My knee journey

Table of Contents

Why this page?

In March 2023, I had a knee injury that required a knee surgery on April 25, 2023. I created this page to document my surgery and recovery progress in detail for myself. I also found it incredibly useful to read about other people’s experiences with knee surgery and recovery, so I hope this also helps someone else out there today or in the future.

If you have any questions about my experience, feel free to reach out to me.

First and second injuries and first surgery in 2009

My knee problems go as far back as 2002. I initially injured my knee while playing football in college. I quickly turned left on my left knee and immediately, I heard a snap, followed by a lot of pain. After MRIs and a couple of weeks in crutches, I was told that it was a partial ACL tear and possibly meniscus but might not require surgery.

After I could walk and run again, I was able to ignore the problem for a good number of years until August 2008. I was playing frisbee with friends and as I landed on my knee, I lost control of it and I felt the same pain. This time I couldn’t walk at all. After MRIs and another couple of weeks in crutches, I was told that it was a full ACL tear and meniscus damage and requires surgery if I want to play sports. Since I could still walk slowly and run with care, I postponed the surgery until the beginning of March 2009.

At the beginning of March 2009, I got the surgery done with a donated ACL graft. I didn’t document the process back then but I remember that I was in pain for the first 2-3 days, then, it gradually started getting better. I used crutches for 2 weeks and after that I was able to walk without crutches and with a custom knee brace for protection. I didn’t have any bruising or any complications in my knee. I started physio about 2 weeks after the surgery and continued for 2-3 months. By the end of March, I was able to have a quite normal life and within a few months, I was able to walk and run normally.

Third injury in March 2023

Between 2009 to 2023, I led a normal active life. I walked to most places, I was a regular runner and an occasional cycler. I never pushed my knee with contact sports or skiing, as I always had the fear that I might injure it again. Starting in 2020, I started feeling my knee is not stable again. A few times, it got swollen and hurt a little but nothing that prevented me from my daily activities.

In March 2023, as I was carrying a slightly heavy bag, I did a quick turn on my left knee and snap. I head the same noise and had the same pain I had back in 2002. I spent a couple of weeks resting and icing it with the hopes that it’d get better and I can at least walk before seeing a doctor. This time, it didn’t get better and I couldn’t walk at all.

I went to see the doctor in early April and I was told that I have a bucket handle meniscus tear and my ACL is torn again as well. He told me that ACL was probably partially torn over the years that made the knee unstable and that resulted in the meniscus tear. It was the bucket handle tear that was locking my knee and preventing me from walking that required immediate attention.

My options were to have a small operation and a quick recovery (2-4 weeks) to fix the meniscus and later have another operation for ACL to make the knee stable again. Or a bigger operation to fix both meniscus and ACL at the same time but a much longer recovery time (several months). I decided to go for the latter as I didn’t want to go through 2 operations and I didn’t want to live with the fear of an unstable knee much longer.

Second surgery on April 25, 2023

After a few weeks of waiting, I finally had the surgery done on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. I went in around 7:15am in the morning, admitted to the clinic around 8am, and got into the operation room around 9:30am/10am after talking to my doctor and my anesthesiologist.

Even though it was my second surgery, I was a little nervous about it, as you can tell from my picture.

Before surgery

The operation lasted for about 2 hours and I woke up with no issues and little pain. Doctor told me that the operation went well and I should focus on straightening my knee as soon as I can, as it’s important after ACL surgery.

After a couple more hours at the clinic to make sure I’m ok, they told me I can put full weight on my knee, showed me how to use crutches, gave me some knee exercises to work on at home. They put my left/operated knee in a tubigrip (a compression sock) and a knee brace and my right/unoperated knee in a compression sock to prevent blood clots.

Tubigrip and knee brace

They discharged me around 2pm and told me that I’ll see my doctor in 2 weeks after the surgery to remove the stitches.

My first day and evening at home was pretty good. They told me to remove the tubigrip when I sleep. When I checked my knee in the first evening, I had little pain, little swelling, and hardly any bleeding. So far so good!

Knee on Apr 25, 2023

Note: The pictures of my knee in Week1 and Week2 might be a little graphic for some

Week 1

Week 1 (Apr 25 - May 2): A roller coaster week with lots of bruising that got me worried.

