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What to Expect: Joint Replacement Pre- and Post-Surgery

A senior woman places her foot up on a park bench to stretch out before exercising

Each person’s journey with joint replacement surgery is different, but one thing many of us have in common is the desire to have a smooth recovery. Whether you’re going in for hip, knee or shoulder replacement surgery, you want to get back on your feet and back to an active lifestyle as quickly as possible. To achieve your best recovery, you’ll need to follow through on your doctor’s instructions and do daily exercises as part of a joint replacement rehabilitation program.

It’s important to be prepared to take the necessary steps before and after surgery to ensure a good outcome. Read on for pre-hab advice on how to prepare for surgery, what you can expect after surgery and how long recovery will take for the most common procedures including hip, knee and shoulder replacement. 

Prepare for Joint Replacement Surgery

Making healthy choices prior to having joint replacement surgery can affect both the outcome of the surgery and your recovery time, which may result in a faster and more comfortable recovery. Here are some tips to keep in mind before having joint surgery:

  • Get fit. Your doctor may recommend “pre-hab,” a rehabilitation exercise program prior to surgery to help maintain the strength of your leg muscles. Strengthening your upper body will make it easier to use crutches or a walker during your recovery. 
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. A healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, which can minimize the stress on your new joint.  
  • Manage chronic conditions. Work with your doctor to improve or manage high blood pressure, diabetes, heart or lung disease, or any other chronic medical conditions you have.
  • Ask your doctor about medications and supplements. You may need to stop taking some drugs or substitute alternatives for a time before and after your surgery.
  • Get your home ready. Making a few modifications around your home can help keep you safe during your recovery. For example, you’ll want a stable bench or chair in the shower, safety bars in the bathroom and a comfortable chair for sitting and elevating your legs. Remove all loose rugs and cords, and make sure you’ll have enough room to move around with crutches or a walker. 
  • Plan for a short-term rehabilitation stay. You may need more help at home than you realize after joint replacement surgery. This is an important time to focus on rehabilitation therapy to ensure a successful recovery. When you choose Parkwood for senior rehabilitation, we’ll take care of the day-to-day chores so you can focus on making the most of your recovery time. 

What to Expect After Surgery

It’s common to experience pain and stiffness after joint replacement surgery, and you’ll undergo rehabilitation therapy to increase mobility and range of motion in the days and weeks following surgery. Your rehabilitation program might include both physical therapy and occupational therapy, depending on the type and extent of your surgery. 

During your rehabilitation sessions, your therapist may teach you the movements you need to feel comfortable getting in and out of bed. He or she will also train you in the safe and correct use of a walker or crutches or show you how to complete an exercise program on your own. You’ll practice walking and using the stairs, as well as specific strength and mobility exercises.

Here are some more ways to promote the healing process after joint replacement surgery: 

  • Move your joint. Even though it’s not easy at first, try to keep moving and change your position frequently throughout the day to avoid stiffness in the new joint.
  • Manage pain. Following your doctor’s orders for taking your pain medication can make the healing more comfortable. You may also find relief by using an ice pack on your hip for 20 minutes, several times a day. 
  • Use assistive and adaptive equipment. You’ll need to use a rolling walker, crutches or a cane to help you walk. In the bathroom, you may want to use an elevated toilet seat and toilet safety rails. Be prepared with items that will maximize your independence, such as a grabbing tool, long-handled sponge for bathing, shower bench or chair, long-handled shoe horn and elastic shoe laces. 
  • Follow your exercise program. In the first few weeks after surgery, you should walk with your crutches or a walker and perform exercises as instructed by your health care team. Physical therapy can help you gradually increase mobility over time. Your physical therapist will teach you a set of exercises you can do every day at home to restore strength to your joints. 

How Long Will Recovery Take?

The length of time it takes to recover from joint replacement varies by person and may be shorter or longer depending on your age and other health factors. Here are some general timeframes for recovery from joint replacement surgery:

Parkwood Provides Specialized Rehabilitation for Joint Replacement

If you’re planning for a hip, knee or shoulder replacement surgery, you can rest assured that our team of professionals will be there to help you down the road of recovery. Parkwood offers one-on-one care that helps ensure a successful recovery. Contact us to learn more or schedule a tour of our senior rehabilitation center.

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