Table of Contents
Introduction to My Knee Injury & Recovery from Major Knee Surgery
A knee surgery, or any major surgery, carries with it a certain percentage of risk. There’s the general anaesthesia, rare but possible mishaps, unforeseen problems, medication interactions and more.
Depending on which part of the body has been operated on, the recovery can look quite different. In my case, I suffered a spontaneous bilateral patellar tendon rupture. Meaning both my knees were (are) completely broken – from the thigh, down to the kneecap and quadriceps – for a few months, up to a year.
Whilst mine are the two biggest tendons in the knees, others suffer from bone fractures, ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament) tears, and more. They differ in degrees of severity, but all affect our ability to walk and move properly.
Spending that much time in bed is a nightmare in terms of logistics and physical health. This article will focus on things needed after knee surgery for a smooth recovery, and to make coping with disability a little easier.
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A Big Thank You to Everyone Who Supported & Continue to Support Me
I would also like to thank everyone – family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers who helped me along my major knee surgery recovery journey.
For those who supported us financially, a lot of the funds went into some of the items listed in this post. For those who supported emotionally through visitations and communication – this was invaluable for my mind and spirit. For those who supported physically, I couldn’t have gotten around to my doctor appointments without your help, and managing everyday tasks would be an even bigger challenge than it already was and is.
So a big thank you to each and every single one of you – you know who you are 🙂
A common comment I see on social media is that others with chronic illness or disabilities do not have anyone to support them or to rely on. So I am very grateful for all the kindness and support that I do have. I know that I’m very fortunate that way, and appreciate every little action.“A common comment I see on social media is that others with #chronicillness or #disabilities do not have anyone to #support them or to rely on. So I am very #grateful for all the #kindness and support that I do have.” Click To Tweet
❗️ Disclaimer: Knee injuries and surgeries, or any major surgery for that matter, vary widely from person to person. Your age, lifestyle, weight, circumstances, other chronic health conditions, medications, comorbidities, allergies and other issues can impact your recovery timeline, as well as the tools and methods required. They should be adapted for YOU.
This article and the resources provided below are based on MY own personal experiences with spontaneous bilateral patellar tendon ruptures, as a person with many chronic illnesses. It also includes extensive options to cover various knee surgeries – not everything is meant for your specific type of knee injury or knee surgery. They are meant for educational purposes and not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own medical provider before trying anything out.
This post also contains affiliate links. It will cost you nothing to click on them. I will get a small referral fee from purchases you make, which helps with the maintenance of this blog (approx. $100/month). Thank you!
Last Updated: 26 February 2023 (Ergonomic and buckwheat pillow recommendations added)
Resources with a star ⭐ next to them are ones I’ve personally tried and would recommend!
1. Essential Pee & Poop Supplies
Let’s face it, you’re going to need to urinate a few times a day, and pass motion as well. It’s normal, healthy and human to do so. And you’re going to need help with these functions every day for a while.
I hate bedpans and commodes with a ferocity, and how someone needs to assist me with the most ‘disgusting’ aspect of everyday living. It’s obviously unpleasant for them, too.
My ‘regular’ chronic pain can already make
some most days unbearable. It’s even more difficult to manoeuvre when a body part is broken or weakened.
But you don’t have a choice but to accept help after you’ve just had a major knee surgery. So you might as well ensure that your caregiver(s) know what to do and how to help. Make the process as painless and smooth as possible for the both of you.
After a while you will both get used to the routine, and also realise that we all more or less poop and pee the same way. Nothing fascinating, so just get on with it.
1.1 Bed Pans (for Peeing Whilst in Bed)
I place a bed pad underneath before hoisting myself onto the bedpan. More often than not, droplets may splash over or stain the bed, so use them to keep it clean. You might need help to clean up for a while, so this makes it easier for your caregiver, too.
In the hospital, they put you in a diaper or place a plastic sheet under you the entire time. They don’t have the manpower to tend to your comfort all day long. I don’t have to tell you how uncomfortable and sweaty that gets.
I also just can’t pee into a diaper no matter how hard I try, so I had to struggle to use the bedpan. However, if you have incontinence or the patient has Alzheimer’s or another medical condition, you might need to remain on a diaper.
You have more options at home, so try to make yourself comfortable. I hate to say it, but you’ll be in bed for quite a while, especially if you broke both knees like I did.
If you don’t like bedpans, you can use a urinal. There are both male and female ones available on the market. I find bedpans easier to clean properly, so I stick to those.
Have baby wet wipes, tissue or toilet paper and hand sanitiser nearby to help clean up better after you’re done.
1.2 Commodes (for Pooping)
There are a few different kinds of commodes you can get as well, so choose one that will suit you best. I have a portable, waterproof commode chair that has a cover. There are also commodes that are height adjustable, come with detachable legs, and other different features.
For a few months after my knee surgery, I had to do my business with my legs stretched out flat on the bed, as I couldn’t bend them. After I was recovered enough, the commode came in useful as I could be wheeled to and from the shower.
2. No-Rinse Soap & Shampoo for Washing Your Body & Hair
Some people may be too weak or ill after a major knee surgery to take a full shower. So nurses in the hospital or carers at home may need to wipe them down with body wipes. I personally hate that because Singapore is humid, and I never feel clean or fresh after such a simple wipe down.
I prefer to use no-rinse body foam or cloths, then wipe the soap off again with warm water. To my surprise, it actually felt clean that way. I used to need a shower daily or else I’d feel gross. So I was surprised that I could adapt to this method of cleaning up.
Washing my hair is trickier. We tried a few funnels and equipments, but they all make a mess anyway. So be prepared to mop up if you want to wash your hair in the room.
