My Immobilizer Brace and Me

Borderline personality disorder is a psychological condition which causes people to have intense, unstable relationships with others in which they swing wildly from love to hate and back again. BPD is best encapsulated by the phrase “I hate you, don’t leave me.” What’s the point of all this psycho-babble, you ask? Well, I have borderline personality disorder when it comes to my knee brace.

Oh my God I hate you. Except when I have to walk on wet tile surfaces

Throughout the day, I go though periods where I absolutely despise my knee brace. These periods usually occur when I’m getting in and out of cars,  putting on/removing socks (which takes an absurd amount of time), or trying to sleep. On  the flip side, I also have moments where I am extremely thankful that I’m wearing it, such as when one of my crutches gets caught up on an uneven sidewalk and I almost eat pavement.

100% of your daily required asphalt

I also came dangerously close to doing this yesterday:

In these instances, you can’t fight your instinct to jerk your leg forward to keep from falling on your face. But if I jerk my leg forward without that brace on, I’m definitely going to mess something up inside my knee. I’m torn between my hatred for the knee brace and my knowledge that it’s the only thing that’s kept my knee from being completely shredded on several terrifying occasions (apparently wet tile floors turn ordinary crutches into frictionless, aluminum agents of death). But even though the brace has saved me from tearing my new ligaments out of their bones several times, there are still those times when I absolutely hate it. The hatred grows strongest at night when I’m laying there with a straight leg and all I can think about is how badly I want to bend it just to get close to being comfortable. Unfortunately, I’m not supposed to sleep without the brace until week 3 after surgery, so I’ve got a few more nights of discomfort in my immediate future.

On the bright side, I started physical therapy today, which was a fairly humbling experience. As is the norm with post-op therapy, we started with very, very light exercises. Which makes the fact that I could barely do them very, very embarrassing. The first exercise we did was a simple leg lift, on which I fully expected to open a family-size can of Whoop Ass. But not only did I not open a can of Whoop Ass on those leg lifts, I could barely manage to lift my leg off the table. I did finally manage a set of 10, but it required way more effort than I had anticipated. After I did a few more exercises, the therapist took measurements, and found that both my calf and thigh muscles have atrophied quite a bit since I’ve been off the leg for almost 2 weeks.  She did, however, say that overall I did very well for my first day, so I’m on schedule as far as regaining normal ROM and leg strength, which is really encouraging. I also managed to passively bend my knee to 60° today, which means I’m one step closer to being able to go the bathroom like a normal human being again.

On an unrelated note, I’m just going to start telling people I had ACL surgery. I’m not even going to mention the PCL anymore. The PCL is like the ACL’s worthless brother that nobody would even know about if they weren’t related.

*ahem*

Nobody knows what the PCL is, and I keep getting sucked into these situations where I ‘m forced to explain to people what the PCL does, where it’s located, what PCL stands for (posterior cruciate ligament), etc. I’ve had the same conversation at least 3o times so far and it’s getting to the point where it feels like I’m just rattling off a memorized speech, so I’m just going to tell people I tore my ACL and leave it at that. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the concern and curiosity about my predicament, but after the 30th time saying “It crisscrosses your ACL, which is why they’re called ‘cruciate’ ligaments” and getting a blank stare in return, you’d have had enough too.

Overall, Week 2 of recovery has been pretty good so far. I go back to PT on Thursday, so I’ll get a chance to redeem myself with those leg lifts then.

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About Andrew Sacks

I'm a 27-year-old former college baseball player, currently working as a strength and conditioning coach in Baltimore, MD.
This entry was posted in Knee injury, Recovery, Surgery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to My Immobilizer Brace and Me

  1. Jon Hart says:

    Hey man,

    you’re making great progress, had my PCL done last march, its still tight time to time and I had an autograft from my hamstring so there have been a few issues with that. 60 degrees is amazing at this point so keep it up, the key is not having setbacks

  2. Adam says:

    I know exactly what you are talking about with the love/hate relationship with the leg immobilizer. I had my ACL reconstructed on Friday, and man do I already hate this thing but love it at the same time cause at least it is safe. Flexing my leg to attemp to leg lifts on my own sends a weird jolt of tension/pain a little closer to my knee. And man alive what I would give to sleep let alone sleep comfortably, and to be able to use the bathroom like a normal human. I think I may actually cry when I am able to do that.

