Joint Replacement Preparation

I had an unexpected bout of knee pain this week. I was wearing unsupportive shoes and had to do a great deal of walking. After quite a bit of stretching, exercise, and icing my knee is recovered, but it was a scary reminder that “joint replacement season” is coming! I am not ready yet, but probably sooner than later… Everyone’s situation is unique, but here are some thoughts that may help you with your preparation!

Photo by Anh Vy on Unsplash

The best preparation for joint replacement is to plan early.

From many years of working with post operative patients, I have found that many people choose the fall season to have their elective surgeries. As people realize they have met their deductible, as kids go back to school, and as the weather cools down a bit, it seems to be prime time for surgical consults.

But if you wait too long, as many of my patients and friends have done, you may have a difficult time finding an opening. There may be some unexpected hoops to jump through for insurance to approve it. Or you may not realize the post surgical rehab involved, and end up continuing therapy into January, thus starting over on your copay/ deductible. So my recommendation to friends has always been to make sure you start the process well before you intend to have your surgery. 

Prepare your muscles and joints for surgery with “prehab”.

Some insurance companies, and some physicians will request that you participate in physical or occupational therapy prior to surgery. I am a huge fan of what we call “pre-hab”. I have found my patients have less pain, are more prepared in their home and routine, and have less stressful recoveries when they have a few sessions of physical therapy prior to surgery.

There is a wealth of information that you can mull through prior to surgery, when your mind is clear and you are able to get around to make adjustments. Furniture set up, equipment purchases, and setting up a space for the post operative therapy can all be positive steps toward improved follow through and safety.

A checklist for joint replacement post surgery recovery:

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Here is a checklist of items and ideas that you can have ready to help your recovery go smoothly. A session with a PT or OT before surgery would include these items as they are appropriate to your situation!

1 Have a folder for all of your paperwork and information, including an organized medication list and phone numbers of physician, therapist, pharmacy. Keep it on the kitchen table or counter, easy to access at home after surgery.

2 Invest in a good moldable cold pack. You may even want 2, as it would be helpful to have a cold one available regularly. (affiliate link)

3 Have a supportive tallish chair with armrests available for the living area. It should be tall enough to get out of easily, but your feet should be able to be on the floor. You may want a soft ottoman for leg elevation, or a recliner that is sturdy may work as well.

4 Most hospitals give you a large plastic cup for water. Use it and stay hydrated! Or buy a good water bottle and keep it close.

5 After surgery, it will be helpful for you to keep essentials on the counter (kitchen and bathroom) for a few weeks to limit bending and reaching. You could use a shoebox to keep small items organized.

6 It would be great to have a therapist evaluate your home and bathroom safety and have the recommended equipment in and ready to go. Grab bars, rails for the toilet, and/or a chair for the shower can be great for easier movement and fall prevention. Every bathroom set up is different and may require different safety measures.

7 Find the safest and easiest route to get in and out of your home for appointments. You may need to put in a small rail for safety at steps. Make sure the light bulbs are good, and there are no slippery rugs.

6 Practise getting in and out of your vehicle with a “weakened joint” to be sure your car or truck will be safe.

7 If you have a tall bed you may need to get a sturdy step stool to help you get in and out. Or you might need to plan to use a different bed for a few weeks.

8 Have a plan for storing and organizing medications. Don’t run out of pain pills over the weekend!

9 If you live in a multilevel home, you may want to borrow or purchase a second assistive device (walker, cane, etc). Make sure it is in good shape, and always check the cane tips for wear.

10 You will want to have nourishing food, and high fiber foods for post op recovery. Keep your immune system strong with healthy meals. Pain medications can slow your GI track down, so you should be prepared with food that will help you stay ‘regular.’

Supplement and support good health choices with downloadable logs, trackers, and health education handouts!

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