When I was a little better, I was able to wash my own hair using two basins – one behind and one next to me. Doing so allowed me to scrub my scalp clean and rinse out at different angles. I even got pretty efficient at it!
I use regular shampoo for that. I tried a few different brands but have concluded that I hate dry shampoo as they feel icky with residue. I did use it in the hospital, but also requested for a basin of water and a cloth so that I could wipe it out after.
The no-rinse shower caps are okay. I do prefer to wipe them down with clean water as well. They definitely aren’t as clean as shampoo and water, but they are clean enough for days when you need to just get your hair washed quickly. I ‘treated’ myself to a full-on shampooing session every 3-4 days, and used the shower caps in-between as needed.
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3. Level Up Your Toilet – Make It Accessible
We had to renovate our bathroom as it was in poor condition anyway. Thankfully, kind souls provided the funding to do so. (Renovation sure isn’t cheap!)
We’ve added in a shower chair that folds up into the wall to save space. Railings have also been installed beside the toilet bowl and also near the shower area. Space that was previously taken up by cupboards have been reduced or removed.
It still hurts my knees when I bend to sit on the toilet bowl even after 6 months. My hands are also always in pain from Lupus and Sjögren’s, so pulling myself up with the railings hurt, too. My advice would be to get an adjustable toilet bowl seat. It will save you a lot of pain.
The commode we bought isn’t height adjustable either; I’d advise you to get one that is. I’ve had to stick to the bedpan mostly because of that.
3.1 Shower Chair / Shower Bench
This is useful in the shower for supporting your legs, especially when you need them flat. Over time you can wash whilst sitting with your legs down, but having it there can provide relief whenever your legs or knees are tired.
3.2 Raised Toilet Seat
I don’t have one, but wished I did. A raised toilet seat is useful for anyone with chronic pain; simple movement such as standing and sitting hurts, when you live with chronic illness. It is extra useful right after knee surgery, as you won’t be able to bend your knees much.
3.3 Grab Bars / Railings
In the beginning, I needed manual assistance from my helper or dad just to stand and sit. Over time, I was able to do so myself, with the aid of railings. If you notice, every disabled toilet outside has these for accessibility reasons!
4. Staying Comfortable in Bed (All Day & Night Long), After a Knee Surgery or Major Surgery
You’re literally going to live on your bed for the next couple months after a knee surgery or major surgery, so you’ll want to get as comfortable as it gets. Your butt and back are going to ache, and it’s not very… interesting, to put it simply.“You’re literally going to live on your bed for the next couple months, so you’ll want to get as comfortable as it gets.” #ChronicIllness #disabled #KneeSurgery #ChronicPain #ChronicLife Click To Tweet
4.1 Comfortable Bedding (Your Bed’s Going to be Home for A While)
Ensure that your bedding is clean and comfortable. You will probably need to change the bedsheets more frequently, as there will be food bits, pee, dirt and sweat on it. The last thing you want is to fall ill from food poisoning or bed sores.
All that wisdom about only using the bed for sex and sleeping to prevent insomnia – well, you don’t have much of a choice after a major knee surgery. Your bed will be ‘home’ for a while, so invest in some comfortable, cooling bedding if you don’t already have some.
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4.2 Leg Wedge Pillows (Inclined to Help Reduce Swelling)
I had to keep my legs propped up day and night for a few months to prevent blood clots, and it also helps to reduce swelling. Your doctor will most likely ask you to keep your legs elevated as well, especially right after a major knee surgery. You can, of course, use regular pillows stacked atop each other.
Alternatively, you can get a firm leg wedge pillow. These are specifically made for your lower limbs to rest upon, so they shift less, and you don’t have to keep re-adjusting them. They’re also firmer, can be more comfortable, and easier to prop your legs up with.
Leg wedge pillows come in different shapes and sizes. They can come in a straight, flat incline, with curves, or angled at the knee area. There are also ones that have dividers for each leg, and sides to keep them in. The flat ones can also be used for leaning your back against whilst in bed.
❗️ Pick something that’s suitable for your type of knee injury. If you’re unsure, check with your doctor.
“For knee replacement, you will need to elevate the leg to help reduce swelling. It is important to elevate the entire leg, down to the ankle. When elevating, your feet should be above the level of your heart. You may also use pillows to elevate, but never place a pillow behind your knee. Your knee should be as straight as possible when elevated.”
4.3 Ergonomic Pillows (You’ll be Lying or Sitting 24/7)
A good pillow (or two or three!) is essential to staying comfortable in bed. You can arrange them to lean against for more or less support, whether you’re lying flat or to your side. You can even use them to support your knees, or hug them for some comfort.
As I had to keep my knees and legs absolutely straight for 6 weeks and had to encase them in leg braces, I was only able to sleep in a flat or upright position. If you’re like me, you’ll really want some good pillows. Remember that you’re not only using them for sleeping, but all day long.
The Leg Braces I Had to Wear for 6 Weeks After My Knee Surgery:
Pillows are a highly preferential thing. Some are more suitable for side sleepers like me, and others for back and stomach sleepers. The shape and the hardness level are dependent on your preference and needs as well. Then there are buckwheat pillows, ergonomic pillows, and other scented ones for different textures and purposes.
I suffer from TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder), and get a stiff jaw, neck and head every single morning. The inability to move whilst asleep because of the leg braces also contribute to the pain and stiffness. If you have any recommendations for a good pillow or tips – I’d appreciate it!
