Almost three weeks ago I received arthroscopic surgery on my right knee to remove a loose body and to clean out any damage that it caused. The good news is that my meniscus wasn’t damaged. The bad news is that I have some cartilage damage and won’t be lifting weights for a couple months. Although it sucks not doing something I love, it needed to be done because I could not do any squats and many other lifts to my full potential because my knee just wasn’t capable of performing like it should. It was going to happen either sooner or later and I picked the former.
With that said, let me tell you about my physical rehab process. (Shout out to Nevada Physical Therapy for working with me!)
Stage 1: Reactivation of muscles and full range of motion (ROM)
The first step in the process is all about getting full ROM and the muscles in my leg, such as the quadriceps, to work again. When you don’t use your muscles it atrophy’s, and in my case, your central nervous systems (CNS) forgets how to fire on those muscles to make them work. To prevent this, my physical therapist (PT) put me on the electric muscle stimulation (EMS) machine (click here to learn more) to help me reactivate my quad and surrounding muscles so they work like they’re supposed to. Each time the EMS machine would stimulate my quad I would tighten my leg as hard as I could while trying to push the back part of my knee down while pointing my foot towards me. The purpose is to make sure my muscles are working in proper unison, so I’m able to restore function and prevent future injury.
Following this, I would do quad contractions, straight leg raises, hip abduction, and hip adduction for 3 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise (click here to get a visual of what I’m talking about). Calf raises, knee bends, and riding the bike, along with stretching/massaging and a bunch of ice finished off my first week of physical therapy.
Stage 2: Strengthening and continued full ROM work
This is the stage I’m currently on, and so far things are going great. I have reached full extension again for my right knee and almost full flexion with only minor discomfort and limited pain. The exercises I’m doing right now include: body squats, hamstring curls, balance board work, bridges, step-ups, lateral band side-steps, and I just started doing dynamic single leg lunges with a band for resistance. I can tell you that the single leg work is the toughest for me. The reason is that it isolates my weak points and forces me to address them. If you watched me do them you would see a lot of wobbling and shaking, but it only means I have some work to do to get stronger.
To make sure I sustain and achieve full ROM, I’m also doing things like static stretching and foam rolling. Static stretching, done after warm-up or at the end of the PT session, is effective to achieve full ROM because is stretches the muscles by releasing any stored tension, or stress, and helps improve balance. Foam rolling (also called self-myofascial release or in laymen’s terms, self massage) breaks up and releases muscle tension, or trigger points (also called knots). The purpose is to aid the muscle in the recovery process as well as restore the muscle to normal function, which includes that it’s elastic and can perform on a moment’s notice. When I do it I know it’s working because it is very painful at times (click here to learn more about foam rolling). This means I have plenty of knots and tension that need to be released and foam rolling helps me do this while advocating full ROM and function of my muscles.
Stage 3: Functional Strength
This is the final stage of the rehab process and I’m still probably a few weeks away from it. Functional strength means doing things, such as running, jumping, and of course, lifting. I will only be able to do this stage once the swelling in my knee has disappeared (right now it’s about a quarter or an inch). This may take another month or so, but I know if I just keep grinding, like I’m doing, I’ll get there and finally be able to lift again! And once I do start lifting, I probably won’t be full strength until a couple months after. Success for me is if I’m able to do squats, cleans, deadlifts, etc., again without pain and complications (i.e. my knee locking up). I’ll keep you guys updated with my progress and let you know where I stand.
Promise: If all goes well I will enter a powerlifting meet after I’m up to full speed again. I’ve never done one before, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, but my knee just wouldn’t allow. The purpose is to test myself and just have fun. That’s my promise to you guys.
Thanks for stopping by and please comment down below and tell me about any physical rehab you’ve gone through. Until next time, see ya!