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5 Of The Best…....Tips To Prepare For Your Joint Replacement

You’ve scheduled your joint replacement surgery. You’ve taken the pre-surgery class at the hospital, read all you can and talked to others who have had surgery. Still, you may feel anxious. Will you bounce back quickly or struggle to get on your feet again? Those are good questions. If you want to improve the odds of a successful outcome, getting in shape before your surgery will help – here are some tips to help you through the first weeks before and after your joint replacement surgery.

Do some Prehabilitation

A study by researchers at New England Baptist Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre and Harvard Medical School found that knee and hip replacement surgery patients who had participated in water based strength training and aerobic and flexibility exercises for six weeks prior to their surgeries reduced their odds of needing inpatient rehabilitation by 73 percent.

Patients who are more fit prior to surgery may have shorter hospital stays and may be discharged and sent to outpatient rehab, rather than to a rehab facility for inpatient therapy. They also have fewer outpatient rehab sessions, says physiotherapist Steve Sylvester, PhD, assistant professor of health and human performance at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Hydrotherapy can be especially useful during prehabilitation…

  • The temperature of a hydrotherapy pool allows your muscles to relax and eases the pain in your joints, helping you to exercise
  • The water’s buoyancy offloads up to 90 percent of your weight, which eases pain and allows for a greater range of movement at your joints
  • The water can also be used to provide resistance to your movements, strengthening your muscles safely

‘Even in a fairly brief time period, the exercise paid off for the participants,’ says lead study author Daniel Rooks, PHD, former clinical research investigator and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. ‘Their level of function and pain stabilized prior to surgery, whereas those who did not exercise got worse. The benefits of exercise before surgery are very clear.’

Learn About the Procedure

Talk to your doctor. Learn what to expect before, during, and after surgery. Your questions may include:

  • What is the process for being admitted to the hospital?
  • What type of anaesthesia will I receive?
  • What type of implant or prosthesis will be used?
  • How long will I stay in the hospital?
  • How long will my recovery take?
  • How will my pain be managed after surgery?

Don’t hesitate to voice concerns or speak up if you do not understand something about your treatment.

Get in Shape for Surgery

Getting in the best physical shape possible before surgery can lessen the chance for complications and shorten your recovery time.

  • If you have weight to lose, there will be more stress placed on your new joint. Exercising in water is a great option for those who experience pain or discomfort exercising on land, as the buoyancy will offload 90 percent of your weight; allowing you to burn calories efficiently and without having to worry about your joints.
  • Ask your therapist about exercises you can do before surgery. If you are having a hip or knee replacement, strengthening your upper body will make it easier to use crutches or a walker after surgery.
  • Safely strengthen the muscles around your lower limbs; this can be done through hydrotherapy as the water’s resistance and buoyancy will ensure a fuller range of movement, less discomfort and more strength.
  • Ask about the water exercises that can be prescribed after surgery. If you become familiar with the exercises now, you will be ready to perform them after surgery.

Plan for Your Homecoming

Joint replacement is major surgery and your recovery will take several weeks, but there are steps you can take now to make your time at home safer and more comfortable:

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital and stay with you for several days after your surgery.
  • While you are in the kitchen (and in other rooms, as well), place items you use regularly at arm level so you do not have to reach up or bend down.
  • Borrow a walker or pair of crutches to see how well you can manoeuvre through your home. You may need to rearrange furniture or temporarily change rooms (make the living room your bedroom, for example).
  • Remove any throw or area rugs that could cause you to slip. Securely fasten electrical cords around the perimeter of the room.
  • Consider modifying your bathroom to include a shower chair, gripping bar, or raised toilet seat.
  • Shop for things that will make your life easier after surgery. Helpful items include a long-handled shoehorn, a long-handled sponge, a grabbing tool, a footstool, and a big-pocket shirt or soft shoulder bag for carrying things around.
  • Place items that you use frequently (phone, remote control, radio, facial tissues, wastebasket, pitcher and glass, reading material and medications, for example) within easy reach so that you do not have to reach up or bend down.
  • If you do not already have a disabled parking permit, apply for a temporary permit several weeks before your surgery.

Make Last-Minute Preparations

The 24 hours before your surgery will be a busy time filled with lots of last-minute preparations, make sure you’re not forgetting any of the following:

  • Have a shower or bath the night before your surgery. Your surgeon may recommend an antibacterial soap or other medical wash. This will help reduce the risk of infection.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery.
  • Pack a small bag to bring to the hospital. Some of the items you should include are:
  • A pair of comfortable, sturdy bedroom slippers with non-skid soles
  • A knee-length robe or gown
  • A lightweight camisole or cotton shirt to wear under your hospital gown
  • Something to read