The first 2 days (Wed, Apr 26 and Thu, Apr 27) after the surgery was pretty good. I had some pain but I was constantly taking medication and they helped. I was sleeping fine most of the night. I started doing my exercises. I had some minor bleeding after my exercises but I was told that was expected.

The main problem I had was due to swelling, the tubigrip on my leg started feeling very tight to the point that it was very uncomfortable. I took it off part of the day but at the same time, I knew I had to wear it to keep swelling down. It was a constant struggle of keeping it on and off throughout the day.

By Friday, Apr 28, I started having bruising and more minor bleeding around my knee. I was told that this was expected as well, so I didn’t worry initially.

Knee on April 28, 2023

I spent the weekend constantly icing my knee, taking the pain medication, and watching the bruising. By Monday, May 1, the bruising covered almost all my leg and more worryingly, it was also way above my knee in my inner thigh.

Knee on May 1, 2023

As I finished the first week after surgery, I had slight pain and swelling that made tubigrip very uncomfortable but it was the bruising that got me really worried, especially after reading that it might be related to blood clots. I asked to see my doctor before 2 weeks.

Week 2

Week 2 (May 2 - May 9): recovery started but very slowly.

I started week 2 by visiting my physiotherapist first time after the surgery. We had 2 virtual sessions before the surgery but it was nice to see meet him in-person. We didn’t do any exercises, I still had quite a bit of swelling and bruising but it was good to talk to him to get a plan in place.

By Wednesday, May 3, bruising started to get better.

Knee on May 3, 2023

On Thursday, May 4, I saw my doctor for bruising. He assured me that everything looks fine and while bruising is extensive, it’s normal after an ACL surgery with hamstring graft. That put my mind at ease. They also removed half of the stitches but kept the other half for the next week.

On Friday, May 5, I went to physio session #2. Again, not much exercise, just a little walking and also going up and down the stairs with crutches.

Since I was so relieved about the bruising, I decided to do a mini celebration by visiting one of my favorite restaurants nearby on Saturday, May 6. At this point, all my pain medication was finished and I was told to just use paracetamol if I had further pain.

Week 3

Week 3 (May 9 - May 16): an encouraging and discouraging week at the same time.

I started working from home in week 3. It’s been challenging as I can’t sit in a chair for too long or lie down in a bed too long but work definitely helps to get my mind out of my knee.

I also visited my doctor again on Tuesday, May 9. They removed the rest of the stitches. He stressed one more time that I need to get my knee straight as soon as possible. It’s a little worrying to me that he kept stressing that in every appointment but I hope that with less swelling and bruising, now I can work on making my knee more straight and strong.

He also increased the extension of my knee from 60 degrees to 70 degrees and told me to increase it by 10 degrees every week.

By Wednesday, May 10, my knee looked much better in terms of bruising and swelling.

Knee on May 10, 2023

On Friday, May 12, I had my physio session #3. I told my physiotherapist about what doctor told me about straightening my knee. He worked with me to straighten my knee. It felt a little scary to have him push on my knee but in the end, we managed to get it 2 degrees more straight after 10 mins. Good sign.

At this point, I’m happy with the progress and I do my exercises 2-3 times a day religiously and it feels like my knee is getting stronger. However, I’m still with crutches after almost 3 weeks and it’s a little discouraging.

In my first surgery back in 2009, I remember I was out of crutches after 10 days to 2 weeks but it was a donated ACL graft and I was told that hamstring graft takes longer to heal. I will continue to be patient with the process.

Week 4

Week 4 (May 16 - 23): finally felt some progress with one crutch off in the house.

I started week 4 by increasing my knee brace extension from 70 degrees to 80 degrees. I’ve been working from home this week too. Sitting in a chair is still not possible for too long, so I alternate between sitting and lying in bed.

I had my physio session #4, we relaxed muscles around the knee and get the knee straight. It’s still not perfectly straight but I feel like it’s getting there.

In the middle of the week, I went to speak at a conference. Felt good to be out of the home. By the weekend, I had my physio session #5 with more straightening and relaxation exercises.

