Saturday, June 11, 2016

From MPFL Reconstruction to Power Lifting

I have had right knee problems since I was 18 years old. Starting with one traumatic dislocation in 2002.  Three years and multiple dislocations later I had my first knee surgery. Three years after that I had my 2nd knee surgery. Which also did not fix my chronic dislocation problem. Five years, and a different orthopedist I had my first MPFL (Medial patella-femoral ligament ) reconstruction. 

The recovery from that first MPFL reconstruction was awful, the first day after surgery I was taken to the ER in severe pain and had to have my knee drained. I ended up having it drained every few days for the first two weeks. My surgeon at the time telling me that it was just a minor complication and nothing to worry about. Fast forward 3 months, my quads weren't firing, I had severe pain in my femur and in my lower leg that was similar to constant shin splints; but on the wrong side to be shin splints. My Dr. diagnosed me with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and wanted me to start Lyrica. At the time my daughter was 9 months old and breastfeeding so I used that as one of my many reasons not to take Lyrica, along with my bad reactions to medication similar to Lyrica in the past. My Dr wanted me to wean my daughter and take the medication anyway. When I refused, instead of trying to find the cause of my pain problem, he told me he couldn't treat me anymore. I decided that I was just going to be in pain for the rest of my life and turned to alternative treatments. My first session with acupuncture made my quads fire for the first time in several months. 



15 or so months after my first MPFL reconstruction I was cooking dinner and stepped to the side the wrong way and my knee dislocated. I went to the local urgent care the next day and they wouldn't even examine my knee and told me to go see my orthopedist. The day after going to urgent care my knee was swollen and purple. Which scared me since I hadn't fallen when it dislocated. I have a friend that is an ortho nurse, I sent her pictures and she talked to the Dr that she works for and they got me in that week. The three days I had to wait for my appointment I tried to get my appointment notes and surgical notes from my previous orthopedist and they wouldn't give me all of the paperwork that I was requesting. 
I found out at my appointment with the new Orthopedist that I didn't have the correct scars for an MPFL reconstruction, so he did x-rays. The x-rays showed that the screws were placed incorrectly in my femur, and I didn't have any screws in my patella. Which made my new Dr question how the graft was connected to my patella. I was also told that the bruising was from the torn graft and it rubbing against live tissue causing it to bleed. I was given the option to put off the surgery but opted to have it as soon as possible, which was about 3 weeks after I had my initial appointment. 
My 2nd MPFL reconstruction was totally different from my first. I had a nerve block (they are amazing) and was in no pain for the first 2 days. Even when the nerve block wore off the pain wasn't as severe as the first MPFL reconstruction. The day of surgery I noticed that my femur no longer hurt, and my lower leg no longer hurt, but I initially thought it was a benefit of the nerve block. 
My rehab was extremely different, I had a brace that could be locked at varying degrees and the 8 weeks of rehab was basically getting my knee to slowly reach full range of motion. Every time they unlocked it to the next degree bracket the pain was similar to right after my nerve block wore off after surgery. Even after getting to full range of motion my quads would not fire correctly, the physical therapist did different forms of e-stim, with ice and with heat, massage and quad exercises. It seemed like nothing was going to get my quads to work correctly. 
My Dr released me to go to the gym, to see if I could find something that I could do that would make my quads fire the way that they are supposed to. At this point I was able to ride a stationary bike (for the first time since 2002), so I started there. I don't know how much time I spent on the bike and doing leg extensions and leg curls trying to get those muscles to work. One day I decided that I was to try the leg press machine. I did my normal time on the bike and then went and got on the leg press machine, the one were you select the weight, not the one where you add plates. It wasn't easy. But I was able to do 10 reps of 50 lbs and I could feel my quads starting to react the way they were supposed to. I continued that routine for a few weeks. Until 1 week when I was at the gym someone was on the leg press machine so I had to use the one with the plates. I had never done anything with plates, it was a little intimidating. I started out with the weight I was using on the other leg press machine and found that weight to be extremely easy. So I added a little more. 



At 3 months post op I was pressing 275 lbs for 3 sets of 10. 



At 19 weeks post op I was pressing 315 lbs 3 sets of 10
















At 6 months post op my 1 rep Max was 525 lbs

A video posted by Amber Brooks (@ambersan01) on


However, I did have a set back. At 6 months post op I tore my labrum (unrelated to knee injuries) and needed to have surgery. So I was told to stay out of the gym while I recovered. I was released to the gym and 3 days later I broke the tendons in my left foot. Which again made me unable to go to the gym (dr's orders) for several months until it healed. I was finally released to the gym March 30, 2016. I started out with my same routine of bike riding and leg presses but decided I needed to do different things. I was still having problems with shoulder but my Dr told me the best way to fix the problems I was having was to build my muscles in my shoulder and back. I started with the easy machine exercises.


April 27, 2016 I started my power lifting journey. I was barely able to bench press the bar, I could deadlift 90 lbs and could only squat body weight.


As of Today June 12, 2016  my bench is at 70 lbs, my deadlift is 155 lbs and my squat is 115 lbs.




A video posted by Amber Brooks (@ambersan01) on



A video posted by Amber Brooks (@ambersan01) on

So that's how I went from having knee surgery to lifting heavy things. My goal is to continue to log my progress with my lifts and hopefully inspire others who have gone through similar situations in their lives.




I am registered for my first USAPL meet in July 2016!!! 



2 comments:

  1. Personally, I can relate to what you had to say. I was a female fitness competitor for many years until I blew out my MCL. Like you said, the rehab is excruciating and the set backs are numerous. That being said, getting back there, with my next competition happening a month from now, has been very rewarding.

    Penelope Bonnet @ U.S. HealthWorks Seattle (Denny)

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  2. The closer I get to my first meet, which is something I never dreamed I would be able to do, the more at peace I feel with myself. For the last 14 years I have felt like I was damaged beyond repair and didn't have the ability to change my situation. Changing my situation, with tons of support from my husband, has done so much for my self esteem.

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