While the human body’s ability to be versatile and resilient is well-proven, it certainly has some limitations. Whether it’s through aging, disease, injury or some other means, these bodies of ours eventually begin to wear out, and many times this leads to weakness, instability and pain in areas of our body that were previously healthy.
Your body’s joints in particular are highly susceptible to the wear and tear of everyday living. In fact, nearly every movement you make involves one of the major joints that are located in different areas of your body. These include everything from your ankles, knees and hips to your elbows and shoulders.
Whenever these joints become too painful or unstable for patients, orthopedic specialists will usually prescribe conservative treatments at the beginning, such as physical therapy or steroid injections. However, if these options fail to assist in recovery, joint replacement surgery typically becomes the next best option.
Types of Joint Replacement Surgeries
Your joints consist of a number of different parts that play a big role in how well they operate. These include the cartilage that provides cushioning between the bones of your joint, the capsule that keeps your joint in its proper place, the synovium that provides lubrication, and the ligaments that hold your joints together.
Yet, if any or all of these experience serious trauma or deteriorate significantly to the point of causing arthritis or other chronic issues, an orthopedic specialist will likely recommend joint replacement surgery.
The three most common types of joint replacement surgery are:
- Knee joint replacement surgery
- Hip joint replacement surgery
- Shoulder joint replacement surgery
In recent years, advances in the medical and scientific field have given orthopedic surgeons the ability to offer their patients a wealth of options when it comes to having joint replacement surgeries. Faster recovery times, more effective pain management, and an enhanced quality of life have become the norm for patients who undergo these types of surgeries.
Nevertheless, you as a patient can have a profound impact on your recovery process by following some simple pre- and post-surgery guidelines, all of which will help you get back to being healthy again sooner rather than later.
How to Prepare for Your Surgery
“Prehabilitation” is more than just the latest buzzword in pre-operative medicine. According to the National Institutes of Health, prehabilitation is key to “improving an individual’s functional capacity through increased physical activity before an anticipated orthopedic procedure” and helps patients “maintain a higher level of functional ability and rebound more rapidly in the [post-surgical] rehabilitation process.”
It may sound like common sense medicine, but activities that focus on prehabilitation exercises—or those that strengthen areas where the surgery will be performed beforehand—have a marked impact on how well these joints recover. Just remember one important thing about these exercises: they should definitely be prescribed and supervised by a medical professional, otherwise they could be doing more harm than good.
Outside of prehabilitation exercises, the types of foods you’re eating while awaiting your surgery can affect your recovery time as well. Like any doctor concerned about your health, we recommend getting plenty of water, fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains in your diet while staying away from sugars and processed foods.
You can also add quitting tobacco products to the list, as it not only slows down the healing process during recovery, but has also been shown to cause complications with anesthesia.
Joint Replacement Surgery Recovery Tips
While you can expect to stay in the hospital for at least a couple of days after your joint replacement surgery, your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist will do everything they can to get you home as quickly as possible. This will usually involve using your new joint to some degree in order to avoid seizing or locking of the joint post-surgery, in addition to plenty of bed rest and pain medications.
Your surgeon will also provide you with materials that can help your recovery process once you’ve returned home. It usually consists of a list of recommendations for incision care and how to perform personal care duties while using a walker, crutches or cane for assistance.
For some patients, full recovery from a joint replacement surgery can take as long as a year. But you can usually cut your recovery time by following a few simple, yet practical guidelines that are commonly prescribed for post-joint replacement patients.
- Diet: Though your diet is important before your surgery, having such things as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and plenty of water can really cut down your recovery time and prevent infections. Your body will certainly need the added nutrients, so even if you don’t have much of an appetite, make sure to get as many vitamins and minerals as possible.
- RICE Method: The RICE Method consists of getting as much Rest as needed; Icing the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time with breaks in between; Compressing the area with bandages or trainer’s tape to keep swelling down; and keeping the area Elevated above your heart or parallel with the ground to reduce swelling and maintain blood flow.
- Physical Therapy: Without undergoing physical therapy, patients run the risk of having serious complications as a result of joint replacement surgery. Before your surgery, your orthopedic specialist will set you up with a physical therapist who will help you exercise the affected joint in person, as well as provide you with exercises you’ll need to do on your own to assist in your recovery. As an orthopedic specialist, I can say that these stretching and strengthening exercises will make a tremendous difference in the amount of time it takes to make a full recovery.
New York Bone and Joint Specialists is a top rated, private Orthopedic and Sports Medicine practice in with locations in New York City, Hoboken and Englewood, NJ. The Orthopedic Surgery, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Pain Management specialists routinely perform surgical and non-surgical treatments for professional athletes from across the United States and various other countries.
Dr.Leon Popovitz and Dr. Michael Mizhiritsky, along with their team of best-in-class orthopedic physicians, are known for their exemplary orthopedic surgical skill and best-rated physical medicine and rehabilitation program. This, along with their top in-office physical therapy and long-term sports rehabilitation processes, leads to athletes of all levels returning to their top physical potential. Contact us today to schedule a consult!