Physical therapy for knee


I was wondering if any of you might have some helpful anecdotes or advice about this one. Here's the story. About five years ago, my mum was hit by a car on her way to work (she is now 62). Her left knee/tibia were badly, badly messed up, and she required a bone transplant from her hip, as well as a steel plate, the patch it all up. About a year and a half ago, she had a second surgery to remove the steel plate.

Because of long-term heart and hypertension problems, she was always an avid walker (as opposed to more strenuous forms of exercise). Loosing the ability to walk was devastating to her. She can now walk unaided, but never for exercise, and she is in constant pain. Takes major painkillers for this, and finds it very upsetting.

She stopped physiotherapy a while ago, because her physio was pushing her way too hard, which caused her knee to feel a lot worse. But in a few weeks' time, she's going back to the former physio place, for water exercise therapy. (But she hates being in the water.) I really hope that it helps her.

I'm just concerned that she never seems to improve, especially pain-wise. This whole thing has aged her incredibly - she appears, yes, frail, when before she was very fit. (She is 5'4'', 100 pounds - I know, way too thin, but she's always had a bit of an undereating problem.) Has anyone else been through something similar, and most importantly, has anyone conquered/controlled pain through physical therapy (or other, non-drug, means)?

Sorry for such a long post, but the thought of my mum living out her life in constant pain is so sad, and I really want to help her if I can.



  • I fell downstairs and damaged my knee quite badly and was in constant pain for about six months with absolutely no improvement in my condition. During this time, and as I started to get better, I found a TENS machine helpful for pain relief. I managed to get one on loan from my local hospital but you can buy them in Boots - I think they're about £60 or so. Obviously, my condition wasn't anywhere near as bad as your mum's, but it might be worth exploring TENS as a safe and drug free pain relief method.

  • What is a TENS machine? I believe that my mum has prviously used some sort of machine for a similar purpose, but don't know what it was. Also, she and my dad live in New York, so it's a bit hard for her to get to Boots. I'm glad the TENS worked for you. Are you completely healed now?
  • Hi, I don't know if this will help at all but I have a problem with my knee: about 10 years ago I slipped on a wet floor, dislocated my knee-cap and in the process broke a chunk of bone off from the base of the knee-cap. I've had two lots of surgery to remove loose splinters of bones and warnings from the consultant that if I do it again I will need a knee replacement (not so great at 29 years...hoping to wait til at least 45 for this!). I now avoid slippery surfaces of all kinds!

    To be honest, the phsiotherapy was okay..although I only got 6 weeks on the NHS, but the best thing was to get moving. What hurt more was letting it seize up through lack of exercise. I started by hobbling, then walking, swimming, cycling and eventually running. It hurt a LOT!! But you kind of just have to grit your teeth and tell yourself that it is really helping to build the muscles up and ten years later it gives me very little trouble at all. (Although it has recently starting clicking when I run...if anyone can explain that I'd be very interested.)

    The other thing that really has helped has been yoga. You can do it at your own level but it helps with posture, balance and strengthening muscles gently without being aerobic.

    I know my situation is vastly different, but I hope it might help a little bit. Good luck to your Mum...knee pain is excruciating and takes some guts to overcome.
  • I really should know what TENS stands for ... but I can't remember! Hopefully there's someone with medical knowledge out there who can enlighten us! Basically it's a battery-operated unit, about the size of a cigarette packet, which comes with a set of two/four pads, attached to the machine by wire. You place the pads around the area needing pain relief, switch the machine on .. and the resulting electrical pulses releive pain during the time the machine is in operation and for up to an hour afterwards. Is this the same as the machine your mum had? Could well be.

    I'm 99% better now, thanks - took nine months of physio to get me back on track. Basically, my knee wouldn't heal until I had some biomechanical problems with my leg alignment sorted out. So that took six months and after that I started to get better. I still wear orthotics tho' - but I'm training and racing again, and really enjoying my running. Keep us posted on how your mum is getting on
  • RR -
    I suggested yoga once, but she's definitely not the mind/body type of person. But I think that even doing most of the postures would not be possible for her - leg too weak.

    Perhaps it simply has a lot to do with age?
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