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Author Topic: Broken Patella in October - Will I ever get my old knees back?  (Read 309 times)

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Offline EmpressKim

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Hello all!  Newbie from New York City writing in.  I think I may need more emotional support right now, but information (even anecdotal) will help me a lot too.

So back in early October I broke my patella; a slip-and-fall on the sidewalk.  I had surgery a week later; it was apparently a pretty gnarly break, but the surgery went well and all the pieces were properly aligned and contained in the right place and have healed up good.  I started physical therapy about 4 weeks later, on Halloween.

And that's been...slower than I want it to be.  I AM making progress, but I think I was just so active before that I'm a little impatient right now, and it's causing me to lose some heart -

* I walked a LOT before.  I don't own a car, and I work somewhere just a few blocks from my apartment; from home to work is a half a mile.  I also often would go on hikes (not AMBITIOUS mountain-climbing type of hikes, but long-distance, I've-just-walked-15-miles hikes).  I also thought nothing of walking ten or fifteen blocks to the supermarket.

* I would also sometimes bike - not racing biking, just using a bike for transport.  Sometimes I would bike to work instead of walking, and I had JUST started doing an 8-mile bike on the weekends as an exercise method.  I got winded on hills, it was more just for tooling around.

* I live in a 4th floor apartment, and there is no elevator, so whatever I did would always involve walking down 4 flights of stairs and then up again to come home.

That was before. 

NOW, here is where my activity level is after 6 months of physical therapy:

* I can walk to work, but some days I still feel wobbly and often have to hover near the walls.  About once a week my injured knee starts to buckle and I have to grab the wall.  It also takes me a half hour to walk that half mile, about twice what it took before.

* I can walk UP stairs normally; it is uncomfortable, but it's a little less uncomfortable than when I started doing that about a month ago.

* I CANNOT walk DOWN stairs normally. I still have to one-step it.

* I haven't tried my bike yet.  I also haven't tried a car yet, and hope to be able to drive by August for a vacation.

* I haven't tried hiking yet.  A half mile is the furthest I've walked so far, just home to work.  I'm still uneasy on slopes.

* In physical therapy I still have some problems with balance, and my front quads are definitely weaker than the hips and sides.

...So.  I have made SOME progress - I can walk a half mile, I don't need a cane or crutches, and I can walk up stairs.  But this past week I've been starting to lose a little heart, and wonder if I will EVER feel normal again (especially since now my GOOD knee has started feeling stiff!).  I want to be able to walk properly again someday, instead of continuing to limp a little, and I want to trust that my knee won't give out.  I want to know that the exercises I'm doing actually will GO somewhere further and I'm not just going to be like THIS for the rest of my life now.  I don't need to climb a mountain or be super-athletic, I just want to be able to shrug and say "eh, I can walk" to the supermarket if the bus is taking forever instead of feeling stuck.

So I'm not sure if I'm just impatient, becuase clearly there HAS been some progress, or if I should start getting used to this being "it".  I'm a bit on the longer side of recovery, there a chance I will CONTINUE to recover more than where I'm at?

Offline EmpressKim

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Re: Broken Patella in October - Will I ever get my old knees back?
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2021, 02:17:55 PM »
Oh I forgot to mention!

I am practically up to full mobility/bending in the broken knee, if not actually there.  I think there is still one degree of difference (my physical therapist sometimes has to check it against the good knee to see if there's still any difference).

I am PRETTY sure, intellectually, that I will continue to recover, but emotionally I'm just getting impatient because "Dr. Google" says that people can go back to "normal activity" by now and I'm still not able to walk down the darn stairs, so....argh!  When the truth may be that I just may need to take a little bit longer, but I'll get there.  I think a couple people saying "oh yeah, that six months timeline is nonsense, it took me a year but I got there in the end" or "yeah, you sound like you're TOTALLY fine, give it another three months or so, that's how long I took when I was at your stage" would help.

Offline vickster

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Re: Broken Patella in October - Will I ever get my old knees back?
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2021, 03:00:50 PM »
You could have a look through the bone break forum, a number of posts around patella fractures

Are you still working with the physio on muscle strength and balance around the knee (and other lower body muscles like glutes)?
Are you also rehabbing in a hydrotherapy or shallow swimming pool, can be super beneficial if a bit stuck with land rehab.