Unfortunately, despite trying out various pillows, I still haven’t found the perfect one for me. I found my pillow(s)! I decided to buy the Anvo (firm) one for myself, and have been waking up with much less neck and shoulder aches in the morning now 🙂
I eventually bought a buckwheat pillow to try as well, and grew to like it even better. The hulls shift according to your head position, which makes it more flexible than the fixed ergonomic one. Buckwheat hulls also repel heat, so it doesn’t get trapped within my pillow. Of all the things to buy, I think pillows are an essential investment, as you lay your head down for a third of a day, every day!
Types of Comfort Pillows:
4.4 Sleep Masks & Noise Cancellation Ear Plugs (Filter Out Unwanted Environmental Stimulation)
I don’t really use sleep masks or noise cancellation ear plugs, as I don’t like the feel of ‘something pressing against me’. But I know many people who find sleep accessories such as these helpful for better quality of sleep.
Manta Sleep sponsored one of our Christmas Giveaways, and also gifted me with a few of their high quality sleep masks. I kept the Cool and Steam ones for pain relief usage, and gave the regular ones to my dad and some friends.
Their reviews were all positive, and it’s a brand I’d highly recommend. Their products and customer service are top-notch. They even have weighted and sound masks, are fully adjustable, comfortable even for side sleepers, and for those with long eyelashes.
4.5 Power Bank & Cable (to Stay Connected, Distracted & Comfortable in Bed)
Don’t forget your power supplies! You probably own a digital device or two that helps to keep you entertained, and also connected with the world. From your mobile phone to laptop, tablet, Kindle, earphones and whatever else.
It’s a good idea to have a high capacity power bank with a long, multi-head cable whilst stuck in bed. That way you can charge a few different devices at the same time. You’re not going to be very flexible right after a major knee surgery either. So adapt the power supply to whatever position you’re in, rather than the other way around.
4.6 Adjustable Bedside Table (Essential!)
This might be the most important thing after your bed, as everything you’ll need will be placed here. Your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Your medications, water bottle, coffee mug, tissue box, laptop, stationery supplies, monitors, books and whatever else you need.
A bedside table is essential for anyone who’s stuck in bed after a knee surgery. Get one that has the capacity to be adjusted up and down to suit the height of your bed and body’s positions. It should also be sturdy, long and wide enough to put all the things.
You can also get a bed tray table that can be placed on your bed itself, if that’s more comfortable for you.
4.7 Always Stay Hydrated (Even Though You’ll Have to Keep Peeing)
You might avoid drinking water so that you need to pee less. The need to use the bedpan yet again is such a hassle, isn’t it? But common sense would say that hydration is more important than that. It’s essential for a healthy lifestyle, and for recovery after major knee surgery (or any surgery, really). If you dislike the taste of plain water, throw in a lemon or some fruits.“Needless to say, #hydration is essential for a #healthylifestyle, and for #recovery after major #kneesurgery (or any #surgery, really). If you dislike the taste of plain water, throw in a lemon or some fruits.” Click To Tweet
There are even fruit infusion machines, and those that transform plain water to bubbly! Though I wouldn’t recommend drinking too much carbonated drinks, as that might make you overly gaseous whilst lying still in bed.
To make things easier, you can get a filtered water dispenser and place it beside your bed, so you don’t need to keep asking someone for refills. Or any jug with regular water, really. The important thing is to stay hydrated.
I have a Larq bottle which allows you to fill it up with water from anywhere, and uses UV light technology to kill germs. It can also keep liquids warm or cool for a few hours. If you like your beverages hot or cold, get a bottle like that. They also have a lightweight one for on-the-go, so you can refill your water supply from almost any source – super handy for long days out
camping at medical appointments.
4.8 Hospital Bed (Highly Practical, if Your Budget Allows)
Hospital beds are not cheap; a decent one costs hundreds of dollars. I was fortunate as someone donated one to me, as her husband had just passed away 🙁 I am grateful to her, as I still use it up to this day.
The ability to adjust the height and position of the bed is immensely useful when you’re recovering from a major knee surgery. The grab bars at the side are essential for pulling myself up to a sitting position.
Also, do get one that has a board at the front, or your legs might keep sliding down and off the bed. It’s also useful for pushing your feet against to aid with getting up when you can.
The hospital bed didn’t only help right after my knee surgery, but was useful when I was learning to walk again. As it’s height adjustable, that makes standing up easier, as there’s less bending of the knees to do.
Gradually, I could lower the bed to practice standing. That will be the first thing you learn to do again. You may be disappointed that you will need assistance as all your muscles have atrophied, but it gets easier with practice!
A hospital bed is useful for any person who lives with chronic illness and daily chronic pain, too. Even though I can walk now, albeit rigidly, the grab bars and adjustments are still useful.
4.9 Pressure Sore Air Mattress (Relieve Bedsores, Ulcers & Skin Lesions)
The bed that was donated came with a basic pressure sore mattress, but I didn’t use it myself as I found it lumpy and uncomfortable.
However, if you suffer from bedsores, ulcers or skin lesions, these mattresses can help to relieve some pressure and discomfort from your body.
5. In-Bed Aids & Transfer Equipment (to Help Your Caregiver & You to Move About)
5.1 Positioning Bed Pad (for Transfers)
After a major knee surgery, you will need help to be transferred from your bed to the commode, wheelchair, sofa, onto transportation, be repositioned in bed, etc. This can hurt, as every small movement triggers pain at your injury site. You will want transfer equipment that is stable, and a caregiver or paramedic who is strong enough to support your body weight.
5.2 Overhead Trapeze Bars (for Hoisting Yourself Up)
I didn’t have these installed, but wish I did. They would have made sitting up a little easier! There are those that can be mounted to the headboard or footboard of your hospital bed. And also those that can be attached to your ceiling.
