Making A Full Recovery From A Total Joint Replacement
An estimated 1.25 million Americans undergo total joint replacement (TJR) surgery each year. Replacing worn-out or diseased joints can lower pain levels and drastically improve a person’s overall quality of life. As joints age, regular activities such as walking the dog or climbing the stairs can become painful. With a new joint, patients can enjoy lower pain levels, more mobility, and overall improved quality of life.
How long do I have to wait before walking after surgery?
While many people may be tempted to jump back into normal activity shortly after TJR surgery, waiting several weeks before walking long distances ensures the joint properly heals. However, daily low-impact exercises in the weeks after surgery can help strength and range of motion return quickly. With proper preparation and a consistent rehabilitation plan, most patients can expect to return to daily life in a few short months.
You are what you eat
Before surgery, prioritize shifting to a balanced diet along with healthy daily habits. Nutrients such as calcium, iron, and fiber minimize constipation from certain pain medications while keeping bones strong and healthy. Avoid foods that are high in ingredients like trans fats, sodium, or sugar. These foods can raise inflammation and detract from proper healing. To avoid breathing issues, smokers should plan to drastically limit use at least a few weeks before surgery or work to quit smoking altogether. When under anesthesia, people who smoke experience a higher risk of low oxygen than people who don’t smoke.
While the weeks immediately after total joint replacement should be spent resting and stretching the new joint, a comprehensive exercise plan can follow shortly after. Strengthening and balancing movements, such as knee push-downs, leg extensions and heel slides, strengthen the joint and limit the risk of re-injury. Low-impact movements to build muscle help develop the joint’s range of motion. Often physicians will prescribe physical therapy for after TJR to help ease back into activities of daily living.
Don’t forget cardio
To compound the progress toward recovery created by strengthening and balancing exercises, make time for 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day. Always seek clearance from the surgeon before starting daily aerobic exercise after surgery. While running is not recommended, machines such as the elliptical or stationary bike can help patients get the blood pumping while minimizing stress to the new joint.
Less pain, more life
A new knee can be a challenge, but the benefits of increased mobility significantly raise quality of life. Carefully preparing for TJR surgery with a balanced diet and healthy habits limits the risk of potential complications during or after the procedure, while a rehabilitation plan strengthens the new joint. With proper care and movement, patients can look forward to pain-free walks within several weeks after the operation.