Posts Tagged ‘ACL Post-op’

I’m moving for the second time since I had my surgery. Not just moving apartments, but moving cities. I moved from Chicago to San Francisco at 3 months post-op and now am moving back to Chicago this weekend, 10 months post-op.

Two pieces of advice for those who move post op:

1. Seek a reputable therapist and gym membership immediately!! I waited until I “settled in” until I found a therapist out here and it was too long. Do it ASAP because good PTs are hard to find and harder to schedule.

2. Be careful with all the lifting, carrying and stair climbing. Be sure to stretch pre/post move. (Or bribe friends to help you out!) I might sound like a broken record here, but if you are lifting, be sure you are doing it properly.

Here’s some advice from About.com:

  1. Plan ahead before lifting.
    Knowing what you’re doing and where you’re going will prevent you from making awkward movements while holding something heavy. Clear a path, and if lifting something with another person, make sure both of you agree on the plan.
  2. Lift close to your body.
    You will be a stronger, and more stable lifter if the object is held close to your body rather than at the end of your reach. Make sure you have a firm hold on the object you are lifting, and keep it balanced close to your body.
  3. Feet shoulder width apart.
    A solid base of support is important while lifting. Holding your feet too close together will be unstable, too far apart will hinder movement. Keep the feet about shoulder width apart and take short steps.
  4. Bend your knees and keep your back straight.
    Practice the lifting motion before you lift the object, and think about your motion before you lift. Focus on keeping you spine straight–raise and lower to the ground by bending your knees.
  5. Tighten your stomach muscles.
    Tightening your abdominal muscles will hold your back in a good lifting position and will help prevent excessive force on the spine.
  6. Lift with your legs.
    Your legs are many times stronger than your back muscles–let your strength work in your favor. Again, lower to the ground by bending your knees, not your back. Keeping your eyes focused upwards helps to keep your back straight.

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Happy St. Pat’s day to all from “Little Miss Lucky”–that’s me moments after my surgery.

Thanks to massive pain killers and nerve blocks, I don’t really remember most of it. I remember waking up to graham crackers and ginger ale and the nurse directing me to eat the crackers. I just wanted to fall back asleep. My leg was numb, but I could feel the bulky weight of my new reality. Maybe if I could go back to sleep, I could magically awaken to a fully rehabbed and strong ACL? Not the case. That was too much to think about. As the anesthesia slowly wore off, my surgeon came in the room. I felt like I needed to ask him so much, but was first concerned with how I was going to get into my car and leave the hospital; I couldn’t bare to think of life beyond that. Then he said,”Well, the worst part is over. It all gets better from here.”

He was and is right. Once you make the surgical decision to reconstruct your knee, every day from that point on gets better and the only thing you have to do is progress. I know, this sounds contrary to what most of the rest of this blog says. Rehab is not easy, but the great thing is that you have the opportunity each day to “rebuild” your knee and the rest of your body. You become more conscious of movements, body mechanics and proper form. You never take a moment you can move for granted again. Most people will never see life–or their bodies–from that angle. So complain as we do, the whole ACL experience makes us better athletes –and people in the end. Lucky us :)

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This whole time that I have been rehabbing, I’ve had my sights set on making my big sports comeback on the ski slopes. When I tore my ACL last Jan., I did it one week before a ski trip to Whistler. (Ouch!) I had to sit on the bench for the that one. I even booked my ski trip this year eight months post-op, hoping that would give me ample time to get fit. But sometimes, no matter how far in advance you plan and no matter how much prep work you do, your plans just fall through. Mine did.

I saw an orthropeadic surgeon a few weeks ago, and she told me I shouldn’t ski. What?! You mean to tell me that all my rehab and all my PT over the past months and all those times I unwillingly drug myself into the gym when I just wanted to collapse wasn’t good enough?!?!? Are you telling me that my knee is STILL in need attention and that I’m STILL not back to normal?! Ugh! FML!

Talk about disappointment in the midst of an already brutal, and sometimes seemingly elementary rehab process. Hearing that news sucked. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought, seeing as how I already heard that similar news about a year ago when I first tore my knee. If my knee isn’t getting stronger, at least my skin is getting tougher.

My first thought was, “What did I do wrong?” Then the guilt started creeping out. I should have gone to the gym more. I should have scheduled more PT sessions. I shoulda, coulda, woulda… This whole ordeal has taken enough of my time, stress and frustration. I had to give myself a break. After all, I have a life, and so do you. We can’t all make one singular ligament the sole focus of our crazy busy lives. We don’t all make a living playing professional sports, so sometimes the incentive to work the knee every day is non existent and just a hassle–at least it can be for me, your average former high-school athlete who wants to keep sports a part of her life for the rest of her life.