5.3 Compact Bed Rails (for Support Getting Up & Standing)
These are also useful for pulling yourself up to a seated position, and provide support for when you can start learning to stand from your bedside again. I didn’t have these installed either, but my walking frame comes with an extra bar so I used that instead.
6. Heat Therapy (Improve Blood Circulation)
Immobile legs make for cold legs with poor blood circulation. You can try using a heat blanket or hot water bottle for some heat therapy.
I’ve never tried a heat blanket as it gets too warm in Singapore, but they’re soft, flexible and easy to wrap around. I have a YuYu hot water bottle, which is great for covering larger surface areas as it’s long.
When I could again, a nice hot shower helped both to refresh my mind and body. The coldness of my limbs also caused some dizziness when I moved around, and those hot showers helped with that.
7. Cold Therapy (Reduce Swelling & Inflammation)
Right after a major knee surgery, your knees and/or legs are going going to be swollen and inflammed. You can wrap a cloth around a reusable cold gel pack and place them near the injury site to help tame the swelling and provide some pain relief.
Alternatively, there are compression gel wraps you can buy that are designed to cover the knees. Note that these are only to be used if your wounds are not directly at the knee itself. Check with your doctor if you’re unsure.
I used regular cold gel packs wrapped in towels, though they do get damp quickly and aren’t as flexible, so it was a little hard to keep them in place.
8. Keep Your Skin Moisturised (Dead Skin Cells Clog Up)
Your skin is going to dry up, especially if you’ve been in bandages for some time. Humans lose 200,000,000 skin cells every hour. Without a proper shower, those dead skin cells are merrily hanging out on the surface of your body. This can make your skin look unsightly and shrivelled up. I was surprised at how bad my skin quality was, of all the things.
The remnant surgical abrasions from the knee surgery will also look bloody and disgusting. But not to worry; once you’re up and taking showers again, your skin will look better soon after.
9. Scar Recovery Silicone Gel (Only After Your Wounds Have Closed Up)
When your knee surgery scars have closed up fully, your surgeon may allow the use of a silicone scar recovery gel. I’ve been applying it on my knee scars daily, though I should be more religious about the routine. They will take some time to look less visible though, as these scars are pretty huge.
10. Keep Your Medications Within Reach (Important!)
If you live with chronic illness, you know how important it is to have your medications on standby. It’s crucial to be extra organised now. You don’t want to need your emergency medications in the middle of the night, but can’t get to them.“If you live with #chronicillness, you know how important it is to have your #medications on standby..You don’t want to need your #emergency medications in the middle of the night, but can’t get to them.” #disabled #DisabilityTwitter Click To Tweet
I also had to take antibiotics four times a day for months, due to skin wounds that wouldn’t heal from my knee surgery. That can be troublesome on top of keeping track of my regular medications, which I take three times a day. So keep them all close by.
These are some medications I keep together in a box on my bed: Antihistamines, prednisone, dhamotil/lomotil, Daflon, benzodiazepines, charcoal tablets, my oral sleep spray, Citravescent and more.
Antihistamines were essential especially during the first few weeks of recovery. Ironically, it wasn’t the wounds from the knee surgery that irritated my skin, but the leg braces. They were uncomfortable and affected my quality of sleep.
Ensure That Your Caregivers Know Where Your Medications are & What You Need Exactly
You may be familiar with your medications and can prattle their tongue-twister names off with ease. But others may not, and most likely don’t know where you used to keep them, either. I have so many medications that they need to be kept in several pouches and bags, and occupy an entire cupboard.
You’re going to need to rely on others to get your sodium valproate, hydroxychloroquine, hydroxyzine… “Is this the same as hydroxy…chloro…cuine?”, vortioxetine and more.
They are going to have a hard time; my mum took months to figure them out. Even pharmacists sometimes stumble over the names of my medications. Or they use the brand names which are often easier to pronounce.
So ensure that your caregivers are familiar with your medications, what you need and when. (I wanted to buy the Hero Automatic Pill Dispenser but alas, they don’t work in Singapore, only the U.S. 🙁 )“You may be familiar with your #medications and can prattle their tongue-twister names off with ease..But your #caregivers are going to have a hard time..ensure that they are familiar with what you need and when.” #spoonie Click To Tweet
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11. Cushions for Sitting Comfortably After Knee Surgery
11.1 Gel Cushions
Gel cushions are essential when you’re out and about, as most wheelchair seats are thin, hard and uncomfortable. If you think sitting in a wheelchair and having someone push you around sounds luxurious and fun – I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s anything but.
You can also develop bedsores or haemorrhoids when you need to sit all day long. It’s important to prevent rather than treat these ailments, as they can be a literal pain in the ass.
11.2 Doughnut Cushions
Doughnut cushions are like doughnuts – they have a hole in the middle. The hole is meant to relieve pressure against your anus when you’re in a sitting position. If you’ve already developed piles, these may help you to sit a little more comfortably.
12. Humidifier & Air Purifier (Plus Candles or Essential Oil Burners, if You Like)
As I mentioned, your skin gets dry and your throat parched. As I live in hot and humid Singapore, I have the ceiling fan turned on all day long, and the air conditioner on at night.
12.1 Air Humidifiers (for Moisture)
I purchased a humidifier which I turn on at night for extra moisture. Even with that, my skin is still dry and scaly since my knee surgery from the lack of showers.
12.2 Air Purifier / Filter (Improve Your Air Quality)
My sister loaned me her favourite air purifier as well, which helps to make me feel ‘safer’ in a sense. As I’m breathing the same air in the room day in and out, this helps to keep circulate some fresher air. It also helps when guests pay a visit, with the ongoing pandemic and whatnot.
