When baby boomers have knee replacement…the road to recovery

Like most aging baby boomers, Karen, age 49, had worn out her right knee. A vigorous and active life sliding into bases in her younger years, had taken its toll. She now faced a total knee replacement.

Although a total knee replacement is a common surgery, the road to recovery is not quick. It’s a big surgery and today’s advanced surgical techniques and hardware design help patients like Karen return, pain free, to normal activities.

Nearly a decade earlier, Karen had had shoulder replacement and knew what lay ahead.

A previous shoulder replacement prepared Karen for her knee replacement

“Shoulders are always hard to rehab and a replacement even more so,” Karen said. “Adam Nadler was my PT at the time and did a wonderful job. Of course, Kim Marshall was always near by, keeping a watchful eye. Some years later I learned it was Adam’s first rehab of a shoulder replacement. Boy was I impressed because he did a great job and I can’t say enough wonderful things about him.

Dr. David Kim did the first surgery and I have no residual effects,” she added. “To this day, I still do the exercises that Adam gave me.”

Over the year, Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, had treated Karen for a variety of ailments, so she was ready for what lay ahead.

Connecting with your physical therapist is key

“I had been to a number of other physical therapists in the area and the best advice I can give anyone is you need to connect with your PT,” she added.   “Just because your doctor recommends a physical therapist doesn’t mean you have to go to them.”

Dr. Timothy Gibson, in Huntington Beach, performed Karen’s knee surgery on Oct. 1, 2013. It was a success.

“Karen had an excellent surgical result, but had very poor range of motion,” Kim said. “Her rehab was going to take longer than most, which generally averages two to four months. We came up with a plan and got started immediately to work on her flexion, while reducing her pain and swelling. This included a customized home exercise program, a critical part of any rehabilitation program. To get her to 100%, we didn’t have any time to waste and she was going to need some pushing.”

Giving thanks for one revolution on the bike

As an environmental health engineer Karen was required to walk up and down hills in the mines. She was ready to get back in action. She needed to get rid of the walker, get back behind the wheel, and get out of the house on her own.

A combination of manual and soft tissue techniques, muscle strengthening exercises and passive range of motion activities were used. Issues with balance and gait also had to be addressed.

Generally that road to recovery is one milestone at a time. For Karen, it was one full revolution on the recumbent bike.

“My initial visit was in early November, and my first goal was to make one revolution on the bike by Thanksgiving,” she said. “I knew that if I could do that one thing that seems so simple, then I would be well on my way to getting my life back. I had total confidence in Kim in helping me achieve that milestone. She really understands the body, knows how to help set goals, and appropriately pushes you to reach those goals.

Just like clockwork, the pedal on the bike made one full circle, just before Thanksgiving. Everyone in the clinic celebrated her success with by applauding.

“It was just amazing,” she said. “As soon as I made that one revolution, I knew everything would be okay. The encouragement along the way from everyone really helped motivate me. Physical therapy is not fun for sure, but you certainly wouldn’t know it when you go to Progressive. It’s a great atmosphere with lots of camaraderie, which is extremely helpful.”

Over the months Karen’s success keep progressing

Over the next three months, Karen worked really hard and didn’t experience any major setbacks.

“Whenever I had an issue or felt something wasn’t right, I immediately talked to Kim about it,” she said. “She really listens well and is quick to address any potential problems. Because she is so personally invested in each patient’s success and is so tuned into what your body is doing and how you are feeling emotionally, she effortlessly can make adjustments and keep you on track.”

Within two and a half months, Dr. Gibson gave Karen clearance to drive. She was at work shortly thereafter. Completing a 60-mile round-trip was not an easy feat.

“We often take for granted the little things in life,” Karen said. “Being able to walk to church, run errands and drive a car are big things when you can’t do them. I knew if I wanted to resume my active lifestyle, I had to stay focused on my recovery and take it seriously. I am so glad I pushed through it and have my life back.”

Graduation day came after four months of steady work

After four months, Karen had completed her physical therapy and was well on her way to total recovery.

“I am so proud of Karen and the work she did to rehab her knee,” Kim said. “She was young, and it was important to restore her quality of life and high activity level. Initially, I was concerned about how much range of motion we could get for a “total knee” patient completing a 60-mile road-trip. This was something to celebrate. Karen proved that with a good surgery, hard work, and a diligent home exercise program, a good outcome was possible.”

Karen has since relocated to Minnesota. On the one-year anniversary of her surgery, she received a clean bill of health from her new orthopedic surgeon. He was very impressed with her excellent results.

“I am so grateful to Kim and Dr. Gibson for giving me my life back,” she added. “It certainly wasn’t easy, but having their excellent care certainly made it a worthwhile journey.

Karen may have graduated from physical therapy in the clinic, but because Adam and Kim drilled into her the importance of continuing her home program, she’s still exercising. In fact, she’s an avid jogger with Teddy, the Aussie Shepard and Rusty, the lab by her side, Karen’s far from that one Thanksgiving “revolution.”

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