A hip or knee replacement can be a scary process. There are certainly a lot of questions about what the next steps are. Hopefully this article will help answer some of your questions.
It’s always important to understand and appreciate the advice provided by your surgeon. They are the ones doing the surgery and they will always be looking out for your best interest. As Physiotherapists, we try and collaborate with your orthopaedic surgeon as much as we can. In doing so, we ensure that their guidelines are being followed providing you with optimal recovery through your rehabilitation.
Once the surgery is done, you will likely stay in the hospital for anywhere between 2-4 days given that there were no complications during your surgery. During your stay, it is extremely important to stay as active as you can and keep the replaced joint moving. Always start slow, and keep monitoring yourself.
If you find that your body is tolerating movements well, then slowly increase your activity. Make sure to talk with your Physiotherapist to go over proper and safe exercises you can perform. Based on my experience from working with individuals who have replaced joints, there are three very important goals that need to be accomplished in the hospital. Firstly, you need to move the replaced joint and focus on getting your range of motion back. Secondly, you need to manage your pain.
Don’t wait until your pain has reached an unbearable level before taking your pain medication prescribed by your Doctor, try and keep your pain level consistently as low as you can throughout. This will make it a lot easier to accomplish goal one which is moving the replaced joint. Finally, you need to be able to demonstrate the ability to get in and out of bed, use the washroom, and go up and down stairs (more applicable if you have stairs in your home) before being discharged. This will ensure your safety and functionality when you are discharged home.
Now the fun part begins, your rehabilitation. It’s always important to see your Physiotherapist as soon as you are discharged home in order to begin your road to recovery. This will ensure you aren’t doing anything that might be harmful to your replaced joint, but most importantly so that you will not pick up any unwanted movement patterns as you walk or with other functional activities.
Ideally, you will want to participate with Physiotherapy treatment 1-3/week. However, this doesn’t mean you should not be completing your exercises on your days off from Physiotherapy treatment.
Your initial visit with your physiotherapist will include several assessments including the following:
- The way you are currently walking and getting around your environment
- A questionnaire regarding confidence in your ability to complete functional tasks
- Swelling of the joint
- Range of motion of the joint
- Strength of the joint
- Sensation and motor control – it is very common to lose sensation around the replaced joint. The sensation will come back but it will take time.
Your subsequent visit with your therapist will include the following treatments:
- Manual therapy
- Exercises to increase joint range of motion, strength, and general mobility
- Education about pain management, swelling control, and how to safely complete functional activities.
Lastly, it is very important you always keep your scar and wounds clean. The last thing you would want after a joint replacement is an infection. Always monitor yourself and make sure you let your Doctor or Physiotherapist know if you are noticing increased swelling, pain, or decrease in mobility and function.
Overall, a joint replacement can be a scary process at first. However, by staying positive you can be sure your Doctors and Physiotherapists will guide you through the most effective path to your recovery.
By Armin Ghayyur, MPT