Physical Therapy or Do It Yourself?

I recently was discharged from physical therapy following a knee replacement revision surgery. It’s now been almost a year and a half since I gained my new knee.

My therapy started immediately with basic exercises. Actually, it really started before with exercises to strengthen my legs in advance of the weakening I’d experience post-surgery. Building up the strength of my right leg and arms helped me to be able to use a walker for mobility during my recovery.

Following my hospital stay I was transferred to a rehabilitation center where my job was to participate in intensive physical therapy sessions, including exercises for me to do on my own time. While it was hard to be away from home, the rehab gave me a huge boost in my recovery and also allowed my doctor to monitor my progress.

When I was cleared to go home, my therapy continued there with visiting therapists and additional exercises. After I became highly skilled at cruising with my walker and could stand up from a chair, I was ready to go to outpatient therapy.

Each phase of physical therapy brought progress, setbacks and frustration. Through it all I had to bring the hard work home and do my exercises every day. A lot of days I didn’t want to do it. I was achy, tired or just struggling with the slow process of healing.

Looking back, my improvement has been incredible—from not being able to move my leg to now standing and walking short distances. I often can’t see my own progress very well, but as enough time passes it is easier to observe. My latest accomplishment has been to climb a six inch step with some assistance!

Although I’m officially finished with physical therapy, my work is not yet complete and I still have goals I want to accomplish. This means I’m taking all the exercises I learned and continue working on them, plus practicing walking and step climbing to improve my endurance. I have additional goals, such as feeling more sure of myself on my feet.

I’m planning on restarting my aqua therapy as well. Not only is getting in the water fun and a nice change to repetitious exercises, the water feels good on my joints and offers both support and resistance for good exercise. Eventually, I hope to be strong enough to return to a gentle yoga class.

While I do miss the regularity of physical therapy appointments and having a person making sure I’m progressing on my goals, I know the ultimate responsibility is mine. I must continue my work and can’t rely on other people to make sure I do my exercises.

I also have to remember that no one else knows what I’m capable of. I loved that during my last appointment, my PT said when I came in for the first time she did not know what I would be able to achieve. I had said I wanted to work towards walking independently again, and she frankly did not know if it would be possible. But she did what I would hope for any health professional—she kept an open mind.

Now that I’m walking again and even climbing a step, I achieved more than my original goals and blew all expectations out of the water. So I’m definitely not stopping now—I want to see what else I can do! My exercises continue at home and I’ll experiment with additional activities like swimming.

Perhaps it’s silly but one of my goals is to be able to kick my leg again. I can do a lot, but I miss a simple kick, and you’d be surprised how handy a skill it is!

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