accessibility · fitness · habits · injury · stretching

Recovery and why physio is so hard!

So I am the sort of person who is good at following the advice of physiotherapists. I’ve successfully rehabbed some serious injuries and I trust the professional advice of physiotherapists. I do what I’m told.

It’s also worth noting that I have exceptionally good benefits and they cover almost all of my physio costs. And yet, even for me, physio after knee replacement is tough and I thought I’d explore why.

First, advice about recovering from knee surgery can sound contradictory. The take home sheets from the hospital say to use your new knee as much as possible each day. It will help you heal faster from surgery and improve your chances of long-term success. But also it says to avoid pushing yourself too far too soon. So as much as possible but not too much. Yep.

And practically it feels like that too.

The knee feels good and so I go for a short walk. After that it swells up and is painful so it’s time for ice and elevation. I’m constantly moving between making the knee work and then helping it recover.

After I posted about going for a very short walk this morning, friends commented, great, now rest!

What’s as much as possible but not too much? There’s not really good intuitive measure at this stage since everything hurts a lot of the time.

Second, unlike other physio I’ve done this is really painful. It’s the kind of painful where you ice before and after and take pain medication around your pt sessions. Since you’ve just undergone surgery and things still hurt from that, you feel a bit like hiding on the sofa, covering yourself in blankets, and waiting until the pain goes away.

Third, it’s pretty time consuming.

Here’s a rough schedule of my days this week. Next week I’m hoping to be able to get on the bike trainer to help with my range of motion.

6 am breakfast, drugs, ice and elevation in bed

630 physio round one, basic stretching and mobility

700 more elevation and icing and getting ready for the day

Tiny walk

800 Breakfast round two, more pain meds, more elevation and icing

900 Physio round 2 mobility and stretching plus regaining strength

930 ice and elevation

10-12 free time for reading possibly napping

12-1 lunch

100 ice and elevation, more pain meds

130 Physio round 3, mobility and stretching and regaining strength

200 ice and elevation

230-4 free time for reading and napping etc

4-6 dinner etc

7 last round, 4, of basic mobility physio

Tiny walk #2

Bed with all the ice and more pain meds


That’s me on the deck post tiny walk, resting and icing, as friends and physio advised.

Patience my friends is going to be key.

aging · fitness · health

How Bettina learned to stop worrying and love the physio (well, maybe ‘love’ is a strong word)

My mother has back problems. And shoulder problems, neck problems, and arm problems. In short, she’s a chronic pain patient. It started when she was in her early fourties. One day, her shoulder started hurting and never stopped. The rest came as she went along. She tried cycling, she got back problems. She tried swimming, she got elbow problems. Knitting, lifting anything even remotely heavy, too much yoga (and you never know in advance what “too much” is), sitting anywhere with even the hint of a draft, are all out of the question. Being my mother – one of the most strong-willed people I know – she soldiers on. She’s now 71 and still does light yoga, a lot of hiking, and a huge amount of daily physio exercises.

I’m in my mid-30s now. Needless to say, one of my main fears is that I will run into the same issues. Granted, I have a few things going for me that might, at least, buy me some time and at best, prevent me from ever having the same amount or intensity of issues. My mother was born in rural post-war Germany, when good nutrition wasn’t a given. As the daughter of farmers, she spent a lot of time crouching in potato fields when she was young. She worked as a nurse for years and did a lot of heavy lifting. She didn’t really exercise regularly until she was middle-aged.

I, on the other hand, started swimming when I was in primary school (at the insistence of my mother, because it was supposed to be good for my back). I’ve always exercised regularly. I was well-nourished from the start. I’ve never worked a physical job. And yet.

So, in anticipation of Really Bad News, I postponed visiting the orthopaedist for a Really Long Time. But earlier this year, fear finally got the better of me, so I went. “I don’t want to end up like my mother”, I told him, and asked what I had to do to prevent it. “Are you in any pain?” he asked, which I happily denied. He looked at me slightly funny, but gave me a thorough examination. Apparently apart from a tendency to hunch and wonky hips, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me. But just so my insurance could get its money’s worth out of the visit (by paying more money), he prescribed me five sessions of physiotherapy.

Photo of a bendy wooden doll. Bettina is trying to get her body to stay that flexible.
Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

I went to the physiotherapist and got similarly quizzical looks. It seems like if you’re not in pain, you’re not supposed to be there? I was surprised. And I realised my privilege of being relatively young, fit and “healthy”-looking has a consequence I hadn’t really considered much: people mostly concerned with healing don’t expect me. That was an interesting experience.

Luckily, my physio is awesome and adaptable, and was happy with damage prevention rather than control. He realised quickly that I actually do a fair amount of sports. So in the first session, we did a test that’s normally administered to athletes to discover their musculoskeletal weaknesses.

My lower back, hips, and shoulders are my weak points, with the lower back being the weakest. So my physio has been giving me exercises to do at home to strengthen it, and I’ve been trying to incorporate them into my routine. Honestly, I don’t enjoy them much. They’re exhausting, which probably means they’re working, and fairly boring. But that’s why I went, wasn’t it? To do things to hopefully prevent me from being in pain. So I’m going to take a page out of Sam’s book and try to do my un-fun physio exercises regularly. I’m also trying to focus on yoga routines that centre on my “problem areas” and incorporate asanas that are similar to the exercises I’m supposed to do, like Warrior 3, or chaturanga.

So what’s the verdict after four out of five sessions? I have a better awareness of my weak points and how to correct them. I have a bunch of exercises I can do at home. I’m curious to see if they will bring long-term improvement. Watch this space to find out how long my newly-found love… er, tolerance of physio lasts.

Do any of you have experience with physiotherapy? And how to be disciplined and make it stick, even if the benefits aren’t immediately obvious?