Joint replacements are a great way to increase mobility as a last resort. But the level of function you regain afterwards is directly related to your efforts to take care of your joint both before and afterwards.
The best way to get the most out of your joint replacement is to be proactive, and get some guidance before your joint is replaced. There are many things you can be doing to ensure the best possible outcomes, or even to postpone the joint replacement for a while if you can increase the use of your joint with some changes to life or exercises.
Just because a joint has arthritis, this doesn't mean that the joint has to be replaced. There are many things that you can do to change how much the arthritis affects your pain levels like exercise, re strengthening of key muscle groups, weight management and more. If however the decision has been reached that a joint replacement is the best option moving forwards, it is going to be a smoother process to see a Physio before you go through with your operation.
Often having a joint replaced is a bit of a whirlwind with some feeling rushed in and out of hospital quickly. The exercises that were given in hospital might be hard to do or you might not quite be understanding how or why to do each exercise. One very common thing we hear is that people feel that they were not given enough information before having a joint replaced about exactly what is expected pre and post surgery.
By having a session with your Physio a couple of really important topics covered will be;
- A thorough understanding of what will be expected of you after your operation. This in itself is a hugely important reason to visit your physio before your operation. All too often we hear that people wish they had a better understanding of the process of what happens after surgery and what is expected of them. People say they feel they could have had a much better outcome if they had known what to expect, and if more guidance had been given. This is something we will make a priority.
- Any exercises that can help you with pain reduction before your operation. In some cases this can be effective enough for you to postpone your operation for some time.
- Any exercises that will help strengthen your key muscles that will be of extreme importance once you have had your joint replaced. This can dramatically improve your recovery rate after your operation. If you have the correct muscles stronger with a head start for after the operation, you will find the recovery process a lot more manageable.
- Giving you the opportunity to practice some of the exercises you will encounter in the immediate few days after your operation. Knowing how to do them, what they are for, and having practised them before, will make the first few days after your operation that little bit easier.
- Giving you an idea of what level of function you should aim to expect after the operation, and the approximate times that you should reach these goals. Knowing these before your operation, will help you know where you are on your recovery journey, and give you the ability to recognise that you may need to seek some extra follow up care.
My tip? Have at least one session with a physiotherapist before your joint replacement. It's an excellent investment in your time. You will get a better understanding of the process and what is expected of you in the first phase of your recovery which can be very painful and overwhelming. The extra knowledge and skills you will pick up before your operation, can make the process a lot easier to deal with.
And finally, please ensure you organise some follow up physio. I have highlighted the reasons that visiting your physio before is a valuable tool to help yourself, but post operative physiotherapy is absolutely integral to reaching your fullest potential. Make sure you have a physio you trust that can help you after your joint replacement. They will help you reach your goals in the quickest possible manner.