Arthritis surgery recovery: What does that mean?

May 27, 2013

active toe stretchAs you may know, I had foot surgery on 4/15/13 for a pretty bad joint in my big toe. So, as I get to be on the patient side of the table, I wonder what is a reasonable recovery? How do I get there? How much motion could I regain in my now post surgical joint? The right foot was in worse shape when it went through the same procedure in 2008.

The top half the joint capsule was opened up for access to the cartilage on the end on the bone. The cartilage was micro-fractured to stimulate cartilage growth. It doesn’t come in as the good hyaline cartilage I once had. Instead it’s a fibrocartilage version but that’s at least a kind of cartilage. The idea is to try to get some bone end cushioning with a living tissue that nourishes the joint and the bone underneath.The joint was re-angled to improve its ability to bend.

I’d be happy if I could get 65 degrees of motion at this joint that once upon a time had over 90 degrees of bending back.60 is about the desired standard for toe push off style walking. I doubt it would ever be a good idea for me to walk that way very much.

For 2-3 weeks it was hard to drive, work 6 hours, and get home. The foot would swell up and get fairly painful. In following Dr. Tom Shonka’s orders I am to still avoid pain and swelling but I can be on my feet at least half a day now.

The recovery process is a mind game. When the pain isn’t as bad, I have moments of feeling myself moving more normally, and it feels like I’ve been missing that for a long time. I realize how much my altered walking causes altered thinking.

Sometimes I feel hemmed in by my limitations. Fortunately, I have the sense that a certain amount of this will dissipate. But at the same time, I am estimating and bargaining with myself about how many good miles I have left in me with my toe joints in such a poor state. When my feet hurt, I limp, walk slower, and get less done then my normal “whirlwind style”.

Now the recovery involves gradually doing more and trying to get some spring back in my legs. Twice I’ve tried a fun interval training set of 12 exercises that can be done in 7 minutes. (It’s hard to use the I don’t have time excuse.) The first exercise was jumping jacks. I can assure you that they look and feel fairly pathetic at this point, but I expect them to look better in a week.

I started horseback riding again. Yesterday I dismounted and jumped off landing on both feet in an automatic, not thinking, motion. If I had thought about it beforehand, the Mind Game… Mind Set would have said to me: “DON”T DO THAT!”. The thought I had after feeling the thud of myself landing on my feet was, “Well, that didn’t really hurt much…it just didn’t feel like a strong or springy quality to my feet and legs. I’ll have to be sure this comes back as part of my recovery.

Ultimately I still want to climb mountains, back pack, walk in creeks, ride a horse, and maybe even figure out how to run without always hurting.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: