What You Need To Know Before and After a Joint Replacement
As people are living longer and more active lifestyles, joint pain and disability are on the rise. In the United States, 23% of adults suffer from arthritis. That is 54 million people!¹ Osteoarthritis, or arthritis in the joint, is the most common form of this painful disease. While many people suffering from osteoarthritis may try different forms of treatment, joint replacements are ultimately the final stage in treating arthritis.
Luckily our knowledge and technology continue to advance, resulting in better surgeries and faster outcomes. But recovery doesn't start with surgery. In order to have the best results possible, recovery needs to begin weeks, or even months beforehand.¹ ²
The long road to recovery from arthritis begins with pre-habilitation which we call "pre-hab".² Our Physical Therapists at Action Physical Therapy are highly skilled in offering pre-hab services. This part of your recovery typically begins 6 weeks before surgery.
During this time our Physical Therapists will work with you to decrease your pain and stiffness while creating a plan to get you back to doing what you love.
Treatment during this time can include:
- Manual therapy from our Certified Manual Therapists who will know exactly how to move your joint and surrounding soft tissues to decrease your pain while improving your mobility.
- Education on how to walk and move better.
- Education on what to know after surgery, such as how to use your assistive device, how to get in and out of bed, etc.
- Exercise to help strengthen your surrounding muscles, making you stronger and more balanced.
- Pain relieving modalities, such as use of ice, heat, and our Class IV laser that reduces pain and swelling.
Pre-hab may be a new concept for you, but the research on having Physical Therapy prior to surgery is growing rapidly.² ³ Being able to go through weeks of pre-hab prior to surgery decreases your pain and allows you to have the most strength and mobility possible, which then improves your post-operative recovery.² ³
Once you have the joint replacement surgery, post-operative rehabilitation can start right away. The sooner that you can get your joint moving the better and faster your recovery will be.⁴ ⁵
In fact, you will typically begin Physical Therapy right after surgery with the same Physical Therapist you had during pre-hab. This continuity of care really helps to improve your outcomes and can make you feel more at ease as you have an established relationship and a plan of care already created with your Physical Therapist.
In addition to returning to your previous Physical Therapist, we can once again use our Class IV laser. You will most likely be using a lot of ice at home to manage your pain and swelling, but in the clinic we can also utilize this laser to help shorten your recovery time.
Once again, skilled manual therapy will be used, this time to assist in decreasing pain and swelling, and then to work on your range of motion.
Exercise will also begin to help strengthen the replaced joint and the surrounding muscles to help you get back to full use of your arm or leg.
Most importantly Physical Therapists will work with you to help you become more functional and return to whatever it is that you love to do!⁶
Types of Joint Replacements
With the advancements in our healthcare, there are now many different joints in our body that can be replaced. Some of the more common ones are the knee, hip, and shoulder.
The knee joint is one of the most common joints to have replaced. Have you been suffering from knee pain due to arthritis? If so, maybe you had a bad injury to your knee when you were younger and it never fully healed. Or maybe you are experiencing pain from years of wear and tear.
Either way, this pain and stiffness are most likely stopping you from doing the things that you love like traveling, gardening, playing with your kids. And if your pain is bad enough, it could be stopping you from doing normal daily activities such as walking, going up and downstairs, and even sitting in your favorite chair.
If this sounds like you and a knee replacement is in your future, you should definitely utilize Physical Therapy for pre-hab and post-operative rehabilitation. Having a combination of manual therapy to improve your ability to bend and straighten your knee while strengthening the surrounding muscles will get you back to doing what you love!
Hip joint replacements are also very common. Unfortunately, arthritis in the hip can make nearly every weight-bearing activity painful. Walking, using stairs, sitting, and even laying down can cause pain in your hip. If it is bad enough, this pain can radiate all the way down to your knee.
If you are planning on having your hip joint replaced, it is very important to have pre-hab so that you can learn how to protect your surgical site. There are a few different ways that surgeons can replace the hip and, depending on how they do it, you may have to avoid certain positions. Pre-hab will allow you to learn and understand what you need to avoid for the first couple of weeks.
Your Physical Therapist will also help strengthen your hip, teach you to walk better, and improve your mobility. And as you learn all of these things, it will transfer over to your post-operative rehabilitation, improving your results.
Shoulder joint replacements are less common than the knee or the hip. But it could easily be the most painful joint to have arthritis in. If you are experiencing pain with reaching overhead or behind your back, difficulty lifting most objects, and you are finding yourself needing help with dressing, washing, or other daily activities, then you most likely will be needing pre-hab to help improve your mobility and strength prior to surgery.
Pre-hab for the shoulder will be similar to the knee and hip. Gentle mobility and strengthening activities are important but so is having the time to learn what you will be able to do or not do right after surgery.
Then once you have surgery you can begin with individualized recovery, focusing on getting you back to doing what you love.
If you are experiencing pain and limitations due to arthritis in any of your joints, please reach out to us today. One of our Physical Therapists can discuss your treatment options and get you on the right path to recovery!
- How CDC Improves Quality of Life for People With Arthritis
- Prehabilitation and Rehabilitation for Major Joint Replacement Surgery
- Pre-hab for Surgery
- Rapid mobilization decreases length-of-stay in joint replacement patients.
- Early High-Intensity Rehabilitation Following Total Knee Arthroplasty Improves Outcomes
- Physical Therapist Management of Total Knee Arthroplasty