Out of all the body parts to have surgery on, it seems like the knee surgeries are the ones that typically leave a longer lasting pain. I’m talking pain that lasts longer than expected after the surgery. That is purely anecdotal in my years of being a physical therapist.
And, let me say there is a big difference between having an arthroscopic procedure for the meniscus vs a total knee replacement. As you can imagine, one is a very aggressive surgery. If you have not taken the chance to YouTube what a total knee replacement entails, take a moment to check it out (if you aren’t queasy).
But, nonetheless, these reasons for continued knee pain remains the same.
These are the top 5 reasons why your knee is likely hurting after a surgery.
- First and foremost (and least likely), there could be an infection. Or you could have developed some spontaneous osteonecrosis in the knee. Those are some really serious terms I threw out and if you weren’t concerned about your continued knee pain, I am sure you are now. But, remember, these are more rare than the following reasons why you still have knee pain after surgery. Infection and osteonecrosis is something you should watch out for. To get them ruled out as the cause of pain, I do suggest following up with your surgeon. They will be able to run the proper tests to rule in and out the possibility of an infection or osteonecrosis.
- In some cases, maybe you did not give the knee enough time to heal. I work with a lot of athletes and active adults. These patients are so eager to return to their sport and active lifestyle. Most are not accustomed to just sitting around and recovering. I get it. You are active but you need to find some other ways to be active! What a perfect time to indulge in international chest day (gentlemen, that is everyday, am I right?!)! Athletes are different, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t always beat how well your body heals. That can be slightly variable between all of us. Just because you saw Adrian Peterson return to football just 8 months after an ACL surgery does not mean you should.
- Your knee is now more unstable than it was prior to surgery. Whether it is a small arthroscopic surgery or a massive total knee surgery, your knee is likely less stable than it was originally. We were put together pretty well as humans. When we go in and alter it, it is likely that we won’t necessarily go back together with the same amount of “tightness” as prior to surgery. Don’t get me wrong, surgeons do a great job of repairing the ACL and tightening it like it “should” but it is still not the original. For surgeries like a total knee replacement, that is a massive surgery with a big incision, moving things around, drilling into bone, etc. (did you go YouTube the surgery yet?!). There has to be a compromised integrity of the original tissue that is there. Don’t worry, it is not all doom and gloom though.
- As a physical therapist this pains me to say. But, maybe you had a poor rehabilitation process? I am not here to bash on my community, nor bash other professionals. But we know there is a difference between companies and providers. For instance, can you tell the difference between a McDonald’s burger and an In N Out Burger? Is there a difference between Michael Jordan and Devin Booker? I’m not saying any of those differences between the aforementioned examples are good or bad. But we can agree they are different. This happens in the healthcare field as well. One physical therapy clinic is not the same as another. One physical therapist may treat a patient one way and another in a completely different manner.
I want to expand on this a little more. Some physical therapy clinics are still stuck shoving patients into their clinics in droves. I’m talking having their therapist see 4-6 people in an hour. I have had patients literally tell me they felt like they were just being “herded along” while at those clinics. Physical therapy is also a broad scope, encompassing a lot of different specific populations. Having a physical therapist see a 3-month-old with a developmental delay one minute and their next patient is a 94 year-old with balance deficits requires two very different skill sets. And, although they are both human, they are both very different populations to be working with.
- I saved this one for last because it is a little tough to take in…Maybe your pain you were having before the surgery wasn’t really the cause of the pain. Ouch. I know. I don’t blame you though. You aren’t the medical professional and aren’t staying up to date on the research regarding imaging and knee pain. There was a famous surgeon who once said, “If you want a reason to do surgery on an athlete, get them an MRI.” Again, don’t get me wrong, MRI’s can be a great tool, but it doesn’t always pain the whole picture. An image is just that, an image. It tells you a plausible source for your pain, but it can not tell you pain (if only the image could really talk to you and let you know what was causing the pain, what a world that would be!). I don’t want to bore you with all of the statistics but a lot of the findings in those who had some sort of knee surgery are also found in people who have no knee pain.
This is a lot of information to take in. I am sure it adds a different perspective for you to think about regarding your continued knee pain after surgery.
If you would like to get a professional assessment of your continued knee pain after your surgery, please feel free to apply for a free consult. We would love the opportunity to sit down with you and discuss why your knee pain is still present after a knee surgery.
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