As an avid marathoner, Rick had pounded his knees for more than 25 years. Racquetball, skiing and walking 18 holes on golf courses also added to the stress on his joints.
Although his physician had suggested 10 years earlier that he consider having his right knee replaced, Rick hadn't felt ready. He was still active and could tolerate the pain.
What prompted his recent decision to undergo joint replacement for his knee was the fact that he could no longer walk comfortably with his wife and their dog.
"It seemed like such a simple thing but my knee started to bother me more and more. Walking around the neighborhood just wasn't fun anymore," said Rick.
After two hours of surgery and three days of recovery in the hospital, Rick was ready to go home and get physical therapy to make his new knee strong and steady.
Rehab therapy after a knee replacement is intensive. Rick started physical therapy at home the day after he was discharged from the hospital. Beth, a physical therapist in VNA of Care New England's Rehabilitative (Rehab) Therapy Department, drove to his house every other day to treat his knee.
With Beth's help, Rick was walking around the main floor of his house on his first day at home.
Pain after any joint replacement surgery is generally far greater than any patient expects. Part of a therapist's initial care is to let the patient know that the pain will be short-term. Rick's knee hurt more in the first two days at home than it had at the hospital. Beth convinced him that the pain, although significant, would subside within a few days. Sure enough, within 3 days, Rick was climbing up and down stairs and taking several short walks inside the house.
Learning Rick's expectations and goals for his therapy led Beth to develop a care plan that would guide his recovery in a protected and steady manner. She worked with Rick to increase his ability to bend and straighten his knee, taught him exercises to strengthen his leg muscles, and recommended ways to help him move around the house safely. Rick used the bannister on the stairs for support and when he was walking on the flat floor, he used a cane to take some weight off his recovering knee.
According to Rick, "Beth was the just right combination of encouragement and caution when I wanted to push myself to do more."
After one week, Rick felt well enough to work from his house a few hours a day. Within three weeks, he was strong enough to drive to his office where he worked full days. At that point, Rick no longer needed rehab therapy at home and instead started therapy in an outpatient facility.
Although it will be several months before Rick's knee is completely rehabilitated, he's once again enjoying walks with his family.