked earlier I may have been able to start cortisone shots earlier which may have extended their life or given me some pain free bouts. Unfortunately I missed this window of opportunity. If shots and/or physical therapy can manage the pain and delay surgery, always try that route first.
I did have shots in both knees, but they failed to provide any relief. My insurance didn’t want to pay for experimental treatments so I went immediately to the next step: joint replacement.
The first doctor told me to wait as long as possible because “if we replace them at age 45, you’re likely going to need a revision later on in life” and discouraged replacement.
Lesson 3: Always get a second opinion
The second doctor’s (my current surgeon) perspective sealed it for me. After looking at my x-rays, he said “This is not going to get better. So you can wait and continue to be in pain, or we can just replace them now.”
I was sold! The pain was affecting every area of my life. My job as a personal trainer is highly physical and I was in pain demonstrating movements and getting up and down from the floor. The pain and swelling flared up at times making it hard to even walk the dogs around the block. My own workouts had slowed to just the upper body. This was not the active lifestyle I worked so hard for!
Lesson 4: If it’s not going to get better, why wait?
Why spend the best years of my life in pain and unable to do what I love, when I could get them replaced before losing too much strength and mobility. I was worried my leg strength would continue to decline. I knew that surgery is easier to recover from with strong muscles, so why wait until they aren’t strong anymore and then try to recover? Makes no sense.
Lesson 5: Get all the information directly from the source
I asked my surgeon about having to do a revision in the future and he said that’s actually pretty simple at this point with technology- they simply replace the worn down piece and it’s not nearly as invasive. He said if I don’t abuse the implant (no running, jumping, etc) it should last up to 30 years. That puts me in my 70’s, and by then, who knows what advances in technology we will have.
I consulted with a colleague of mine who has studied extensively the correlation between leg strength and surgery recovery and he echoed my thoughts and my surgeon's perspective and I left that call feeling nervous but excited at this opportunity.
Lesson 6: Stay strong to recover easier
Now that I’ve been through both knee surgeries, I know how painful it can be at the beginning, and how essential it is to stay strong for recovery. I struggled with the first one- it was a long painful recovery but I’m grateful I had some strength left to fall back on. Over the last few months I worked as hard as I could on the bike, walking and some light leg exercises to keep the muscles active to help me get through the second one. Going through this without leg strength just means a prolonged recovery. So as some doctors will encourage us to “wait until we can’t take it any more”, that’s actually a disservice because meanwhile the muscles are deteriorating making the recovery that much harder.
I still have a ways to go to get back to full speed on both legs but I’m confident that I’ll be back walking and squatting in just a few months.
If you know someone struggling with pain, or who has been told they might need a replacement, please feel free to share my story! I hope it can help inspire others!
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to ask any questions- I can be reached at email@example.com. My website www.bethfitpersonaltrainer.com contains information about all of my programs and ways I can help!
Sometimes we all just need a little push 💪