Surgery to replace my ankle was EASY (who was I to complain; I was asleep)! Post-op discomfort was minimal and I received physical therapy twice a day after a few days.
But, for three months after surgery, I was completely non weight-bearing; NONE, NADA, ZIP, ZILCH! Finally, the day came when I was able to stand; was I weak or what? Why didn’t I connect the dots, then and there, and realize that 2 + 2 always = 4. Because of my age at the time and because my ankle was unstable, the surgeon didn’t want me to put ANY weight on it fors quite some time.
Llittle did I realize, REALLY realize and understand, that the body needs weight-bearing activity to stay strong. I thought that my twice daily physical therapy, (after all, it was intense), would do the trick and keep me strong. Not!
Why not? It wasn’t weight-bearing and nothing does the muscle more good than the strength building of weight-bearing exercise. Studies have shown that weight bearing exercise are superior to non weight-bearing exercises when it comes to function, speed of walking, position (kinesthetic sense) and balance amongst other things. But, my surgeon had his reasoning for not wanting me to participate fully in physical therapy. This is one reason why people who undergo total hip replacements are at risk for falls if they don’t begin exercise in earnest soon!
Because of this, I didn’t listen to little ‘chattering monkeys that said, “When you’re finally able to walk, there’s going to be trouble!'”
Well. now I walk normally, but feel out of balance and oh, so unsteady. Completely recovered from surgery and in NO pain and sporting an ankle which on x-rays, CT and MRI study is fit as a fiddle, I’m still tremendously unbalanced. I saw the surgeon the other day, who is pleased as punch with my new ankle, but not so pleased that I need another course of physical therapy.!!
Take-home lesson? Will it happen to you? I can’t be the judge. But, if you have a joint replacement which requires non weight-bearing status for a while, this weakness and loss of balance is possible; be prepared to work in physical therapy once you can put weight on the extremity! Do exercises with full awareness that if you DON’T, the profound weakness and balance problems may be a battle that needs to be fought for a while.