Lexington Health Network

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5 Ways to Prepare for Joint Replacement Surgery

Although joint replacement surgery can help restore function and improve quality of life, it’s still a complex procedure. To help ensure you get the most from the surgery and recover well, here are five ways to prepare for joint replacement procedures.

1. Talk to Your Doctor About the Procedure 

It’s crucial to learn as much as you can about the procedure. You’ll feel more relaxed and in control because you’ll know what to expect before, during, and after surgery. Here are some key questions you should ask.

  • What is the process once I’m admitted to the hospital?
  • How is my recovery planned and managed?
  • What type of implant or prosthesis will you use?

You can find more suggestions over on OrthoInfo. Write down any questions you want to ask and take them to your next appointment. You can do this for your physical therapy appointments, too.

2. Think About Your Post-Operative Recovery 

It takes time to recover from joint replacement surgery, so it’s important to think about how the procedure will affect your work and home life. For example, maybe you’ll need a few weeks (or even months) off, and you might need to stay on just one level of your home for a while. Here are some tips to help.

  • Research in-patient Physical Rehabilitation centers. Have this conversation with your health care team, family members and hospital discharge planner. You may be a candidate for short-term in-patient rehabilitation where you’ll have access to constant medical monitoring and a team of Certified Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists to oversee activities and therapies to help regain independence and strength. This is an especially important option if you live alone.
  • Cook and freeze meals a week or two before surgery so you’ll have food ready to go. Even if you have someone staying with you, it’s easier if you make preparations like this in advance.
  • Place everything you need to use regularly at arm level so you won’t strain to reach anything.
  • With input from your Physical Rehabilitation team, turn one area of your home into a “rehab space.” Make sure you put everything you need, such as water and a cellphone, close by.

Don’t forget to think about how surgery affects your hobbies and personal relationships, too. If you’re really active, you might feel challenged during the recovery period because you can’t immediately do the things you enjoy. Start preparing now for how you’ll fill your time and remain optimistic. Be patient – and participate in the therapies advised by your recovery team.

3. Look for Ways to Improve Your Post-Operative Recovery Time

The better shape you’re in, the faster you’ll recover from a major procedure like surgery. So, use the months or weeks before your joint replacement surgery to improve your recovery capacity and reduce healing time.

  • If you’re overweight, try to lose a few pounds. This minimizes the stress you’re placing on the new joint.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking can impede blood circulation, which in turn affects your healing time.
  • It’s important you avoid alcohol at least 48 hours before surgery.
  • Consider doing some light strength training exercises to improve your upper body strength. This makes it easier to use a walker or crutches.

It’s a good idea to meet with a physical therapist before surgery. They can give you some exercises to strengthen your upper body muscles, and they’ll show you how to use any mobility aids you’ll need after the procedure.

4. Build a Support Team

You’ll need support from friends and family in the weeks following joint replacement surgery.

  • Check if someone can stay with you for a week or two after the procedure. Depending upon how complex the procedure was, you might need a lot of help moving around during this early stage in your recovery.
  • Arrange for someone to help you get to hospital appointments. If you’re attending rehab, make sure someone’s free to take you there, too. This isn’t just about transportation but about moral support as well.
  • Although everyone’s schedule is different, it’s great to have a few loved ones you can call if you need anything, like groceries or medication.

Don’t have a network of family and friends you can rely on? Talk to your doctor about what other support options might be available such as a short-term Physical Rehabilitation Center as mentioned above.

5. Create a Post-Operative Checklist 

Make a list of everything you need to do before the surgery. Have a friend or relative check it over to make sure you haven’t missed anything important,.

To help you get started, here are some items to include on your rehab checklist.

  • Key appointment dates, such as when you’re next seeing a physical therapist or your surgeon
  • Any important appointments you haven’t made yet
  • A note of any medication or essential items you’ll need
  • Your application for a temporary disabled parking permit, if you don’t have one already
  • Any mobility aids you need to buy, such as canes, walkers, or crutches which should be discussed with you medical team.
  • Changes you’re making to your home to make it more rehab-friendly, such as buying clips to secure cables off the floor

Joint Replacement Surgery

Joint replacement is a major surgical procedure, so it’s perfectly normal to feel apprehensive or even worried in the time leading up to your operation. However, the more you know about the procedure, and the better you prepare for your post-op recovery, the calmer you’ll feel on surgery day.

Prepare your checklist in advance, rally support from your loved ones, and ask your surgeon if anything about the procedure or the recovery period is unclear. For more information about Lexington Health Network Physical Rebabilitation Centers, click here.