LD Riding After Knee Replacement(s)

TdLpps

Premier Member
#1
I wanted to start a thread where information can be exchanged about attempting to continue LD rides after a knee replacement, or two.

In 2008 I gave up riding dirt bikes when my knees could no longer support me through whoops and landings on bigger jumps. I would still ride slowly around camp, but long, hard rides were out and track riding was a thing of the past. I bought a quad and rode it for a few years but standing on it was as hard as a two-wheeler and so I was once again forced to putt around, ass on the seat.

By 2012 I was experiencing pain when riding longer distances on street bikes as well and treated it with loads of Advil. This worked for a few years, but as my knees continued to deteriorate it began to take more. I started seeing an orthopedist who recommended scoping and cleaning up both knees. I approved, but after the first of those two surgeries, he came back and said I shouldn’t expect a major reduction in pain due to the amount of arthritis present. A year later, the second arthroscopic procedure was completed. Some pain was temporarily reduced, but the worst of it stuck around.

While he performed replacements, he encouraged me to wait as long as possible because, in my mid-forties, I was on the younger side for new knees. Instead, we began cortisone shots every 3 months and he prescribed anti-inflammatories. This maintenance plan worked for a while, but eventually the cortisone shots would lose effectiveness after a month -- leaving two months of pain, stiffness and weakness.

Each time I’d visit him, or his PA, I would bring up replacements. They continued to encourage me to wait.

Fast forward to 2020. I was drawn into the 2021 IBR. Now, into my 50s, the doctor started talking about replacements. I needed to spend as much riding to get into shape and so told him I’d like to set a date for the first of two replacements for the end of summer 2021.

I rode a 2018 Road King in the IBR this year and was able to tolerate 20+ hours in the saddle by having three different places to set my boots -- the rear of the boards, the front of the boards, and the passenger boards. For the most part, this kept my legs loose and knees as comfortable as they could be. The higher Police seat helped as well.

I rode almost 20,000 miles between January and June in preparation for the rally. Just before I left for the rally I received a pair of cortisone shots and had a Prednisone pack to use during the rally, if needed. In addition, I had Advil and Tylenol to take as needed.

I ended up not needing the Prednisone. Late on day three the motor blew up in my Harley and I withdrew from the rally. I drove from Wisconsin to California in a Uhaul box truck with my broken bike in the back. Driving the van-based truck without cruise control was much more painful than riding my bike.

When I got home from the rally I had a letter from my Dr. waiting for me. He was pleased to announce that after 30 years in practice, he was retiring.

I began a search for a new surgeon and found someone I liked after a few consultations. He looked at my scans and fresh x-rays and said he was comfortable with performing replacements and said I had significant bone on bone wear in both knees. We scheduled the first of two procedures for the last week of August and, tentatively, the second the last week of November.

On August 29th I had the right knee replaced. After the surgery my Dr. expressed confidence that it had gone well.

PT began a few hours after the surgery. I was amazed at how the arthritis pain was just gone. The pain of the surgery was uncomfortable but I was amazed at the stability of my knee right away. One of the things I was told over and over was that the recovery would be painful, but unless I fell on it or twisted it too far, I couldn’t really damage the new knee. As a result, I worked PT hard from the beginning.

The first week was very uncomfortable. The hardest thing was finding comfortable positions in bed or while sitting. By the end of the second week I could feel improvements every single day and was able to walk ½ mile with a cane. On day 15, I went back to work, mostly desk work, but back to work, nonetheless.

At 4 weeks I carefully placed myself on my Versys and went for a ride around the neighborhood. I was successful but felt it was foolish to do it, so I waited another two weeks before I rode again. By the 8 week mark I rode to work regularly. I wanted to try a day-long ride but without the aid of cortisone shots or prescription meds, the left knee hurt so bad I couldn’t go more than 100 miles. The right knee, though, was great. I had no pain at all in the 100 mile rides.

I had the left knee replacement performed on November 29th. The experience of the second surgery was similar to the first, but with more pain and bruising. I have progressed at about the same rate as the right knee, can walk ½ mile with a cane, and will return to work tomorrow, or the next day.

My question, for any one who has been through similar surgeries and returned to LD riding, is what should I expect that first 1000 mile day? Any hints? Anything you learned along the way, or any advice you’d give?
 
#2
Hi Todd
I had a left knee replaced about 3 years ago in my early 60's. It took me about 3 months to recover fully so you have done well!
For many years I had struggled with big distance and only managed by fitting lowered footrests to my Suzuki V Stroms and needed to stretch
my leg on a regular basis.
Getting the new knee has been a revelation. No more issues at all. Had no problems doing the 36 hour Britt Butt Rally or any other LD rides.
Hope this is helpful !
Steve
 

Warchild

IBA Member
IBR Finisher
IBR Staff
#4
I had two beautiful Chromium-cobalt beauties installed - both in one surgery - in mid-March, 2015.

Didn't really slow me down for long. I was back on the FJR by early May.

