If one of your joints has been degraded due to illness or injury, you may be considering total joint replacement surgery. A new joint can give you years of pain-free mobility. But, there’s a catch. You need to be very careful with your post-surgical care, and post-surgical rehabilitation is a key component of that care.
What Can Joint Replacement Rehabilitation Do?
Total joint replacement, including the knee, hip and shoulder, is meant to give you more independence than you had prior to the surgery. The amount of strength, healing and range of motion you gain after the surgery is greatly dependent on your rehabilitation program — which ideally should begin almost immediately after surgery.
An excellent joint replacement surgery rehabilitation program is designed to:
- Strengthen the bone around the replaced joint
- Keep muscles strong and healthy
- Manage the pain of recovery
- Improve mobility, range of motion and dexterity
Joint Replacement Rehabilitation: The Sooner, the better.
You may be wondering how you can start rehabilitation when you have just had surgery. Shouldn’t you stay in bed and rest for a few days? The fact is, the sooner you begin rehabilitation, the more successful your surgical outcome will be. Almost immediately after you wake up from your surgery, you will be encouraged to get out of bed.
If you have had a hip or knee replaced, your physical therapist (PT) will most likely demonstrate how to get in and out of your bed, help you stand and walk a few steps with an assistive device, such as a walker, crutches or a cane. You may also be asked to sit at the side of the bed, walk a few steps, and transfer yourself to a commode.
Your PT will also provide exercises that will help strengthen your muscles and s/he will guide you through them every day.
For shoulder joint replacement rehabilitation, the immediate rehabilitation goal is to prevent stiffness in the new joint. For example, arthritic shoulders are very stiff and the replacement surgery is intended to relieve that stiffness. However, if you don’t move the replacement shoulder joint, new scar tissue will form in such a way as to limit your range of motion. In other words, achieving an ideal range of motion within the first few days of the shoulder replacement procedure is critical to the success of this procedure.
Your physical therapist will guide you through light movements to maintain flexion and range of motion, and then to slowly build strength. But, in the beginning, you won’t be lifting anything heavier than a cup of coffee.
Customized Rehabilitation Plans
Your rehabilitation will be managed by a team of expert doctors, nurses, therapists and other healthcare professionals with advanced expertise and technology. Every rehabilitation plan is customized to your specific needs, but generally the goal is to increase strength and mobility as well as improve your daily living skills, such as bathing, dressing, eating, toileting and more. During your hospital stay (typically 1-4 days), you will do a little more each day, with the guidance of your rehabilitation team.
Upon hospital discharge, you may be advised to go to a rehabilitation center to continue recuperating, getting stronger, increasing your range of motion, and improving your mobility and activities of daily living.
After having joint replacement surgery, your lifestyle can be quite similar to the way it was before surgery (or even much better). And, you can be living without the pain. Returning to your everyday activities will take time, but if you are an active participant, rehabilitation can help you get there sooner and ensure a more successful outcome. Contact Evergreen Health and Rehab today to find out how we can help you rehab after your total joint replacement surgery.