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September 07, 2023

Walking through the knee pain: When is it time to seek help

IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

Walking through the knee pain: When is it time to seek help

Pam Robbins has always been active. You could find her outside going on five-mile walks and exploring the local parks. Unfortunately, her active lifestyle took a turn when her knee began to buckle and stop working. “It was just so painful to do anything,” she says.

At first, she tried to just walk through the pain and pretend it wasn’t there. But then, she noticed her knee was hurting more and more. It was starting to become a challenge to even stand and sit without her knee giving out. That’s when she finally decided to visit Brian Ison, a physical therapist assistant, at IU Health Jay.

Her doctors established she had arthritis and a torn meniscus. Ison gave her some exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee. They focused on step exercises and stretching out the leg muscles.

“Ison and the team were very helpful,” Robbins says. “Some of it was painful to do, but I knew it was necessary.” They gave her clear instructions on each exercise and demonstrated the proper way to do it, along with the benefits that should come with each exercise. “They understood when it was painful, and they were right there supporting me through it,” says Robbins. “But ultimately, it was up to me to do everything they asked.”

Even though Robbins was taking on all the exercises and doing them the best she could, physical therapy didn’t seem to be working. “I really wished the physical therapy would have worked,” she says. “I thought it was beneficial, but my pain persisted.” After nine months of trying physical therapy, Ison referred her to surgery.

“Surgery wasn’t something I wanted to jump into,” says Robbins. She knew it was time, the pain wasn’t going away, and surgery offered the last solution. “I wanted to get back to being the healthiest version of myself,” she says.

Robbins scheduled an appointment with Rory Sandberg, MD at the IU Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine center for her partial knee replacement surgery. The two worked well together, and Robbins knew she could trust him. “Anytime I saw him, I always felt like he could spend all day with me, he never seemed rushed or stressed,” she says. Sandberg’s calm personality gave Robbins the confidence to do such a major surgery.

When explaining the surgery, Sandberg used diagrams and demonstrated what he would do with a fake knee he could take apart. “I loved that I knew exactly what he was going to do. It helped reduce some of my stress about the surgery,” says Robbins.

The day of surgery, everything went according to plan. Sandberg successfully removed the damaged tissue and replaced it with a prosthetic. By the next day, Robbins was up and moving again! “The surgery was fantastic and worked wonders,” says Robbins. “The team was wonderful. Everyone was so professional and knowledgeable, and I felt comfortable throughout the entire process.”

It’s now been about six months since the surgery, and Robbins is back to her active lifestyle. She and her husband visit the new park trails at Dunkirk City Park daily and walk around West Jay Community Center during bad weather. “I’m so happy I can get back outside and continue to explore the world,” she says.

Reflecting on her experience she says, “don’t wait to get surgery. If you’re in pain, go and get it fixed.” Robbins realized that she experienced knee pain gradually over time. She pushed off seeking help, thinking it would get better on its own. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. Robbins wants others to learn from her mistake and to ask for help when they start to notice even a little bit of pain.

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Orthopedics treats problems with bones, joints, muscles and the spine to help you return to your previous level of activity quickly and safely. Now offering virtual visits.

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