Help for My Mom - Pain Relief

Updated on June 02, 2010
S.B. asks from Chicago, IL
5 answers

My mom had a total knee replacement about a month ago, and she's doing great... with her knee. But since then she has been experiencing what she describes as numbness, along with intermittent burning pain, down the sides of her thighs and/or a prickly feeling (like when your foot goes to sleep). She also feels a lot of discomfort from sitting and having the chair put pressure to the backs of her legs. Plus, we went out yesterday and she complained that her pants caused her symptoms to feel worse (she's just been wearing a nightgown around the house). She says that her upper legs feel swollen still and like they have rocks in them.

A little background: She is type 2 diabetic with minimal neuropathy in the feet only, prior to surgery. She has arthritis in her lower back.

My question is this... Does anyone have similar experiences, especially after surgery, and how did you manage the pain? Do you think her neuropathy could have been aggravated by the surgery? Do you have any suggestions for other causes and/or solutions?

She has been telling the nurses and PT, and has called her surgeon a couple of times, but so far no one seems to be able to offer any usable information or advice. I'd like her to be as prepared as possible with questions when she goes to see her surgeon this week for a follow up.

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answers from Portland on

I have 2 close friends who have had knee replacements. One is a diabetic, has arthritis and has bi-polar disorder. I can share their experience.

Having some form of physical exercise using the knee everyday is important. I'm sure the physical therapist has given her exercises to do. Even just walking on level ground helps the healing to be faster and to relieve pain.

Also, her legs should not have any pressure on them when she's sitting in a chair. She should try putting a phone book or very low foot stool under her feet so that the backs of her legs are not pushing against the seat. I think, that at 1 month, she should still be sitting with her leg elevated for the most part. Put a pillow under the knee(s). Elevating both legs would be the most comfortable. Does she have a recliner or an upholstered chair with an ottoman?

Both of my friends wore a skirt or loose knee length shorts for 2-3 months after surgery. One is in her 60's and one in her 70's and they found appropriate looking garments. Now is a good time to find walking shorts or bermudas. Her incision and the area around it will be sensitive for some time to come. Bending the knee will cause long pants to pull on the knee.

The one who is a diabetic also had some neuropathy in her feet. She complained of pain in the leg with the new knee but not in her other leg. She didn't have any increase in the neuropathy. Both women said that they had intermittent prickly feeling in the leg after surgery. I've had several abdominal surgeries and I can tell you that the intermittent burning pain and the prickly sensations are an indication that the nerves are healing. It's a good thing.

However, surgery in one leg would not result in pain and prickly sensations in the other leg. Unless......she is tensing that leg in response to the pain in the other one. Also, if she did not use those muscles much before the surgery and is using them now because of favoring the leg with surgery and in doing physical therapy it would be expected that that leg would have pain and discomfort. Increasing the use of both thighs could result in them feeling tight and sore.

They feel swollen. Do they look swollen? Again, keeping the legs elevated might help that.

1 month is not a very long time after surgery. If she's not had other surgeries this is all a new experience. It does take time for the tissue and the nerves to heal. My abdominal scar still feels prickly from time to time and hurts a bit when I press on it and it's been over 10 years since my last surgery. If the doctor is not concerned I'd suggest that you find ways to help her relax.

Also, remind her that general anesthesia takes a lot out of you energy wise. She is still recovering from the anesthesia. She'll feel better in general in another month or two. I can vouch for the fact that it takes around a year to get totally over the anesthesia. The effects are subtle but there none the less. I was easily tired and discouraged for the first 2-3 months. My energy level gradually increased.

My friend with diabetes did not have difficulty with her diabetes after surgery. She did have serious trouble with depression. And she continues to have pain several years later because she refuses to walk or do other physical therapy exercises. She also has arthritis in her back which could be helped with exercise but she says it hurts too much to do it. She has taken prescription pain medication off and on as well as ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory as well as a pain reliever which makes it a better choice then acetaminophen.

The other friend is happy and active. She alternates walking and swimming 5 days/week. Her sister-in-law is also doing well after knee replacement. She lives on a farm and has 2-3 teen children which has caused her to keep active. Both of them said that it took a year at least before they really felt better.

I recommend learning some ways to relax. I like to use guided imagery. I also use an electric blanket. The overall warmth eases my off and on joint pains. And if she can feel assured that she is progressing normally she'll have less symptoms. When we're unsure we pay too much attention to what is happening instead of relaxing, knowing that this is OK.

If you haven't gone to the doctor with her, I recommend that you do. You may hear his message differently than she does and you can reassure her.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

Magnesium can help with nerve or muscle pain, prickling and tingling and it is worth a try. It has been said if you put magnesium chloride directly on the painful spot it will help. I would also take magnesium malate pills.

Alpha lipoic acid has been used for decades in Europe for neuropathy- it normalizes nitric oxide- decreased nitric oxide causes nerve pain.
L Argenine restores blood flow to nerves. B12 deficiency will cause nerve issues/prickling and zaps/tingling. Methylcoalbamin stimulates nerve regeneration (500 mcg 3 times a day)it improved lower limb sensations. Combine it with other b vitamins. (take a multi b vit, preferably in liquid under the tounge). Take benfotiamine 400 mg day. Include 900 mg vit E.
My sister has RSD, which is nerve damage, and she gets some pain relief with aloa vera capsules. MSM is suppose to work also, but i think it takes high amounts for it to work which can rack up the money.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

I'm sorry I don't have any advice for your mom's symptoms, but just wanted to write and possibly give you and her hope. My mom has cardiomyopathy resulting from a virus attacking her heart. A few years ago she had a double knee replacement while awake. They couldn't put her to sleep because of the condition of her heart and did both knees at once so they didn't have to do it "twice." (She definitely was "thrilled" about that!) She stayed a short while in a rehab and, after a rough beginning, today is doing very well with her knees. There is light for your mom at the end of the tunnel.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Ditto the magnesium.

This is a good brand: "Natural Calm"
Here is the link:

I use it too, but for stress.
If you research 'magnesium' you will see that it is very helpful for many ailments.

BUT be careful what your Mom takes, because she is diabetic....

But the thing is, she is Diabetic...and with neuropathy....arthritis too.
Doesn't she have a Diabetic Doctor? She should see him/her. First thing.
In diabetics... surgery is often harder... per their circulation and nerve complications and kidney functioning. And the healing and recovery can be harder too.
My Dad, was diabetic with those problems plus renal failure. It was very difficult and tenuous... to recover from any surgeries he had.

You might also document these things.. because hopefully, the surgery was completed on par... and no nicks on adjacent nerves etc. by mistake. Her symptoms to me, sounds very much like nerve/circulation issues.
Also, she should NOT be having swelling.... and she should REALLY REALLY check that out, with a Diabetic Doctor specialist.

Her surgery was 1 month ago. I would not expect, these things to be occurring from it. I do NOT feel it is typical.... but she has extenuating circumstances per her Diabetes.

Next, hasn't she been prescribed to have physical therapy for after her knee surgery? That is also usually done.

I would seek a 2nd opinion as well.. and document everything.
Do not waste time... Diabetes is serious... as well as its circulation/nerve issues. You need to get a diagnosis.
If that were my Dad... I would drive him to his Specialist right away.

Her doctors saying they have no clue... is to me... ignorant. They are passing the buck. They SHOULD have referred her to a specialist/Diabetes doctor etc.

all the best,



answers from Sioux Falls on

We deal with this all the time in our chiropractic office. A good chiropractor can help her with these symptoms. She does not have to live with this pain and discomfort if she doesn't want to.

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