It did, however, produced some awesome temporary Blood Art. o_O

BloodIsArt.jpg
 

cacomly

Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#5
Todd,
I have a friend who had his first done over 10 years ago and his other knee done this fall. While he may not ride quite as many miles as some of us do he does do far more than the average rider. He is a member here and I will see if I can prompt him to post in this thread. he's also a few years older than you are
 

TdLpps

Premier Member
#6
Dale -- dig the bruising. I had similar bruising on the left leg, but almost no bruising on the right -- same procedure, same surgeon, three months apart.
 
#8
Chris -- thanks. I'd be interested to hear what he has to say.
Hey, it may be me that Chris referenced. Arthur Ritis is the big culprit and my undoing. Had arthroscopic surgery on each knee a few months apart. First one went great and a real bonus. Second knee clean up brought me minimal relief if any. Pursuing it further it was determined too much damage and as I elected to skip the embryo injections, a bandaid at best, replacement surgery was scheduled. At 61 the surgery was done, now I was probably not the best patient and 5 days after surgery I was able to take a couple of ugly steps unassisted. I had promised myself that if I could walk then I could ride so grabbed the bike keys an rode, not far and with difficulty getting back up into my driveway. Not one of my brightest moments. Put a little fear into me so I concentrated heavily on my rehabbing and backed off of riding for a bit. Fast forward 13 years and time now for right knee replacement. Been a couple months and I have no problem routinely doing 500-600 miles. My only issue is tightness in the new knee after an hour or two and hanging that foot in front of my mid peg, allowing the leg to stretch out brings immediate relief. Occasionally repeated. Barely any use of pain meds with an occasional ice pack treatment. Until recent the use of strategically placed pillows allowed longer sleep periods at night. Now none, just being extra careful not to kneel on them, which itself becomes another issue.
Nearing 75 a lot of what I once took for granted now requires better planning. Riding is not an issue as I suspect you are finding out. I’m not IBR material, perhaps some years back but I have logged nearly 350,000 miles just in the last 20 years on my three Sportsters, been riding for over 60+ years. Temps ranging from -20F up to and exceeding 140F, and 12 months a year here in Michigan. Snow and ice permitting. Hope this is of some help for you, keep it safe.
 
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TdLpps

Premier Member
#9
Thanks, Paul.

I appreciate you adding to this thread. It's this kind of info that will help other riders at some point.

I reached the five week mark today. I'll start riding the bike to work soon as I've been able to use the new left knee to lift my body off the ground on the left peg to swing my right leg over the seat.

It was explained to me by my doctor that this surgery requires 8 weeks for the bones to heal, and the soft tissue around the surgical site takes seven. There is no way to speed this process along. It happens according to your body's ability to heal, but no less than 8 weeks and 7 weeks.

The ability to walk, climb stairs and increase flexibility is different for everybody. Strength and flexibility can take longer in some people, particularly if they don't take rehab seriously. When I returned to work I made it a point to walk from my office to the end of our shop (about 200 yards) several times per day. In each direction I would do some sort of stair work -- a single step with each leg at first, followed by multiple stairs, then two steps at a time.

At first, trying two steps at a time with my left leg felt impossible. Each day it got a little easier and now I can do it, and extend the leg fully straight when weighted, with little discomfort.

My left knee area has remained noticeably more swollen than normal in spite of icing it, stretching it, massaging it and using Aspercreme. I see a small improvement every few days and with that, flexibility improves. I've been able to bend past 90 degrees since the end of week 1, but it happens much more effortlessly and pain free now and the incision is starting to flatten out and my knee cap has become more defined in the last few days. I can comfortably sleep on my side.

My right knee continues to feel better and better, even after 4 months. The healing process continues for months.
 
#10
Curious, did you have use of a leg machine to assist in the rehab process? My first surgery they delivered an electric, articulated flexion machine. You would lay on the bed set the repaired leg into it, Velcro secure the leg and turn the machine on. You could adjust the range of motion and speed. I used this for several hours a day, eventually getting up to 120 degrees of range. Second knee they delivered and electric machine that I sat on, resembled a piece of gym equipment that you might use for leg curls and extensions. Both legs were manipulated together. I ended up at a range of 0 degree to 125 degrees. Was a tremendous aid in the rehabbing process. Oh, and I’ve been told that it could be a full year for complete healing.
 

TdLpps

Premier Member
#11
Paul - I haven't used the machine. My surgeon said it was available through the PT group if it was needed. He also said that he would sometimes have to put a patient under general anesthesia and work the joint to the limits of extension and bending. Fortunately, I was able to gain back flexibility in my right knee by using a long rubber strap to pull the foot inward to my pain threshold, release, and repeat, each time going a little further. I would also lay on my back and attempt to bring my leg to my chest. I couldn't get it very close at first, but small improvements every couple days add up over time. I did the same on the left and am doing well. The right is easily able to touch my chest, the left a few inches away.
 
#12
Sadly, I had a friend that did nothing to after his replacement. Moved his bed downstairs and ate pain meds. Leg seized up over time and two years later surgery to open up the joint. Rehabbed this time and doing much better.