Knee Surgery and Recovery

What was the surgery like?
How long until you could run again?
Was it worth it?
How much does getting "scoped" cost?

Those are all the questions I’ve gotten since having Meniscus surgery in December of 2018.  Since there is so much interest in this type of surgery, I decided to share my experience so you can judge for yourself if it’s worth getting “scoped.”

In the middle of training for the RunDisney Dopey race this year, I developed a lingering pain on the inside of my knee.  It was the first time in my life that I’ve had any sort of pain in my knee, although I’ve injured pretty much every body part around it!  The pain was strong, but not overwhelming.  As a matter of fact, I kept “running through the pain” because I felt fine after warming up for a few miles.  But after a 19-mile training run, I could barely walk the following day.  That’s when I decided to give it a rest. 

I first thought I may have damaged my MCL.  It fit all the pain protocols that I had read on the internet.  When the pain didn’t subside after a couple of weeks, I decided to have my Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Rick Lehman take a look.  Immediately, he put his thumb right on the problem.  And I mean that literally.  As soon as he pressed in the space between my leg… , I practically jumped off the table.  He told me what he thought it was, but sent for an MRI to confirm it. 

The MRI confirmed what we suspected.  The inside of my meniscus was frayed and bulging a bit.  But he also noticed some slight damage to my femur and knee bone.  So I did physical therapy for a couple of weeks to see if we could strengthen all the surrounding muscles and tendons to run through it, all to no avail.  It didn’t get better, so we scheduled the surgery.  It was planned for 2 weeks before the Disney Marathon.  Some blogs said I might be able to run by then!  One of my co-workers, who used to play football for the Illini said he was back on the field doing drills two days after surgery.  So I went in very optimistic.

The surgery really wasn’t a big deal from a pain standpoint.  It only took about an hour and I had very little pain after the drugs wore off.  I had a slight limp for a couple of days, but nothing too bad.  Dr. Lehman did shave off a bit of the meniscus and do a little reconstruction to the damaged bones, but it went very well.  Sadly, the running didn’t come back as quickly!

I decided NOT to run at all before heading to Disney for the Dopey Challenge.  I wanted to let it rest as much as possible, thinking that I still had my cardiovascular fitness to get me through.  Boy, was I wrong.  I did the 5k on Thursday and barely made it through.  My knee felt okay, but everything surrounding the knee had deteriorated.  My quads hurt.  My calves hurt.  All the tendons in my knee ached!  The incision hurt.  But at least I didn’t feel the meniscus! 

Bottom Line:  I wasn’t ready.  I had to bail on all the rest of the races, which was probably smart.  Plus, it gave me more time to drink margaritas at the Parks!  In the end, it took me about 6 weeks to get back to normal.  At 7 weeks post-surgery, I had my first 6 mile run with no pain.  (The pain primarily came from swelling around the surgery site and inside the knee.)  The physical therapy helped a lot because it kept everything somewhat functional while letting the entire area heal. 

So, would I do it again?  Absolutely.  Running is a big part of my life.  When the doctor told me that if I didn’t get it scoped, I would probably never run much again.  That was not an option.  The total cost was somewhere around $10,000, but we have good insurance, so it cost me about $600.  I am now back to running and feeling great.  I read about a lot of bad outcomes from others, but that simply wasn’t the case for me.  Hopefully this answered some of the questions that I had going into the surgery.  But if you have other questions, feel free to reach out.