12.3 Candles & Essential Oil Burners (if You Find Scents Relaxing)
I also have candles and essential oil burners because I love floral scents, and it helps to make me feel a little more relaxed. I can add water-based essential oils into my air humidifier simultaneously, so that’s handy.
13. Voice Activated Home System (Get Stuff Done Without Getting Out of Bed)
My uncle got my room fixed up with a voice activated system, which is pretty useful as I can’t get out of bed. My voice gets hoarse after a while, so I still prefer to use the remote controls. But it’s nice to be able to switch off the lights and close the curtains with voice control.
The system can also play music and do a few other nifty tasks for you, which can be helpful when you’re bedbound post knee surgery.
14. Alarms / Call Bells (Essential to Call for Aid & for Emergencies)
You know how you have a call bell on flights and by your hospital bed, which you press whenever you need assistance? These are essential whilst you’re stuck in bed during your recovery period, too.
Sure, you can use your mobile phone, but people don’t have their phones with them all the time at home. Especially when they’re cooking, doing the laundry, sleeping, etc. It may also be on silent mode.
The alarms I bought are similar to doorbells. We have one plugged in the living room, and one in my parents’ room. I have two call bells by my bedside, which I press whenever I need to use the bathroom, need help getting a drink or something else that I can’t do on my own.
The volume can also be adjusted, so if I need help urgently at night, I know that someone will be awoken and come to my aid. If your house is big, you might want to plug one into each separate area so that it’s audible.
15. Massage (for Blood Circulation & Pain Relief)
Your body is going to ache with all that sitting and lying down. I think I’ve formed muscles in places that I don’t usually work out, such as my lower back and bum!
Massaging helps with blood circulation, which in turn helps with healing. It also helps to relieve muscle tension, so that you’re then able to stretch out a little more, or do your physiotherapy exercises with less pain.
15.1 DIY Self-Massage Kits
I bought a simple massage kit that came with various tools to target different areas of the body such as my thighs and neck. I have a large roller for my thighs, a Y-shaped tool for my neck, and a few other bibs and bobs.
16. Solutions if You Can’t Massage Yourself
The problem with the massage kits is that my hands and fingers have a ‘contact limit’, due to inflammation from Lupus and Sjögren’s. Everything I push or press adds up, and by the end of the day, they’re swollen with pain and I can’t bend my fingers anymore. Here are some things I use instead.“Due to #inflammation from #Lupus and #Sjogrens, everything I push or press adds up..by the end of the day, my hands are swollen with pain and I can’t bend my fingers anymore. Here are some things I use instead.” #ChronicPain #surgery Click To Tweet
16.1 Electric-Powered Shiatsu Back Massager & Massage Guns
I bought a cheap shiatsu back massager which I can lean against whilst resting in bed. It does help to knead out all the knots and aches in my back and neck a little.
You can also get a massage gun, where you can adjust the vibration levels to massage various sore body parts. I personally don’t like these, as they make me feel overstimulated, and tend to cause bruises, as I’m also on blood thinning medication. But if you’re in need of something strong and targeted, they might work for you.
16.2 Electric-Powered Leg, Calf and/or Feet Massagers
I didn’t buy any of these whilst recovering, as I didn’t want to cause myself any further injury. But now that my knees are functioning better, I am considering getting one.
I still get pins and needles when I wake in the morning, or if my legs have been still for too long. It takes a good while of movement before they start to normalise.
My knees are definitely not the same as before, and I think the huge scar tissues surrounding them affect blood flow. Perhaps one of these leg, calf or feet massagers might help to improve that on a more regular basis!
16.3 Home Massage Therapy (Ensure That the Therapists are Qualified)
After a few months when I could move my knees again without them hurting so much, I found a home massage therapy service, Urban Company. The prices were decent, and the masseuses had years of experience working in renown massage companies previously.
The first massage therapy I had post knee surgery was so therapeutic, having spent months confined in bed. I could feel all the tight knots in my body relaxing, and had a good night’s sleep after. Of course you’ll need to avoid massaging the knee area for now. But a good massage from a trained therapist helps both mentally and physically.
16.4 Guasha Tools for the Face, Head & Neck (Lightweight Pain Management)
I also get inflammation in the blood vessels in my forehead, skull, neck, shoulders, face and jaws. Something I’ve found to be helpful are guasha tools. They’re light, so they don’t hurt my hands.
They come in various materials such as rose quartz, jade, metal and wood. The benefits of crystals is that they’re cool to the touch, so that can be soothing as well. I personally prefer the rose quartz material.
They also come in various shapes and edges, so choose one that can best fit and reach the curves of your face, jawlines and wherever else you need. Be careful not to scrape too hard, especially if you’re on blood thinners like me. My favourite shape is the one with three curves on one edge, as I find that I can reach most spots comfortably.
You can do a search on YouTube for examples on how to best use each guasha shape. I don’t use them in any specific method, but just whatever way feels relaxing. Over all, I’ve found that they do help to relieve some pain through muscle relaxation.
17. Comfortable, Accessible Clothing & Underwear (Half Your Body is Out of Service)
Comfortable clothing is crucial, especially in the early stages of recovery post knee surgery, when you need to keep your legs flat for weeks.
The only full-range brand I could find was Slick Chicks. Apart from underwear, they have adaptive shorts, bras, tops, joggers and hoodies. You can browse their products here (unaffiliated).
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17.1 Accessible Underwear (Comes with Side Fastenings)
It’s a nightmare to pull your underwear down each time you need to pee. Adaptive, accessible underwear come with hooks or velcro, which you fasten at the sides instead. I prefer the velcro straps as they’re easier to stick on and off. Although, they can irritate the skin if you don’t stick them back perfectly.