6 months does sound soon to be fully recovered from a serious break and surgery. It can take that long to get over more minor injuries, sprains, minor keyhole surgeries etc
Came off bike onto concrete 9/9/09 (lat meniscus, lat condyle defect)
LK scopes 8/2/10 & 16/12/10
RK scope 5/2/15 (menisectomy, Hoffa’s fat pad trim)
LK scope 10.1.19 medial meniscectomy, trochlea MFX
LK scope 19.4.21 MFX to both condyles & trochlea, patella cartilage shaved, viscoseal, depo-medrone

Offline lissygirl

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Re: Broken Patella in October - Will I ever get my old knees back?
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2021, 07:53:23 AM »
Hi Empress Kim!
This is Empress Lisa from Australia.
I have been on and off this forum writing notes to the great unknown with no-one answering me and haven't checked in for awhile but today I have and there you are.
I don't want to waffle so shall paraphrase (as you did)

I also slipped on wet concrete Oct 25th last year!  Around same time as you.  Fractured knee into six pieces, ruptured the medial retinaculum and tore ligaments.  K-wired back together with surgery.  Like you began physio about a month post op.  Should mention that 12 months prior I was pulled down an embankment by my large dog and fractured the tibia on the same leg.  So this second injury came as a shock to me.  !00 x more painful than the tiba fracture (which was non displaced)

I expected to make a similar recovery, back to full mobility and doing all the things I had been doing.  We sound similar.  I love walking and do the same kind of hiking as you.  I don't need to walk to work but I always loved walking briskly with my dog for an hour each day. Yoga has been my passion for decades.  I love swimming and exercise in general. 

Like you I have got so disheartened, felt absolutely gutted that my recovery was so slow.
This is where I am at now.

* I can walk for about 20 minutes, before my knee feels unstable and weak and about that time I wish I had a crutch or stick so try and suck it up and keep going but the limp sets in and every step feels very uncomfortable.
* I can also walk up stairs, having a handrail helps so I can pull myself up but if there isn't one I can do it but need to concentrate.  It is almost a normal step up although my knee feels stiff whilst doing it.
* Walking downstairs is still a one step shuffle.  I have been practising doing it 'normally' with a kind of half step and am finding I am beginning to straighten a little bit but when I try a full on normal step down it is impossible.
* Hiking is something I haven't tried but I am making a promise to myself to try and get to an hours walk a day - in little bits.
* I bought a second hand bike and rowing machine to help strengthen my quads.  At first I couldn't do a full revolution on the bike and didn't push it.  Nothing about this injury needs pushing.  Just very slow steps to make it happen and now I can do 20 minutes on the bike at full revolution.  The rowing machine has been great - in fact it is the only exercise that is comfortable and feels good doing it.
* My injured quads smaller than my good leg - the PT feels that is also to do with my previous injury where the quads diminished rapidly.  I did however build them back up to being pretty similar.  From what I have read sometimes your quads never come back after a fractured patellar.
*Balance isn't so bad for me but I put that down to yoga which I have been attempting to do in a weird fashion right from the beginning of the injury
* I am almost back to the same flexion - probably around 130 degrees but because I was very bendy with yoga and could go way further than most by comparison I still have a long way to go.  My extension is reasonably good but have about a one degree lag also. 

So we seem to be on a similar journey.  Emotionally it is a difficult thing to stay positive and not keeping pushing and expecting results.  Because I have found that mostly that doesn't happen very quickly.

I am scheduled to have my hardware removed 27th May.  The reason being it has moved slightly and I have three pins sticking out the side of my knee.  I knocked one not so long ago and the pain was terrible and I spiralled in to a couple of sad days (refuse to say depressed but it was a pretty heavy emotional time  :)
Also the surgeon thinks I will have a better chance of getting rid of the small limp I have once it is out because it is knocking slightly against the healed bone and causing real discomfort.  He mentioned the leg would feel quite unstable for about a year or so afterwards and I need to do everything I can to not re-fracture it.  Apparently that is quite common.  Don't know about you but I spend most of my day looking at the ground ha ha!  I am terrified of tripping over, mainly because my leg often feels weak, so I have become paranoid about watching every step.  Aaaarggggh!

The big thing is never to accept this is "it"!!  When I fractured my tibia the PT said I would "probably never be able to do a yoga child's pose again to the extent I was once able".  Ten months after rehab I went to his office and got down on the floor and showed him I could.  This time I know it is probably going to take me a couple of years but I WILL do it.

It would be great to hear from you.  I haven't spoken to anyone else who has had this injury and have had no answers to my posts on this forum.  Good luck with all that you are doing.  You have come such a long way, remember back to that first couple of weeks post injury and you will realise that.

Thanks for listening.

Warm regards