Day 70: First Hike – 10 Weeks Post-Op!

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April 15, 2005 at 1:11 pm

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First Hike Post-Op — 10 Weeks after ACL Reconstruction & Meniscus Repair!

Location:

(All of Loops 1 & 2; avoided Loop 3 at north end of the park)

Miles Hiked: 4.2 miles

Miles Walked: 1 mile on a paved trail about 1 hour after the hike

TOTAL Distance Covered: 5.2 miles PRICELESS!

First off, I did this without the 100% blessing of my OS — he didn’t tell me NOT to go hiking, but he’d have preferred I wait until I’m 4 months post op (16 weeks). I do so much walking on uneven, “iffy” pavement during my 2.5 to 5 mile walks every couple days that I’ve gained a comfort level with the knee that my OS can’t have, since it’s not attached to him.

I was very, very careful. Hiking boots, , and a walking staff for balance and stability particularly on declines/inclines.

Hiked 4.2 miles (forgot my GPS, but I’m familiar with the hiking trail and the route I took — see my trip report from a

of the same trail.) I’d forgotten how ROCKY the trail is, so that slowed me up considerably and made the hike rather boring — I’ve never stared at the GROUND so much on a hike in my life. But it was better than tweaking the knee in any way and doing what we all fear most — ruining the graft I’ve worked so hard to protect and build muscles around since

(incidentally, today is exactly 10 weeks to the day of my surgery.)

I had some twinges of pain in the post-op knee, but mostly due to bumping the toes of my hiking boot against a rock — sending vibrations up through the leg. That, and I no longer wear the brace for daily activities and walking (OS cleared me off it at 8 weeks post-op), so I’m not as used to the feeling of the brace pressing directly on my shin scar and ACL wire-threading scar on the lateral side of my leg/knee. Those don’t like hard pressure on them, and that’s what the brace does, depending on how the leg muscles are contracting at a given moment.

I had planned to potentially hike all 6 miles of the trail I’m familiar with, but it was better to quit while I was ahead. Moderate swelling after the hike, but actually less than I anticipated. No pain in the knee several hours now after the hike — my shins (both legs) and feet (both legs) are what’s grousing right now. My post-op leg’s hamstrings and quads complained a little during the hike, particularly on uphill sections (not a massive grade, but more than these legs have seen in 16+ weeks, since my injury curtailed my hiking long before surgery came along.) But the muscles are fine after a short 1 mile walk on relatively flat plavement after the hike.

ONE TIP FOR POST-OP HIKERS/BACKPACKERS:

I was a dummy and never did my exercise walking while wearing my hiking boots (Vasque Sundowner Women’s GORE-TEX leather boots — can you tell I *love* them!?) The added weight, coupled with the completely different feel of them (high-top leather boots vs. my walking shoes) made the first 1-1.5 miles even more challenging because it seemed difficult to lift up the post-op leg sufficiently to get clearance over rocks and tree roots (a little scary, and the cause of my 2 or 3 toe hits against rocks on the post-op foot).

So, I’d advise folks who are cleared to resume hiking or backpacking start wearing their boots on walks (and, if a backpacker, after some boot-wearing walks, wear your pack as well — with a moderate load). That’ll get your muscles, knee and brain back into the proper behaviors and is safer than just setting off down the trail for the first time in the boots, like I did today.

I didn’t carry any extra weight (my usual camera gear and CamelBak water pack stayed at home), and my pace was way off my pre-injury norms… and I was rather bored because I was being so careful I really couldn’t appreciate the scenery unless I was stopped, and spent the whole time staring at rocks, roots and dirt to plan every footfall. So I think ultimately the OS is right — really getting back to hiking like I enjoy isn’t going to come until 14 or 16 weeks post-op, like he said, but at least I know my impressions on how the knee and leg is doing are accurate.

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