17.2 Overnight Period Panties (Disposable & Leak-Proof)
Speaking of underwear, periods are another nightmare after a major knee surgery. Apart from the discomfort, there’s also added work to do to keep clean.
I use disposable overnight panties which are more comfortable, leak-proof, and can be torn open at the side to be discarded. This saves you the pain of pulling them down your legs and past your knee injury site again. I use the largest size, as it still fits and allows the skin to breathe better.
I actually used these in the hospital, and the nurses were amazed. They didn’t know that they could get them at the regular chemist store. Some of them even started using them at night, too!
17.3 Accessible Shorts & Baggy Dresses
You can also wear a baggy nightdress at home, which is comfortable even if there are guests. Whilst dresses are more comfortable, they’re not practical for days when you need to go for appointments. So I bought some adaptive shorts that also fasten at the sides with velcro.
Dresses tend to bunch up when you’re being pushed around whilst on a wheelchair. If your legs need to be kept straight, then you’ll need to be transferred and fit into suitable transport as well.
I had to hire a private ambulance for a few months, and needed two paramedics to carry or haul me up straight. You can see how troublesome dresses can be in such scenarios.
I wasn’t even able to use the disabled bathrooms outside, because I couldn’t move or stand. So, we had to manoeuvre the whole process whilst stretched out on my wheelchair, and the adaptive shorts were handy.
18. Compression Socks & Gloves (for Blood Circulation & Pain Relief)
18.1 Compression Socks
Compression socks help with blood circulation, which can be useful when you’re sedentary in bed for months post knee surgery or major surgery. I admit that I try to avoid them as they can be uncomfortable. But even if you dislike wearing them, a pair of regular socks can help to keep your feet warm and cosy.
18.2 Compression Gloves
I also bought some compression gloves, and must say that they’re one of the best investments I’ve made for pain management. And so simple at that! I’m not sure why I didn’t use them earlier. I even wear them to school now, and even to sleep at times.“I also bought some #compressiongloves, and must say that they’re one of the best investments I’ve made for #painmanagement. And so simple at that!” #ChronicPain #ChronicIllness #DisabilityTwitter Click To Tweet
I have a few hand therapist-designed ones from Grace & Able, whose founder also lives with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and sponsored one of our Christmas Giveaways!
I also have pairs that are textured, which help me to grip objects better. And ones that come with a wrist strap to help with wrist pain.
I also like my copper gloves that extend all the way to my elbow. This is helpful for days when it’s not just my hands that are aching, but also parts of my wrist and forearm.
19. Private Hire Ambulance Services (You Won’t be Able to Get into a Car for A While)
Since I was talking about dresses and paramedics, here’s a list of emergency ambulance services in Singapore, and their rates. Having tried a few companies, I wouldn’t say any of them are superb, but I used AMS the most. I met a paramedic whom I liked, Hairol, and would request for him each time. Their fees are also more affordable for frequent trips.
These are lists that my hospital provided me with: private hire ambulances, home-based physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and local places to buy mobility aids. No matter where you live in the world, your hospital should be able to provide you with similar resources.
20. Things Needed to Clean & Care for Your Knee Surgery Wound
The average time it takes for skin wounds to heal is about 2 weeks. Most people would have been able to remove all the bandages from their knee surgery by then.
Mine took almost 2 months, most likely due to my steroid medications and autoimmune disorders themselves. Thus, I had to keep my knees wrapped up that whole time.
I had to change my wound dressing every 3-4 days, but this differs for each person. Check with your own surgeon on how often you need to change them. It might not be wise to change them daily, as each time you open it up, your wounds are exposed to germs.
20.1 Hospital-Grade Isopropyl Alcohol Wipes (for Cleaning Your Wound)
The alcohol wipes are essential for sterilisation of the skin and your knee surgery wounds. We’d dab the wounds quickly without rubbing, and never used the same surface twice. As the surgeon cautioned, all sorts of germs live on the skin, and you don’t want to spread them into your wounds.
20.2 Steri-strips / Adhesive Skin Closures (if Your Injury Site is Still Split Open)
As my flesh was still split open, the surgeon used steri-strips as placeholder stitches. We’d use them to pull my skin together using a simple technique. These are essential to help your skin heal, and to ensure that they don’t sag further to the sides.
20.3 Sterile Cotton Dressings (to Absorb Moisture & Pus)
After that, the sterile cotton swab goes on top to absorb any moisture or pus. Ensure that it covers your entire wound area. I’d fold one up for extra padding and better absorption.
20.4 Tagederm Plasters (to Seal & Secure the Dressing)
Tagederm plasters are those transparent seals they use at the hospital to secure any IV lines, and where they scribble the date of insertion on. This goes on top of the sterile cotton dressing to seal and secure it. It also prevents any water from seeping in, which may cause your wound to become infected.
20.5 Other Wound Dressing Supplies
I also had regular plasters in all shapes and sizes. As my wounds healed, I could patch up different parts with greater precision.
Needless to say, this was a hassle and the dressings were uncomfortable. I couldn’t wait to rip them off my knees and let the skin breathe. But for now, keeping your wounds clean is of paramount importance, or you’re not going to get further.
Knee Surgery Wound Cleaning & Dressing Order
21. Basins, Baskets, Bins & Containers
You don’t need fancy ones. I use reusable or disposable ones that we already have in our kitchen.
I have basins and cups of various proportions for brushing my teeth, washing my hands and face and even my hair whilst in my bedroom. You’ll obviously need a pretty big basin for washing your hair or face.