    • andrewsacks says:

      Haha yeah, that brace is definitely one uncomfortable SOB. It’s amazing how much you appreciate being able to bend your knee after going through this experience.

      • Adam says:

        You got no idea, well actually you do. My ankle and foot is swollen from everything its ridiculous, but stitches come out next Tuesday and PT starts the next day. And all my knee wants to do already is bend. I’d love to be able to do deep knee squats or sit Indian Style right now.

  3. Adam says:

    So you just had your other knee done as well? Man how did you do damage to both?

    I did the Hamstring graft btw. I tore my ACL in Capoeira doing a basic kick with my left leg and my right knee popped. My instructor himself tore his ACL also a few years back and got cadaver tissue, and he was doing Samba a week and half – two weeks later (I think he got kicked in the head one to many times)

    • andrewsacks says:

      Yeah I tore both ACLs on two separate occasions playing offseason pickup basketball. I tore the right one 2 months before my junior year baseball season was supposed to start and opted to play with a brace rather than miss the whole season after surgery. Since I made it through that season without any problems, I decided to wait until after graduation to get surgery, but then I tore my left ACL in December, probably because I was subconsciously favoring my right leg.

      • Adam says:

        Crap I so hope after all is said and done that I do not tear my other ACL. I do not wish this discomfort on anyway. And I’m sorry you had to go through it twice.

  4. Joey says:

    The whole favoring leg thing is SO true. I was having a bout of achilles tendonitis for a month or so on my left ankle so i would limp on my right pretty heavily after any sports and before long bye bye ACL on my right knee. Word of wisdom to people, if you feel any pain or discomfort early on with your feet get them checked out and resolve the problem immediately.

  5. Nicole says:

    Thanks for the entertaining account of what I’m in for as my surgery is a week from today. I agree the pcl conversation is tiresome.

  6. On July 10th my ACL and PCL and another ligament were torn while I was at work. And my life has consisted of a walker and a leg brace since it happened. I had my first surgery about 2 weeks ago and in a couple of days I go to my doctor to have my stitches removed. I suppose that at that visit he’ll schedule me for my second operation to repair the ACL. My life and personality has been on a roller coaster ride since this tragic event occurred. Nevertheless, I am managing to stay strong, although, I have become sleep deprived and borderline depressed due to the limitations and restrictions and the loss of normality within my life. I guess, right now, I am in need of venting my condition off to people who understand what I am going through because “normal and healthy” seem to not understand how it feels for a person’s life to change dramatically over the course of 45 minutes @ work. I wish that I would’ve created a chronological blog that I could’ve reflect upon.
    Thanks again and I hope for continuous good health and recovery for those who need it…

  7. Stephanie says:

    No fun, no fun at all! I do not have my surgery until next Friday but I had already lost all the muscle in my leg. Sooo, I lost the ability to lift my leg up early on. However, while awaiting surgery, I gained that muscle back (a lot of hard work). I recently have been able to lift it again. Until yesterday when I got fitted me for my knee brace. The flush of horror that goes through you when you realize that damn leg won’t move!

    I am NOT looking forward to this. Thanks for the humor. :)

    • Stephanie says:

      I suppose I should also note I fell back in 2007 and went through a scope in 2008 (and then three months later a gall bladder surgery). they didn’t find anything but they drained fluid that was causing swelling and pain. SO I got back to basic life. Walking up and down stairs and walking in general. Never could handle running or standing for extended periods of time.

      Until it started up again and caused me several falls which is probably how I tore my ACL. And yes, I already HATE the leg brace and I don’t even have to wear it yet.

  8. ContainsSoy says:

    Not to be an ass but I got To 60 degrees day after surgery. I also got down to 5 degrees on straightening it :). But anyways I totally agree on those straight leg lifts which my pt person didn’t tell me to do sucks. Like just getting on the couch to lay down makes me want punch someone in the face. Feels like each of the stitches is ripping open slowly

  9. demon28 says:

    Man i just had my acl recon surgery wit meniscus repair hamstring graft. I must say i agree wit it all. It was my first surgery. Had it done tues mornin. But this pain is a sob. The iceman machine helps but dam. Then went to pt wed mornin. Whats is good to help wit pain and bout how long till this brace comes off approx? Thanks

  10. kimberly tamayo says:

    My knee popped out of socket and ppopped right back in. # days later I could even press the gas petel on the way hm from work, so I want to the er. I have 3 kids work min, wage and have no insurance. The er gave my an imobilzer told me to wear it 2-3 weeks and my question is after 2 and a half weeks I cant bend my leg when I take it off to shower what can I do to make my leg ok again so i can walk drive and be myself again.

