An artificial joint is a tiny piece of equipment, but joint surgery is a big deal. Healing after joint surgery can often be a long and sometimes uncomfortable process, but in the end, it’s an incredibly positive game changer for most patients. There are a number of things patients and caregivers can do to help speed healing after joint surgery. These include a nutrient-rich diet, exercise and follow-up care, including physical therapy. The main thing is for patients and family members to follow instructions from doctors and other providers and to be fully engaged and proactive in their follow-up care.
How Can I Speed Healing After Joint Surgery?
There are a number of positive steps to speed healing after joint surgery, with a good physical therapy program front and center. Here are a few “dos”:
- Focus on a Healthy Diet: A healthy diet is more important to recovering from joint surgery than many people realize. Your body needs vitamins and minerals that will help with the healing process. These include foods high in calcium and Vitamin D to help with bone strength, along with foods (like many fruits and vegetables) that are rich in Vitamin C to help surgical wounds heal fast. Your doctor may also recommend supplements including Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and zinc. A healthy diet will also make you feel better overall, giving you more energy to get the activity you need.
- Physical Therapy/Rehab: Physical therapy is of the most important steps in facilitating healing after joint surgery. Physical therapy can help improve circulation and avoid dangerous blood clots, speed healing, make movement easier and help patients manage pain without drugs. Your therapist will start with simple range of motion exercises, walking and simple movements like getting up and down from a chair and then move on to higher impact activities designed to safely exercise the muscles supporting your new joint. Manual manipulation by a physical therapist targeting the new joint can also play a big role in pain management.For some patients, in-home or outpatient physical therapy is enough to help them heal and regain strength. However, in cases of hip and knee replacement, two of the most complex joint replacements, short-term rehab is often recommended by doctors to help patients recover safely and to speed healing. This is especially true for seniors who may be unsteady or have underlying medical conditions and need additional support as they adjust to life with their new joint.
- Exercise: Beyond your prescribed physical therapy, an ongoing exercise program can speed healing and improve outcomes. This can include walking, swimming or water aerobics, or using an exercise bike or elliptical trainer. Exercise helps improve blood flow and circulation while building muscle strength and lifting mood. Check with your doctor or therapist about the best and safest exercise program for you.
What Should I Avoid During Recovery from Joint Surgery?
Here are a few “don’ts” for your post-surgery period:
- Don’t overdo it. Rest is also an important component of recovery. Don’t push yourself too hard in terms of exercise and getting back to any high impact activities. Start out slow and gradually build up with activities approved by your doctor or therapist. Getting a good night’s sleep is also key as sleep is when your body does so much of its healing.
- Don’t overmedicate: As many of us know, managing pain can be challenging and complicated. Most likely, your doctor will thoughtfully prescribe medication to help you through the first days of recovery. However, we want patients to avoid becoming dependent on medications and on opioid medications in particular. A good physical therapy program can help manage pain without medication, and many patients also benefit from ice and/or water therapy.
Healing After Joint Surgery at Evergreen Health & Rehab
Our decades of experience have taught us that keeping patients active and engaged with follow-up care leads to the best outcomes after surgery in general and joint surgery in particular. When patients head home right after the hospital, this requires plenty of support from family members and caregivers to keep their loved ones on track. In many cases, patients can benefit from short-term inpatient rehab with supervised physical therapy to help them get started with follow-up care safely. At Evergreen Health & Rehab, we are joint repair recovery experts with the best support and programming to help you or your loved one heal and avoid reinjury.