Baskets or containers are also useful for keeping things you might need together in one place. Pens, plastic bags, medication pouches, hair ties, books, power banks, etc.
You can also put different baskets as ‘holders’ in different locations, such as a set for the bathroom, skincare products, for the bedroom, in the living room, etc.“#Baskets are also useful for keeping things you might need together in one place..You can also put different baskets as ‘holders’ in different locations.” #ChronicLife #disabled #ChronicallyIll #recovery Click To Tweet
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22. Exercise Equipment (When You Can Start Physiotherapy)
❗️❗️❗️ Please work with your own physiotherapist for this as our knee injuries, circumstances and comorbidities are all different.
22.1 Dumbbells (Important to Maintain Upper Body Strength)
I got some dumbbells in 1kg, 2kg and 5kg. Admittedly I haven’t used the 2kg and 5kg ones, but have increased the count with the 1kg dumbbell.
It’s useful and important to maintain your upper body strength if possible, as you’ll be relying on it a lot more, with your legs temporarily out of service.
I use my arms and torso to worm around the bed, pull myself up and to help with transfers. When you can start sitting and standing, you will still need your upper body muscles to pull yourself up.
22.2 Ankle Weights (for Strength Training Leg Exercises)
After a few months of being able to walk again, I am now on ankle weights for physiotherapy as well. In short, I cuff them around my ankle for strength training.
There are a few leg exercises I do with them strapped on – horizontal leg raises, side leg raises, and also knee bends backwards whilst standing. These exercises should be adapted for you, according to your OWN physiotherapist.
22.3 Exercise Bicycle (Types & What to Look Out for)
After the 3 – 4 month mark, your doctor may allow you to start physiotherapy using an exercise bike at home. I had no idea there were so many different types of bikes on the market, such as ones that are recumbent, upright or with spin wheels.
I bought a second hand spin bike (by accident really, I thought they were just regular wheels), and cycle on it when I can. It was hard in the beginning, as my knees were still stiff and couldn’t bend much yet.
It would be very helpful if you could take a look and have a feel of the bike beforehand. It was too troublesome for me to go out shopping, so I just bought the most suitable one I could find from a secondhand online marketplace.
My surgeon didn’t recommend a recumbent bike for me, as he says it doesn’t work out certain groups of muscles. But if you have problems with your upper body or limbs, a recumbent bike may be more suitable.
Things you may want to watch out for when purchasing an exercise bike:
- Adjustable height so you can get on and off.
- Ensure that it’s heavy and stable so you don’t topple over.
- Adjustable resistance, if it matters to you. I just increase the number of rounds I do.
Don’t be Discouraged, and Work with Your Physiotherapist & Doctor
The first time I tried, I couldn’t even get on the exercise bike as I couldn’t bend my knee and lift my leg high enough to put it over the other side. It gets easier over time though, as you rebuild your muscles and increase the angle your knees can bend to. Cycling in itself helps with knee bending, too.“The first time I tried, I couldn’t even get on the #exercise bike as I couldn’t bend my knee and lift my leg high enough to put it over the other side. It gets easier over time though.” #KneeSurgery #KneeInjury #physiotherapy #ChronicPain Click To Tweet
I do both front and back paddles to exercise different groups of muscles. You may find one direction harder than the other, especially in the beginning. Take it nice and slow, and don’t push beyond your body’s current limit, as that will only set you back for days.
Do discuss with your doctor first before even buying an exercise bike. Safety is of paramount importance. You don’t want to aggravate your knee injury, or worse, break your knees or tendons again.
23. Mobility Aids for When You Can Start Walking & Physiotherapy Again
23.1 Wheelchair with Leg Extensions (You’ll Need to Keep Your Legs Straight)
If you broke both patella tendons or had both knees operated on like I did, you’ll need to keep your legs flat at 180 degrees for a few weeks. As such, a regular wheelchair isn’t sufficient. You’ll need one with leg extensions that can be adjusted upwards, so that you can rest your legs flat on them.
When I could sit on an extended wheelchair instead of using the stretcher, I requested for ambulances with backlifters. You can sit on your wheelchair, and be lifted mechanically up inside them. Do ensure that it’s a backlifter and not sidelifter, as those aren’t wide enough to fit an extended wheelchair.
Every bump along the way is going to hurt in the beginning, so stability matters a great deal. You can keep your legs strapped together to help. I preferred not to, as I was worried that I would be in even more pain, should the leg extensions collapse accidentally. Many passersby were careless as they walked by.
The seat width of the wheelchair is also important. I thought that the more spacious it was, the better. But my occupational therapist said that it should be a just-right fit, so that you’re more stable and comfortable. So check with your own occupational therapist before buying one.
23.2 Electric Mobility Scooters
Many people, including my school’s accessibility office, suggested that I buy an electricity mobility scooter. The main advantage is that you can go around with greater independence.
But as I was looking forward to regaining my walking ability, I rather spend the finances on another accessibility tool, as a decent mobility scooter can be quite costly.
A few things to take note of, should you decide to get an electric mobility scooter:
- Ease of Disassembly & Stowage. It should be foldable or easily disassembled if you plan to store in the boot of a car. At the same time, it should be stable enough for sitting on and driving around.
- Plan on Getting Around. Will you need assistance to disassemble it, and how do you plan on getting into the car if you’re alone?
- Extra Battery Packs. Most of them come with battery packs, and your mobility scooter may run out of power outside. Do bring along a spare battery.
- Power. Ensure that it’s powerful enough to go up slopes.
