Client Spotlight - Kathy's Double Knee Replacement Journey

client spotlight pilates & knee replacement Jul 26, 2020


When Kathy started Pilates with me in January last year she was dealing with ongoing, painful knee issues and was extremely motivated to find a solution and become pain-free.  She had already been attending a Pilates mat class for about 18 months when she came to me but she felt she needed additional specific strengthening to assist her condition to avoid surgery or delay it as long as possible.  As an active 69 year old grandmother of 6 young grandchildren, including a set of twins, she wanted to be physically strong and fit to enjoy caring for and playing with her grandkids, without constant pain.  She also enjoys challenging walks and travel so knee pain was really preventing her from living her best life possible.  Kathy continued her mat class and followed JS Mind Body Pilates Online, my online studio, initially with exercise suggestions from me.  She was extremely diligent with her Pilates practice and she quickly saw that the more she strengthened and kept moving, the less pain she experienced.  However, in the last couple of months, she was losing more and more range of movement in her left knee due to a very large reoccurring Baker's Cyst and Osteoarthritis while her right knee was compensating and overworking and was already weaker due to a previous meniscal tear.  So, on 26th June this year, she had a double knee replacement and her Pilates training has been the perfect preparation for both pre and post-surgery.  Kathy is still in the rehabilitation phase of her recovery and is making amazing progress post-surgery.  She has kindly offered to share her inspiring Pilates journey through surgery to benefit others who may have similar knees issues or who are preparing for surgery.

How long have you been dealing with knee issues Kathy and what was unusual about your Baker's Cyst?
I had OsteoArthritis for over 5 years firstly in my left knee.  I also developed a Baker's Cyst behind my left knee several years ago.  Anyone who has one of these knows how problematic, painful and at times debilitating they are.  The more inflamed your Osteoarthritis in your knee joint becomes, the larger the Baker's Cyst develops.  Mine also ruptured at times - nice - but kept filling up again.  The doctors drained it several times but it always came back.  It was then injected with Cortisone which then meant the outer cyst became very rigid and I could not straighten my left knee completely. 
 You have been so dedicated to your Pilates practice.  How did it affect your pain level before surgery and how often did you practice?
Twelve months ago I also developed Osteoarthritis in my right knee also but gladly no Baker's Cyst.  I was keen to delay surgery until I was ready and found Pilates was the perfect gentle solution that supported my knees once I was introduced to the VMO and proper breathing techniques, core strengthening, etc. 
I visited Joanne's Pilates studio several times but found her online program, JS Mind Body Pilates suited me as I would do the exercises at different times of the day when I travelled up to see my grandchildren and found it helped with my pain management.  Pre-surgery I was doing Pilates every second day, particularly during the COVID lockdown period.    
It's rare to have a double knee replacement in your late 60s but you are an exception.  Why were you allowed to go ahead with this?
As I stated I did not want a knee replacement but my doctor suggested a double knee replacement due to the fact that he could see I was very fit, not overweight and he even asked what sport I played.  When I said none, but I have done Pilates for 3 years he said he wished that all his patients would do Pilates before surgery.  
It's wonderful that all your dedicated Pilates practice was recognised!  Were you anxious in the lead up to surgery? Is so, how did you manage to stay calm?
Yes, I was very scared and anxious - so much so the nurses could not find any blood pressure reading as it was so low even though they tried several machines.  I asked if they could leave me alone for 5 minutes and I did some Pilates deep breathing which seemed to work and calmed me down.
How did you feel post-surgery and how quickly did you get back on your feet?
You are in a world of pain, however, the physio gets you on your feet the night of the surgery - yippee!  The nurses manage your pain with drugs but I was determined to move my legs and feet even while in bed so took my trusty green stretch band with me for gentle foot flexes. 
How did your high level of fitness level help you during rehabilitation?
A good surgeon replaces your knees so they are straight and wonderful but it is then up to you and the rehabilitation team to get you up and walking, bathing, moving by yourself.  Having the flexibility to get your legs out of bed and the core strength to have your first shower privately is priceless.  Even the physiotherapy team wanted to know why I had such good core strength and were impressed by my flexibility.  An example of this is being able to curl up into a "C" curve from lying down flat on my back, to reach and then move my fat toes around.  
How do you anticipate your future now with your "new" knees?
I cannot remember when I last stood so straight and now I do not waddle like a duck so naturally, I love them! I cannot wait until I can get back to enjoying my little family and being able to put my grandkids on my knees again.    
Do you have any tips or advice to share with others who may be in a similar situation?
Probably don't leave it as long as I did and find a good surgeon.  Do your Pilates regularly to prepare yourself both pre and post-surgery. VMO, breathing, core strength, balancing - very very important when your feet feel like lead.  Build up your arm strength as this is the only way you can get in/out of bed/ on-off the toilet and the shower chair. 
Maintain your weight and follow an anti-inflammatory diet before your surgery if you can. 
It's a journey but so far so good!
That advice is invaluable Kathy!  Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring Pilates journey that has supported you through both the pre and post-surgery stages of your double knee-replacement.  It's wonderful to see how you took control of your own health and fitness with Pilates.  Once you have finished rehabilitation your continued Pilates training will provide you with the next phase of strengthening as you adapt to life with your "new knees".  If you would like to follow a Pilates program that is designed for pre-surgery preparation and post-surgery recovery,  sign up for JS Mind Body Pilates Online free 10 day trial.   It's been so inspiring to see how you have dealt with surgery, Kathy I look forward to seeing your continued Pilates progress in the future.

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