Is a joint replacement surgery in the near future for you or your loved one? If so, it can be a scary thing to think about. However, I want to assure you that this very successful surgery leads thousands of seniors on the path to decreased pain, improved independence, and regained mobility.
Each person’s path will be unique, but the outcomes are relatively similar. Joint replacement surgery is one of the most consistent surgeries that achieves the desired results. But it’s important to think about the common factors that will ensure success.
I want to share the one thing that you or your loved one has complete control over to maximize your odds of success with joint replacement surgery.
“Really? That’s it? Being Prepared?”
Yes! Let me explain…
1. Be Mentally Prepared
For many, joint replacement is the first surgery they've experienced. Luckily, many surgeons do a wonderful job of preparing their patients for what's to come. However, that's not always the case.
The first step for any family anticipating a joint replacement surgery is to get educated about what to expect. This will dramatically impact your overall experience before and during the recovery process. It is vital to have accurate expectations so that there are no surprises following a joint replacement surgery.
Being mentally prepared, you will know to expect some pain, bruising and swelling after surgery, and understand that it will be difficult to move at first.
Yet, you will also expect that the pain and swelling will go down, discoloration will go away, and your joint will loosen up over time. Having these expectations and being mentally prepared will be priceless as you go through the ups and the downs of recovery.
2. Be Physically Prepared
Hopefully you or your loved one has tried physical therapy to avoid a joint replacement surgery. If that hasn’t been as effective as you had hoped, the exercises being performed in physical therapy should be stopped, right? Wrong.
Even though surgery is on the horizon, you or your loved one must continue to be active and exercise. This is commonly called “Prehab”. Think of it like an athlete training for an event. They put in the time and prepare to perform well. They don’t perform well if they just show up without putting in the work beforehand.
Joint replacement surgery is no different. The more prepared you are (strong, mobile, with good conditioning); the better off you will be after surgery. People that perform a “Prehab” program typically have a much more pleasant recovery process with shorter hospital stays and improved outcomes.
3. Be Environmentally Prepared
For many of us, stairs, curbs, or ramps are nothing to think about. We manage to move across the terrain seamlessly without a thought. Yet, initially after a joint replacement surgery, our terrain can be much more difficult to traverse.
With this in mind, it is vital to think about manipulating the home environment to be as mobile-friendly as possible. This may involve moving furniture, moving a bed on the main floor, getting appropriate assistive devices, etc. Whatever you or your loved one can do to make moving around your environment easier, do it! It’s much less stressful to take care of these things prior to coming home from surgery.
4. Be Prepared To Have A Good Experience
Lastly, I want to encourage you or your loved one that with proper preparedness, joint replacement surgeries can be very successful. The journey is not easy, but it’s worth the hard work to regain mobility, strength, and independence.
Here’s to the journey ahead!
Dr. Dustin Jones, PT, DPT, CSCS, RKC, is a home health physical therapist living in Lexington, Kentucky. He has a passion for serving people in their homes so they can be as independent and mobile as possible. He hosts the Senior Rehab Podcast which is the only podcast focused on geriatric rehabilitation. Find out more at - SeniorRehabProject.com.