Before my doctor came to her conclusion about ruining my ski trip, she made me do the one-legged jump test. (You probably shouldn’t try this until you are ready to get back to sports.)

Stand with about 3-4 feet of clear space in front of you (hard surfaces work great)

Start with your non-surgery leg (I’m doing my best not to say “good/bad knee”)

Jump forward as far as you can. Stick the landing. Repeat with your surgically enhanced leg. It’s not that easy, huh? I didn’t do so hot. I didn’t jump very far and my landing was not stuck–I took an extra step like a nervous gymnast. The good thing was I had the confidence to attempt it–I did it without thinking twice. Just goes to show you how powerful confidence and attitude can be during rehab. That’s honestly what got me through this bit o’ bad news and allowed me to reset some goals and reevaluate my overall process and program. Now, instead of attempting the bunny hills next weekend like I would have, I plan on skiing in March at the level that I left off on; my therapist said she could even get me trained for jumping. We’ll see about that. I’m sure I’ll slowly immerse myself back onto the mountain, but this time I’ll certainly be stronger than expected. No use half-assing it. I’ve waited so long so, so hopefully I’ll be ready to conquer the mountain, as opposed to just bunny-hillin’ it.

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I haven’t posted a pic–or a post–in a while. Sorry for the delay. I’ve been too busy rehabbin’! I promise to be more active, especially since I am entering six-months post-op and the home stretch for my first post-op ski trip at the end of Jan.

Here’s what my knee looks like these days. It’s slightly bent in the picture, so it’s a little more white than usual. Hopefully it will go “clear” soon.

Six months post-op ACL scar

Six months post-op ACL scar

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A Quick Overview on Life These Days:

-Bending, Extenstion and ROM seem to be very up to par

-My knee only feels stiff when I am sitting at my desk for long periods of time

-Still no running, but I am avid on the bike, rowing machine, eliptical and others

-My knee doesn’t “pop” as much, apparently the knee cap is getting back into it’s groove

-My operated leg is still not as strong as the other leg (only 50 million more squats to go!)

-I am (cautiously) “jumping” on the BOSU ball and shuttle machine

-My scar is pretty much clear, no more purple/red to it

-My scar tissue has faded fast, sometimes I have to search hard to find the little bit of it

-I am actually looking forward to getting back to sports soon (sports, as in playing on a team) I’m also a huge advocate of being cautious with this bionic knee, so no set date yet, but I feel ready. I will be hitting the slopes in Tahoe this January.


I hope all is well with everyone! Where are you at post-op and what is your new knee life like these days?

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An ACL surgery where most pain and swelling subsides in 4-6 weeks, vs. 3-4 months for traditional open or partial-arthroscopic ACL replacement? Where was this option when I needed it five months ago?!

Excerpts of this article were taken from “Ohio Orthopedic Surgeon Daniel Zanotti, MD, is One of the First in the U.S. to Perform All-Arthroscopic ACL Replacement Surgery” on PRWEB

“This time of year, athletes have a lot of knee injuries, especially football and soccer players,” says board-certified orthopedic surgeon Daniel Zanotti, MD. “At the Center for Orthopedics, we’re pushing the envelope with a brand-new all-arthroscopic ACL reconstruction procedure.” 

Daniel Zanotti, MD

Daniel Zanotti, MD


  Orthopedic surgeons have recently started using allograft or donor tendon tissue. We’ve tried to eliminate any incisions for harvesting grafts or even for inserting them–doing everything arthroscopically through a few tiny holes.




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Today is my five-month anniversary with my newly constructed ligament.

Overall things have been going well. I think my biggest obstacle now is life getting in my way. It’s hard to stick to a 2/day PT schedule when you work long hours, socialize and overall are feeling a little bit more back to normal. Not that normal, though. I still try to make it to PT twice a week, but find myself cancelling a lot of those appointments due to the aforementioned commitments of “life.” Some of it I can control, while others I can’t.

Right now I feel like I’m in a weird holding period of “feeling fine to go about the normal day” but “not up to par with normal physical activities.” I can walk to work just fine, substitute the stairs for the elevator with no problem, but I’m just not back to my old physical regime–soccer two nights a week, the gym every other night, run 3 miles, then play various other sports throughout the week. I’ll get there. I just have to reevaluate the importance of pushing myself to go beyond getting through the normal day and getting back into normal activities. Besides, if I want to be skiing by the end of January, I think I have my work cut of for me.