On the weekend, I started walking with one crutch in the house, the quads started feeling strong enough which is a good sign. The knee also looks much better now, hardly any bruising left and only a few steri-strips left.

Knee on May 21, 2023

I didn’t remove all the steri-strips because that part of the knee still hurts a little, so a little more protection won’t hurt. I also started putting a hot water bag on my quad, seemed to help with tightness of the knee.

Week 5

Week 5 (May 23 - 30): both crutches off in the house, one crutch outside, and started daily walks outside.

I started week 5 by increasing the knee brace extension to 90. I still have some pain on the left of my knee around where the steri-strips are. It’s a little concerning that this pain won’t go away but icing helps, so hopefully, it’s nothing important. I also have slight bruising on my calf and my upper inner thigh but they’re getting smaller and smaller every day.

I went to my physio session #6 on Tuesday morning. This time we worked on relaxing the muscle on the left side of the knee. It hurt quite a bit but felt good afterwards.

By mid-week, I started walking without crutches in the house. It’s not a perfect walk, a little limping but I hope it’ll get normal as my knee gets more straight.

Towards the end of the week, I had my physio session #7 on Friday. We worked on relaxing the calf this time. These physio sessions are short (30 min) but they seem to help quite a bit in the next couple of days.

My knee is looking better with most of the steri-strips are off at this point. I’m surprised how long and deep the wound is on the left side of my knee, no wonder it still hurts:

Knee on May 27, 2023

I’m happy that there’s little progress every week. I can walk around the house without crutches now and outside with one crutch. I also started doing daily longer walks outside twice a day when I can. They seem to help with the knee and muscles.

Week 6

Week 6 (May 30 - Jun 6): crutches off outside, longer walks.

I increased knee extension to 100 and had my physio session #8 on Tuesday. We worked on more relaxing and straightening exercises.

I also started slowly walking without crutches outside. It’s not a perfect walk and quite slow but still feels good to not rely on a crutch. I hit 8000 walking steps which is the most I walked in a day since March.

I had my physio session #9 on Friday. This time we worked in the gym for the first time, putting some weight on the knee. Everything was good, except the area of the stitches were still tense and hurting a little. This is something I need to ask doctor about next week.

Over the weekend, I took 2 long walks without crutches, around 10,000 steps. It felt a little tiring but good overall.

Week 7

Week 7 (Jun 6 - Jun 13): brace and crutches off officially!

I visited my doctor for 6 week followup on Tuesday. I got the good news that everything looks normal on my knee and I can get rid of the brace and crutches, whoo! I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. The brace was especially heavy and glad it’s gone now. I just need to continue working on straightening my knee and trying to walk properly. He also told me that the swelling/pain on the left side of the knee should continue to go down. This was a big relief for me, as I wasn’t sure what to expect.

On Friday, I had my physio session #10. I used the anti-gravity machine for the first time and did some walking and squats.On the weekend, I walked to and from one of my favorite farms and in total, I did 14,000 steps in one day, which is the longest distance I walked in one day since early March!

I’m still limping slightly, going down the stairs is still a little painful, and the pain on the left side of my knee is still there but everything is getting slowly better day by day.

My knee also looks almost normal now with a slight swelling that comes and goes depending on the activity of the day:

Knee on Jun 11, 2023

Week 8

Week 8 (Jun 13 - Jun 20): Longest walk and started mini-bike.

I started the week with my physio session #11. I can now walk to/from physio which is a 20 min walk one way, so 40 mins in total of walking. At the physio, we did some calf stretching today.

The pain on the left side of my knee is negligible and the swelling around my incision is almost gone now. My knee lost almost normal with the knee cap finally visible, which is nice to see.

On Friday, I went to physio session #12. We were in the gym with squat exercises and I tried the bike the first time. Starting the bike was tough, my left knee could not turn as smooth but after a minute or two, it felt better. This made me think maybe I should buy a mini bike to use at home, the doctor also had suggested biking as a useful exercise at this stage.

I bought the mini bike on the weekend and using it daily. It definitely helped me to warm up my knee before my exercises. I also had the longest walking day (15K steps) on Saturday.

Note: Switching to monthly updates from now on

Month 3

Month 3 (Jun 20 - Jul 25): Walking is normalized.

