From mental health, to sports specific screening, to the latest research in exercise for Cancer our goal is to give our readers an overview of not just research in various areas of health and rehabilitation but to offer our opinion from years of experience in working in these areas.
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'My ACL Journey' written by Samantha Hood Accredited Exercise Physiologist, is an authentic account of the pain, emotion and work involved in having a successful rehabilitation journey after injury. We admire Sam's candour and preparedness to open up to help others preparing for and rehabilitating after surgery.
Waking up after a general anaesthetic is always interesting. I remember waking up, feeling very drowsy and incredibly cold, but I was pain free. After my surgery, I spent the night in Epworth Richmond. For the first several hours I tried not to move my leg at all as I was nervous about the pain even though I was heavily medicated. Once I had some rest, and had two dinners (I don’t like fasting), it was time to try and get out of bed. When I swung my legs around, and started to put a bit of weight through my legs, I was incredibly worried. No one wants to experience pain. Using my crutches I stood up, and took a few steps forward, and to my disbelief I felt okay, more than okay. No I wasn’t walking normally, but I wasn’t walking terribly either.
After a night of being woken up many times by the nurses (for more medication), I slept pain free. The morning consisted of Netflix, breakfast, X-Rays, and a visit from my surgeon Tim Whitehead, Physiotherapist and Pharmacist. I was very happy to hear that my surgery went well, and it was a standard ACL reconstruction. Interesting fact: I have thicker than usual hamstring tendons which will lower my re-rupture rate. The Physiotherapist visited to provide me with exercises to do at home in the first two weeks of my recovery, being an experienced Exercise Physiologist I was completely across this, but was very grateful for her input. The only two exercises I needed to focus on were bending my knee and straightening it, four times a day. The Physio had me complete them in the hospital and I was very hesitant, especially to bend my knee as this was a struggle for me even before the injury. To my surprise, after the initial fear passed, I was able to bend my knee to 90O without pain, which I was extremely happy about.
A short say in hospital before returning home
For the next two weeks, I did these two exercises four times a day until my follow up appointment with my surgeon. To hold myself accountable, I printed out a calendar to mark off every time I completed my exercises (I love checklists). After just one day at home, I progressed from two crutches to one. And then finally to no crutches (very slow walking though) within a few days. Alongside my exercises, I also followed RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation).
My fear following surgery was that I would get a blood clot in my calf from not walking as much.
It was brought to my attention by my surgeon and nurses to keep an eye on my calf as a blood clot is a risk following surgery. The only discomfort I was experiencing was high up in my calf. I called my surgeons office to discuss it with a nurse and they sent me straight for an ultrasound to be cautious. Thankfully, it was not a clot, but a haematoma (fancy word for bruise) in my calf. Over the next few days, this internal bruise quickly became external and spread across my calf.
Sunday, six days after my surgery was a bad day for me. Having not been using any crutches for a couple of days, I had to return to using both. Every step I took was painful, and I struggled to put any pressure through my leg due to my calf swelling and bruises. I was reluctant to get up and walk, and wasn’t as motivated to do my exercises but persisted anyway. This persistent pain in my calf lasted for five days, and it finally started to ease off after that, even though it felt like the pain was never going to go away.
The second week was bad for me, otherwise I actually didn’t experience that much pain during the first week. I think I expected to be in extreme pain based on what people were telling me. I guess this mindset helped in a way, as I expected the worst and anything else was a win for me.
Keep in mind, everyone’s pain is different. I have not experienced any extreme pain in my knee, however I had it in my calf. If you speak to anyone that has had an ACL reconstruction, they will all tell you differently. This is what I experienced, you may not experience the same discomfort as I did, but at least you can be aware of what to potentially expect.
These are the two exercises that I performed routinely in phase 1 on my rehab focusing on range of movement whilst being supported to help the movement