If it helps any, at least it did for me, go back and look through the pictures of your progress. Maybe you have pictures after surgery, your scar progression or any pictures of you post-op. Now, think about where you are today–how you feel, how your strength is and your mobility. Finally, take your hand and give yourself a big ol’ pat on the back. Congrats, champ! You’re that much closer to your normal life.

I think about the bandages, the CPM machine, the pain killers that made me sick, the crutches, that damn brace in the middle of summer and my humility–none of those things are present in my life anymore. I hope you continue to shed layers of bad ACL experiences every day. 

After Surgery–ACL Scar                                                           DSCN1822

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In a few hours, I will finally be going on my New Zealand trip. What this really means is my declaration to getting back to living a normal life. Knee surgery takes it out of you. Confides you. Isolates you. Frustrates you. Confuses you. Puts weight on you. And changes you. While your knee may be snapped, it’s really how you choose to deal with it that makes or breaks you. When I was doing PT in Chicago, they had pictures of people–famous athletes, average Joes and kids–who signed their pics with inspirational messages for recovery. I’ll never forget this marathon runner who signed his with this message: “Bones may break, but nothing can shatter the human spirit.”  It might be a famous quote, but it’s so true. I gotta throw in one of my favorite baseball quotes, too. From the great Jack Buck, “Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” 

Your recovery is entirely up to you. Somedays you can’t crawl out of bed–and somedays you don’t want to. Sometimes you skip excercises and stop after a few squats. And somedays you really feel hopeless, but it gets better. Your knee finally starts bending, your gait starts looking normal and people stop telling you they feel sorry for you. Keep your mind strong, your excercise schedule strict, and before you know it, your knee won’t even bother you. I’m three months, two weeks post-op and can go through the normal day just fine. No running or contact sports yet, but that’s just another goal to reach for. My first goal was getting back to normal life, and that officially starts today.

I wish the same for you–and in an even speedy manner. If you have stories of what, or who, got you through rehab, please share them! We can learn from each other and grow stronger for it! Brighter days are certainly ahead.


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Yesterday, I made a quick run to Walgreen’s and ran into this guy …


… at first, I was startled. I couldn’t believe his hair do, so I had to ask him about it. Turns out, Jack, with www.rollersoccer.com tattooed on the back of his head, is the owner creator of the Rollersoccer Federation International. As we talked soccer, it’s inevitable that I had to bring up my knee and how I lost it to soccer. No one who plays soccer questions an ACL soccer injury; they happen all the time.

Jack went on to tell me that some of soccer’s greatest players have used roller soccer as rehab to get back to the grassy field. Interesting. People wearing roller blades, sprinting up and down a wooden gym floor all while trying to incorporate the fundamentals of soccer is actually GOOD for knee rehab? What do you think? I’ll have to check with my surgeon and PTs on that one. Nonetheless, Jack–a very enthusiatic and outgoing fellow–piqued my interest. I do like a challenge, so while I’m still in wall-squat and leg-lift prohibition, I’ll look into the sport of roller soccer. 

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My solution is simple:

“Make no little plans…” Daniel Burnham, Chicago architect. (1864-1912)

1. Think about your passions/hobbies pre-ACL surgery.

2. Make a plans to return to one thing a few months out, when you are mostly recovered.

3. Start an envelope/savings jar and start stashing away the money you would be spending at restaurants, bars, clubs, sports or traveling. Since you are confined to the couch and a brace, think of it as a nice savings plan for your big “welcome back to civilation” celebration.

For me, I love to travel and play sports. So much so, that I tore my ACL five days before my ski trip to Whistler. (Ouch!) Since my tear and surgery, I haven’t been able to travel or play sports. But, no worries, mate. My ACL plan I made to help my mentally get through this process was to plan a trip to New Zealand. I get my travel fix and my adventure sports fix in whatever level I choose to participate, even if it is just watching an All Blacks game or my friends zorbing down hills. After this rehab process, I’ll certainly need some new adventures in my life–we all will. Sorry I encourage you to make plans. Back to my opening quote,  “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work…”


Pic from breakaway.co.nz I found this wonderful photgrapher, Kenny Muir, on Flikr. Maybe some of his travel photography can inspire you to make no little plans when your ACL is back and kicking. 

The rehab thing is definetly physical, but we all know it’s so much of mind game, too. As if being couped up on your couch for weeks isn’t enough, good luck trying to retrain your leg how to bend and walk again. Forget about that for now, go make your plans. I’ll be leaving for New Zealand in three weeks, almost three months after my surgery. I’m sure it’s worth the wait, that’s why you gotta plan big.


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