Limb lengthening is a proven option for individuals that had very few choices in the past for limb length discrepancies. It is an innovative technique for changes in the length of a limb bone caused by a badly healed fracture, disease, or a congenital defect. It is also used successfully as a cosmetic strategy for individuals that desire to be taller. One of the most frequently asked questions about the process is, "Does limb lengthening hurt?"
It is an established medical fact that pain is relative to the individual. Each of us has a different pain threshold, meaning that the point at which we begin to feel pain from pressure or heat varies from person to person. Some of us have a low threshold for pain, while others can tolerate a lot. A number of steps are involved in the process of limb lengthening, and how a patient responds to each is specific to his or her pain threshold and attitude toward pain management.
The Initial Consultation
During the consultation, the procedure is discussed in detail with the patient in relation to their problem. Your complete medical history is taken, as well as x-rays of your legs. You are given a thorough physical exam. You are provided with a comprehensive plan for treatment options so that you can participate in making an educated decision about your care.
Does the consultation hurt? This depends on the condition for which you are receiving the consultation. In the case where the purpose of the surgery is cosmetic, it is unlikely that you will experience pain at this stage. In circumstances where you have a preexisting medical condition or defect, it is possible that you will feel some discomfort during the physical examination. For example, a poorly healed fracture could be tender to the touch. A congenital birth defect, such as fibular hemimelia, where part of the fibular bone is missing typically is not painful in the first place, so there is no medical reason for it to hurt when examined or x-rayed.
Overall good health contributes to our ability to bounce back after any surgery. You will be advised to eat fresh foods, lean meats and poultry, and foods rich in calcium. You will be given exercises to strengthen the muscles in your upper legs, lower legs, and buttocks. Core strength and upper body strength exercises are beneficial for after the surgery to relieve strain on your legs. Depending on your current physical condition, you might feel some soreness doing the exercises, especially if you are not in the habit of working those muscles.
Prior to the procedure, your surgical team will bring up the importance of mental preparation. Based on your personal pain threshold, the amount of pain you experience after the surgery will vary. You can influence this significantly through self-regulated pain management techniques. Pain, whether it is acute or chronic can wreak havoc with our psychological health. Side effects are stress, anxiety, and depression. Pain is more difficult to endure under these influences. Here are examples of evidence-based techniques that can help put your mind at ease:
Keep Up Your Motivation
Think about the reasons you decided to go through with the limb lengthening surgery. Visualize what you will be able to do once you have fully recovered. Will you have the ability to walk and run normally? What about dancing, sports, and outdoor activities? Will you, at last, feel great about yourself because you have attained the physical height you have longed to have? Maintain focus on your end goals, especially when you feel overwhelmed.
Avoid Thinking the Worst
It is especially important that you discuss your concerns about the procedure with your surgical team. It is human nature to feel nervous about any type of surgery, so dealing it with a practical attitude is advantageous. The alternative is dwelling on worst-case scenarios. In this mental state your ability to cope plummets, along with your resilience. Focus on a successful, healthy outcome puts your mind and body in a good place.
Practice Anti-Anxiety Techniques
Activities that help you maintain mental calm are beneficial for pain management. Try reading, meditation, mindfulness exercises, light exercise, and journaling.
Surgery for Limb Lengthening
Limb lengthening surgery was originally developed to help straighten the legs of children that suffered from growth abnormalities and other birth deformities. It is now offered as an option for adults that have lived with an unbearable emotional anguish due to being below the average height. In all cases, once the procedure is complete, people of all ages experience a sense of the miraculous. They obtain a quality of life that many never thought possible. People that have gone through the surgery describe it as a "godsend" and report higher self-esteem and self-confidence,
During the surgery incisions in the knee or hip area are made. The width of the tibia or femur bone to be lengthened is surgically incised. This is intensive surgery, and great care is taken to ensure that the procedure is painless, using the type of anesthetic your orthopedic specialist recommends.
Immediately after the surgery, you can expect to experience the highest level of pain that will happen throughout the entire process. This is where it is of the utmost importance to practice your pain management techniques – staying positive and focusing on your end goals.
Your physician will prescribe medication for controlling the pain. You must take your pain medication as prescribed. Why? Have you ever experienced a bad headache and realized some time had passed before your over-the-counter pain tablets "kicked in"? The same holds true for prescribed pain medication. The frequency and strength of the meds prescribed are meant to maintain an even level of comfort over time. Altering the number of pills and length of intervals between taking them will interrupt your relief from the pain, and it will take time to re-establish a comfort level.
Another reason to follow your physician's directives for pain management it to speed up the healing process and your recovery. As your limb lengthening progresses through the weeks following the surgery, you may experience some discomfort when the limb is stretched but overall, the pain will subside significantly.
If you are one of the many that have asked, "Does limb lengthening hurt?", you are in good company. As with any surgery, you will experience pain. How it affects you can be eased by your physical and mental preparation ahead of the surgery, and by following your physician's instructions for pain medications. With proper pain management, you can be back in the swing of things quickly! Ready to add several inches to your height?