    • Ginger says:

      Your flexibility will NOT come back on it’s own. The longer you wait to do something, the more scar tissue you will have, which means less range if motion. I understand the no insurance thing, but you MUST start doing some exercises on your own then. I’m not trying to scare you, but it’s urgent you start now. Youtube some acl exercises. Do them everyday for atleast 45 minutes. Start tonight by sitting on the edge of a chair and slide your foot towards you as far as you can, keeping your foot flat to the ground, then hold it for 5 seconds, then slide it away from you, lift it up,keeping the leg straight and flex your thigh. If you don’t see results in 2 or 3 wks, you have a serious tear.

      I just had surgery tues. My acl snapped completely and slid between my joints. I had to get surgery, plus I’m an athlete and NEED to bend my knee. If you dont work out and get rom back, you should be ok. Hope this helps you. Good luck.

  11. Kaayla says:

    You are doing great! I am 4 weeks post op and can’t lift my leg up at all. I have the same knee brace we are twins. Thank you sooo much for your post, I relate and it made me laugh. My surgeon wants me in mobilizer brace 6 more weeks…..(sigh)

  12. April says:

    I tore everything in my right knee except my LCL….just had surgery a week ago and sleep is impossible. This brace is a nightmare! I appreciate reading all the past comments as it helps to know I’m not alone. I will never Redman fight again but am grateful for the organ donors who gave me three new ligaments. BE A DONOR!

    • gomer pile says:

      I highly recamend the cadaver graft i was 6 days out of surgery and walking with out crutches i do say the brace is awlfull but needfull after a week and a half i didnt need the brace to walk around the house but put it on to go anywere to be safe 5 days after surgery i could drive my knee has been extremly well but did break out with some kind of allergic reaction to something with an almost unbearably itch

  13. Bob says:

    Its a shame you dont have a donate button! Id without a doubt donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now ill settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this blog with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

  14. Angela says:

    This really lifted my spirits as I am currently lying awake, cursing my knee immobilizer, 1 week post op from a tibial tubercle osteotomy w/ lateral release & medial reefing. Thanks the laughs!

  15. Andrew says:

    I appreciate your comedic relief and can completely concur the brace is a love hate thing, and totally fell with my crutches on a wet floor, painful! I’m 8 days post op for acl recon and lying awake with my brace wishing I could just rip it off and finally sleep through the night but nonetheless thank you for something to relate to!

  16. Dave says:

    I love the part about reciting a memorized speech. I’m doing that just with the ACL!

  17. Ali says:

    Your post made me laugh and feel better about my predicament. I tore my LCL and ACL (ACL 2 times now) and im about ready to rip my brace off and throw it off a bridge. It’s just nice to read someone else’s experience at thinking ill lift my leg no problem and then not even be able to lift it an inch.
    Thanks!

  18. terri says:

    my son wanted me to post he bent his leg 50 degrees and and back to 0…… 5 hours after surgery as mom I have a love hate relationship with that darn brace I love to hate it!!! can’t wait for him to be out of it

  19. terri sue says:

    I so totally agree with all the posts. I had a knee replacement that had some complications. Severe bleeding due to an unknown allergy to heparin. All the blood went into my repaired leg/knee. About 6 months after the replacement, the patella dislocated and decided to visit the other side of my leg. Stupid thing. As old as it is, you would think it would know where to stay. Upshot another surgery to move the patella back, replace the capsule and repair the ligaments. I am in a straight leg brace for another 13 days and 5 hours before I go into a 30 degree hinged brace for 6 weeks. (but whose counting.) I am having issues with adapting normal activities of daily living-sleeping, bathroom, dressing, etc. Does anyone know of a website that provides helpful hints on how to do these activities?

  20. Kirstie says:

    I loved reading this and all the comments!! I am two weeks post op from a tibial plateau arthroscopy and ORIF in my left knee after a soccer injury originally diagnosed as a torn LCL. I am hating my brace and am currently laying here at almost 1am unable to sleep because I cannot get comfortable!! I have another 6 weeks non weight bearing so I can’t even build strength back up! Good to have a laugh here though :)

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