Using Walking Aids After a Knee Injury
Posted: May 02, 2019
Following knee surgery, Lisa required various pieces of rehab equipment on her way to recovery. While skiing in France, she was dismounting a chair-lift when a child crashed into her. The child was skiing at high speed, knocking Lisa from her feet.
Lisa did not see the approaching child so did not have the chance to brace herself. Because of the child’s height, the main site of the impact was the outside of Lisa’s knee on her left side. The child was wearing a rigid helmet which contacted the side of the knee directly.
The result was serious trauma to the joint. After an airlift to hospital, doctors diagnosed knee-ligament damage. Lisa’s uninjured right leg enabled her to use crutches for mobility after two days in hospital.
After flying back to the UK, Lisa had a scan on the knee showing damage to two main ligaments. There were tears to both the ACL and MCL. Her injuries were similar to those commonly found in footballers and rugby players.
These injuries would in the past have brought careers to an end, but developments over the last 20 years mean that they are successfully treated. Some footballers can return to playing within a year of surgery.
In Lisa’s case, there was some doubt as to whether an operation would be wise at all. There are some risks associated with it, but in the majority of cases the individual regains full functionality of the knee. As she does not play impact sports on a regular basis, she is not at high risk of a similar injury.
Following more assessments, doctors recommended an operation to repair the knee. While waiting for the surgery, the NHS gave Lisa a leg brace. This wrapped around the leg and prevented it from flexing laterally while allowing it to bend as normal. In turn, this stopped the damaged tissue receiving further lateral stress.
Because the knee still felt weak, Lisa continued using walking aids. She also used crutch accessories in order to spread the weight evenly through her hands. Pads slipped over the plastic handles were beneficial, cushioning them and improving pressure distribution. This meant that Lisa was able to travel for sustained periods to and from work.
Lisa had two operations on her knee to repair the damaged ligaments. Immediately afterwards, she was unable to walk unaided for a period of weeks. In the first few days, she needed a wheelchair.
After the accident, she had used only forearm crutches. After the surgery, Lisa used ‘Axilla’ models. These fit into the armpit and look something like old-fashioned pirate-style walking aids. These bear the user’s weight through the hands, armpits and shoulders. Conventional modern styles tend to focus weight through the forearms. Both designs are lightweight and easy to carry.
Lisa found that alternating between the two styles reduced the stress on her body and aided her recovery. When the ‘elbow’ versions because uncomfortable, she switched to the Axillas, and visa-versa. She also found crutch accessories like fleece padding could fit into her armpit and improve comfort.
She then underwent a long period of therapy in order to rebuild strength around the knee. After surgery, Lisa had a feeling of uncertainty towards the strength of her knee. The exercises suggested by the physio gradually worked her left leg, slowly improving its strength and Lisa’s balance. Learning to ‘trust’ the knee again was an important part of the process.
A key piece of equipment through the rehab process were walking aids. Without their use, she would have needed a wheelchair. Without an adapted home, fitted with ramps, she would also have required a nurse or carer.
The knee brace, while effective at limiting the range of motion of the joint, did not provide enough support to allow Lisa to walk unaided. For the first six weeks after her operation she required crutches and later, walking sticks.
Derry has been working in the mobility aids industry since 2003, acquiring a wealth of knowledge along the way. Before Essential Aids, Derry's background was in engineering. In his spare time he is a devotee of yoga and rare reggae vinyl.