Joints can be damaged by arthritis and other diseases, injuries, or other causes. Arthritis or simply years of use can cause the joint to wear down until the protective cartilage is all gone. This can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. Diseases and damage inside a joint can limit blood flow, causing problems in the bones, as we need our blood to be healthy and in order for new healthy tissue and bone to grow and repair itself.
Joint replacement is becoming more common. More than one million Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year. Research has shown that even if you are older, joint replacement can help you move around and feel better. Total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which integral parts of an arthritic or damaged joint are removed and replaced with a metal, plastic or ceramic device called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is designed to replicate the movement of a normal, healthy joint.
Only a specialized doctor can tell if you need a joint replaced. The doctor may put a small, lighted tube (arthroscope) into your joint to look for damage. A small sample of your tissue could also be tested. After looking at your joint, the doctor may say that you should consider exercise, walking aids such as braces or canes, physical therapy, or medicines and vitamin supplements. Medicines for arthritis often include drugs that reduce inflammation. Depending on the type of arthritis, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or other medication. It is common for your doctor to suggest other methods of treatment, and choose joint replacement surgery as a last resort.
Any surgery has risks, and risks of joint surgery will depend upon your health and your joints health before surgery and the type of surgery done. Many hospitals and doctors have been replacing joints for several decades, and this experience results in better patient outcomes. Your doctor specializing in joint replacement surgery will work with you before, during, and after surgery to make sure you heal quickly and recover successfully. Here are some strategies to help guide you through recovery and rehabilitation following your joint replacement surgery:
1. Take your recovery seriously: It’s important to not let your routine slide. Perform all the exercises your physical therapist prescribes. Attend your follow-up appointments with your surgeon and go to all your physical therapy sessions, even when you don’t feel like it. Take medications as prescribed and do not stop any medication without checking with your doctor beforehand.
2. Avoid unnecessary stress: Do not lift any heavy objects that could place an excessive amount of stress on the site of the replacement. Be mindful, and give yourself time to heal. The more you follow recovery protocol, the less time you will be immobilized.
3. Wear compression stockings: Compression stockings can help reduce the risk of blood clots. If your doctor suggests that you wear compression stockings post-surgery, keep them on at night or while lying down. Make sure you wear them for the full time recommended by your doctor.
4. Use ice and heat: Using ice on the site of your joint replacement surgery can help reduce inflammation and pain. This is particularly effective for the first several days after surgery, as well as during any flare up. Once the initial swelling has decreased, you can alternate ice and heat. Heat is helpful to relax the muscles and eases stiffness, while ice is only good when you need to reduce inflammation and swelling. Do not use heat if your knee is swelling.
5. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Extra pounds put greater pressure on your joints, which can slow down your recovery. Also, if you are overweight you can risk developing osteoarthritis.
6. Strengthen the Knee with Sensible Exercise: Exercise is important to help strengthen the muscles in your joints and improve overall blood flow. Take outside walks as soon as possible and increase the distance a bit each day. Then as you grow stronger, consider low impact activities like swimming, golf, gardening, and peddling on a stationary bike.
If you are in need of some more tips regarding how to get the best results and outcome following your joint replacement surgery, call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 to request an appointment, or use our online request form.