- Adjustable Seat & Legroom. Remember to get one that’s suitable for your height, or that’s height-adjustable. Also, if you’re larger in size, do ensure that the mobility scooter you plan on getting has enough legroom.
- Purpose of Use. What will you be using your mobility scooter mainly for? There are cross-terrain, high powered ones, and also basic ones to go around your neighbourhood.
- Space for Storing Things. Will you be bringing along any other mobility aids and things, and is there enough space to store them?
23.3 A Roller Chair (for Home Use)
One of those height adjustable office chairs is good enough. A wheelchair can be pretty bulky to navigate, especially around tight spaces in my apartment.
Call it a hack, but I would sit on the commode and place my legs on the roller chair to go to the shower, when I could. Do remember that your legs need to be flat, so you don’t want one with a backing that you can’t stretch beyond.
23.4 Walking Frame (First Thing You’ll Need to Start Walking Again)
A walking frame is the first mobility aid you’ll probably need to learn to stand and walk again after a major knee surgery. As usual, there are a few options to choose from, in various materials and features.
I have one that is foldable to save space, is height-adjustable, and made of lightweight aluminium. It also has a lower handle bar which can be useful for extra support when standing or sitting slowly.
I didn’t anticipate this but I should have – lifting the frame repeatedly to walk requires the use of my hands. Which means, they get swollen pretty quickly.
Compression gloves can help to cushion your hands and slow the swelling. It might also cause your arms to ache, so keep up with the upper body exercises. Our body operates as one unit, after all.
23.5 Walking Stick / Crutches / Rollators
After you’ve ‘graduated’ from the walking frame, you can start trying a walking stick. My surgeon didn’t recommend crutches as I had broken not one, but both knees. Thus, he was worried that I might fall due to instability. For that same reason, he didn’t recommend a rollator with wheels.
I know quite a few spoonies who have some pretty cool canes. You can do a search online for something that suits your style. Just don’t sacrifice stability and functionality.“I know quite a few spoonies who have some pretty cool #walkingcanes. You can do a search online for something that suits your style. Just don’t sacrifice stability and functionality.” #DisabilityTwitter #InvisibleDisabilities #KneeSurgery Click To Tweet
I selected a simple, standard quad cane for a better grip. Yes, it’s an old man’s copper brown. I’m not bothered by it, as I look forward to not needing it in future, hopefully.
24. Kinesiology Tape (for Pain Relief)
Lying in bed all day doesn’t only cause aches, but also weakens all your muscles. That in turn causes more pain when you try to use them again. Whilst I don’t use kinesiology tape as I find it a hassle to tape myself, I know that it helps to relieve the pain of many chronically ill people, especially those who are hypermobile.
Here are also some great videos on how to use them, courtesy of Thrive Tape. Their kinesiology tape comes with far infrared as well, for potentially more pain relief (unaffiliated):
You can also apply and use kinesiology tape for your wrist, finger, arm, legs, ankles, feet, back, neck, shoulder and other sorts of pain. All their ‘How to Use’ kinesiology tape videos can be found on their page here.
25. Orthopaedic Footwear (Don’t Aggravate Your Knee Injury)
As such, I had my feet measurements, walking gait and other important feet-related data there with them. They recommended a pair of Revere walking shoes, mary janes (for when I need to wear dresses!), and two pairs of Spenco slippers for both outdoor and indoor use.
My Revere shoes have a centre-stabilising feature, so I feel more steady, supported and confident when I walk. It is the pair I utilise the most, especially to go to school, or if I’m out for a long time.
The Spenco Pure Slide sandals I wear are truly pure comfort, and though they aren’t cheap, they are the best I’ve ever worn, durable and I wouldn’t want to wear any other sandal or slipper anymore!
I won’t be recommending footwear here, because these should be fitted by a professional, especially after a knee surgery (or even for everyday wear). Also, there is no ‘best shoe’, because our feet are very different. There is only ‘the right shoe for you’.
A lot of people don’t realise how bad their shoes are for them. I didn’t realise myself, until I started working at Footkaki. If you’re in Singapore, you can pay them a visit. They’re nice people and their feet assessment service is free 🙂
26. Support From Friends & Family
Besides the obvious physical aspect, a major surgery or knee surgery can take a huge mental and emotional toll on anyone. The psychological impact from the sudden loss of mobility and independence can be terrifying. It take a huge blow on your self-confidence and self-esteem. It can make you question your self-identity.“The psychological impact from the sudden #loss of mobility and independence can be terrifying. It take a huge blow on your #selfconfidence and #selfesteem. It can make you question your #selfidentity.” #disabled #KneeSurgery Click To Tweet
Support from friends and family play a huge role in the recovery process. Your loved ones are there to encourage and cheer you on, and they help to pass the time in the best possible ways.
Friends whom I hadn’t met in ages offered to commit to weekly visits, and I looked forward to these events in my calendar. They were like bright spots in the gloom of it all. There were also weekly milestones, as I counted down to when I could start physiotherapy.
This horrible incident rekindled some friendships. Or rather, it reminded me that just because I haven’t seen my friends in a long time, it doesn’t mean that they have stopped caring.“This horrible incident rekindled some #friendships. Or rather, it reminded me that just because I haven’t seen my #friends in a long time, it doesn’t mean that they have stopped #caring.” #ChronicIllness #ChronicLife Click To Tweet
Wishing you a steady and speedy recovery from your knee surgery, or any major surgery!
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- Foley J, Elhelali R, Moiloa DSpontaneous simultaneous bilateral patellar tendon ruptureBMJ Case Reports CP 2019;12:e227931.
- Imperial College London. (2016, November 29). New insights into skin cells could explain why our skin doesn’t leak. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 11, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161129114910.htm