Jun 20-27: Physio session #13 (Jun 20): Hands-on stretching of calf and hamstring. It definitely helped to loosen up the knee and get it more straight during walking. First business trip to Cologne, Germany (Jun 21-22). I took one of my crutches as a precaution but I didn’t really need it and the trip felt quite normal with my knee. Physio session #14 (Jun 23), we were in the gym with glute strengthening.

Jun 27-Jul 4: Physio session #15 (Jun 27): Hands-on calf stretching. In the last few days, my knee has been swollen and my ankle hurts after walking. It’s something new and annoying but I was told it’s expected as I do more with my knee. I went to Brighton on Wednesday and walked 19.3K steps, highest since my knee injury. Physio session #16 (Jun 30) also focused on hands-on calf stretching. The ankle pain is mostly gone, I think due to not cycling too long on mini-bike. Going down the stairs has also improved quite a bit.

Jul 4-11: Physio session #17 (Jul 4): We did a short gym session, followed by more hands-on calf and behind the knee releases. I realized my walking is getting close to my normal speed. Physio session #18 (Jul 7), we focused on glute strengthening. I did almost 70K steps this week, most steps since my injury.

Jul 11-18: I had a physio session #19 (Jul 11) with a new guy as my original physio person was on holiday this week. We worked on hands-on session to loosen up the knee and in physio session #20 (Jul 14), we worked in the gym. In physio session #21 (Jul 17), we were back to hands-on loosening on the back of the knee and calf.

Jul 18-25: In physio sessions #22 (Jul 20) and #23 (Jul 22), we were in the gym with strengthening exercises. I also saw the doctor (Jul 25) for my three month check. He seemed satisfied with the state of my knee and advised me to keep working on strengthening the muscles around the knee and work on the last bit of knee straightening. He told me I should be able to start light runs at about 4 months mark and should be able to get back to most of activities at 6 months mark.

At this 3 months mark, my knee is still swollen but getting more normal every day. My walking is 90% normal but it’s still not fully straight and sometimes I do get tired. Walking up and down the stairs is almost normal but going down the stairs hurts a little sometimes. I can’t jump or run yet, so I need to work on those.

Knee on Jul 24, 2023

Month 4

Aug 25: At this 4 months mark, I finished my 30th physio session, mainly involving strengthening exercises. Here’s the situation as of today:

  • Swelling: My knee is still swollen but better than last month. I still get swelling after exercises.
  • Tightness: The tightness around the knee is better but I still have tightness in the leg. I do roller exercises to loosen them.
  • Straightness: I’d say my knee is 95% straight with slight bending when I get tired.
  • Walking: My walking is also almost normal but I still feel the left knee is different from the right knee during walking.
  • Stairs: Going up and down the stairs is still not 100% but much easier than before. Slight pain going up sometimes and going down is still not as smooth.
  • Jumping and running: I can’t jump or run yet and we’ll need to work on those soon.

Knee on Aug 25, 2023

Month 7

Nov 19: Almost 7 months mark. My knee definitely feels stronger and more normal but I’m surprised that it’s not 100% yet. It feels like I have minor improvements since my last update. Here’s the situation as of today:

  • Swelling: My knee is mostly swelling free but still gets swollen after exercises involving weights.
  • Tightness: The tightness around the knee is much less but I still get them after sitting too long with bent knee and in the mornings.
  • Straightness: I’d say my knee is 98% straight, still slightly bent after sitting too long.
  • Walking: My walking is totally normal at this point.
  • Stairs: Going up and down the stairs is almost normal but not 100%, going down the stairs feels a little shaky sometimes.
  • Jumping and running: I started small jumps and one leg jumps. I also started small 10 mins runs, which is encouraging.

Knee on Nov 19, 2023

Month 9

Feb 4: I’m more than 9 months mark. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much progress since last time. The only thing that’s different is that I now do 3 runs every week with Couch to 5K programme. I just finished week 4 which means I can run & walk for 30 mins with 5 mins straight runs. My knee gets swollen after running but it’s back to normal the next day. I’m also doing more jumps but the issues with swelling, tightness, straightness and slight pain are all still there. A little discouraging after 9 months of physio.

Knee on Feb 4, 2023