Many people scheduled to undergo knee surgery often plan ahead. They expect to resume their normal activities soon after the surgical wound has healed. These people hope to pick up from where they left off. However, these same people need to be more realistic and expect some back pain after knee surgery, which normally occurs during rehabilitation. Then, there is also the more immediate albeit minor back pain after knee surgery resulting from the use of epidural anesthesia. The pain caused by the needle should go away after a few days.
The patient normally needs assistance in ambulation when he goes home from the hospital after knee surgery. He will then have to use either crutches or a walker but doing so will require more efforts from the muscles at the back that were not used to working that hard before. Back muscles get stressed from overexertion and this leads to back pain after surgery. The patient can help himself and relieve the pain by performing a few exercises to de-stress the same back muscles and give them strength.
As part of the preparations for the surgery, most surgeons advise patients to perform a set of exercises that would build strength and increase flexibility in the back muscles. When these muscles are stronger and more flexible, they are more capable of handling the additional and unusual movements demanded by the use of crutches. As a result, the patient experiences less back pain after knee surgery.
Crutches Keep Weight off the Knee but Places It on the Back
Most exercises after knee surgery focus on the rehabilitation of the leg muscles. However, they create excessive load on the back muscles and foster back pain. Also, the patient’s tendency to lean on one side to ease the weight off the side that had surgery contributes largely to back pain after knee surgery and this aggravates when the patient switches to the use of a single crutch.
Therefore, it is important that even as the patient lies in bed, he should be exercising his overall back muscles to keep them strong and able to withstand the undue strain that would be placed on them later on. Further, awareness of the possibility of back pain after knee surgery can make its onset less disturbing. Instead of stressing over the pain, the patient can consider it as a reminder that he needs to work out and strengthen those muscles. It would also be helpful for the patient to change his sleeping positions.
For the first few days or within a week after the knee surgery, the leg is usually kept elevated. In this case, it is necessary to keep the head aligned with the spine to reduce back pain after knee surgery. This can be done with the use of a firm mattress without a pillow. If a pillow is really required, choose a flatter one and not the plump pillows. Do avoid sleeping on the side without proper support for the head as this might stiffen the neck muscles and exacerbate back pain.