Joint replacement surgery can be an extreme and life-changing experience. The postoperative recovery period can be challenging with many factors: age, previous medical conditions, type of joint replacement performed, and the patient’s current health status. Exercise is critical for a healthy and successful recovery. We have gathered some helpful information on pre-and post-surgery exercise guidelines for a successful joint replacement surgery experience.
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Pre-surgery exercise is essential to prepare the body for the surgery. It can help reduce or prevent muscle atrophy, joint stiffness, and other problems associated with immobility. Pre-surgery practices aim to maintain as much range of motion and muscle strength as possible before surgery. Pre-surgery exercises should be done regularly, even if they are not challenging. The following are some helpful pre-surgery exercises:
- Gentle stretches in every direction, especially to the joints that will be immobilized postoperatively.
- Range of motion exercises for all major joints such as hips, shoulders, knees, and wrists.
- Joint protection techniques include taping a joint with an ace bandage or using a pillow between the knees when lying down.
- Ice massage of the joints, followed by gentle stretching.
- Passive range of motion movements against resistance (e.g., lightweights).
The first six weeks after surgery are critical for joint replacement patients. Exercise is vital to maintaining optimal postoperative range of motion, strength, and mobility. Early postoperative activities are often very demanding and challenging. But by working through the pain and discomfort with gentle early movement, you can speed up recovery time and prevent future complications from forming.
The key to post-surgery exercise is the gradual return to activity and a slow progression to decrease the risk of injury or re-operation. The following guidelines will help you achieve this goal.
You can take short walks in your hospital room and perform everyday activities soon after surgery. This early activity helps you recover from the surgery and restores your knee’s strength and motion.
The best way to help your knee recover is by walking. Initially, you will be using a walker or crutches. Your surgeon or therapist will tell you how much weight to put on your leg and when it’s safe to return to work after surgery.
Start Climbing and Descending
Stair climbing is an excellent exercise for people of all ages. It strengthens the legs and arms, improves cardiovascular fitness, increases flexibility in joints and muscles used during walking upstairs, and helps strengthen breathing patterns by working on deep belly breaths.
You had a knee problem before surgery, making mobility difficult for you now. You have to start by relearning how to walk and then gradually increase what you can do. It will take several months to recover, but doing these exercises will help speed up the process.
Standing Knee Bends
Shallow standing knee bends are a way to build strength in the muscles on top of your thigh. They should only be done if you have minimal pain, no clicking, locking, or giving out while doing 8-12 repetitions of this exercise.
Assisted Knee Bends
Builds strength on your knees.
Riding an exercise bike will help you regain your muscle strength and knee mobility.
The Importance of Post-Surgery Rehabilitation
Whether it’s a hip replacement or knee surgery, joint replacement surgery is a significant decision for most people. As a result, the rehabilitation process should be taken very seriously. Rehabilitation helps to improve mobility and reduce the long-term risks associated with immobility. Patients who exercised after joint replacement surgery experienced improvements in range of motion and strength levels. They also experienced less pain than those who didn’t exercise post-surgery.
The benefits of rehabilitation are clear: increased mobility and reduced pain levels. But what about before surgery? It’s essential to prepare your body for the procedure by following specific guidelines beforehand:
- Wear proper shoes. As you age, the risk of falling increases due to osteoarthritis, joint damage, and other diseases that affect mobility. Wear appropriate shoes with low heels and good shock absorption to reduce the risk of falling or injuring your joints during the recovery process.
- Eat healthy foods. You may be tempted to indulge in junk food or comfort foods during recovery from surgery, but doctors do not recommend this. Sufficient nutrients are needed to heal and repair damaged tissue; it is better to eat a healthy diet beforehand than after the procedure when you may not have as much control over what you eat as you do before surgery.
- Reduce stress levels. Stress can make it difficult for your body to recover from surgery or injury.
You can follow these guidelines to be in the best condition before surgery and during rehabilitation. Of course, no surgery is without risk, and there’s always a chance that you won’t be able to follow the guidelines. But when it comes to joint replacement surgery, you must do everything possible to minimize the risks. Be sure to keep up with your regular exercise routine, and most importantly, listen to your doctor and therapist for advice on moving forward with your recovery.
Rick Kaselj, MS.