Before undergoing joint replacement surgery, patients usually ask if it will reduce pain and improve mobility. They want to know if they’ll be able to get back to doing their favorite physical activities. Most of the time the answer is yes – as long as they commit to post-surgical rehabilitation to regain strength, mobility and balance.
A lot of people think the hardest part is getting through surgery. But the real work doesn’t begin until afterward. Here’s what to expect during your recovery and rehabilitation:
- Day of surgery – Your doctor will encourage you to walk on your new joint right away to help avoid medical complications such as blood clots. You’ll likely experience some pain since the bone surrounding the joint needs to heal, but it will be less severe compared with what you felt prior to surgery.
- 1-2 weeks after surgery – The main focus is on managing pain so you can start getting active. Low-impact activities, such as stationary biking or modified yoga techniques, are best. Start 5-10 minutes a day and slowly increase the amount every day.
- 2-3 weeks after surgery – This is when you’ll start physical therapy. Most patients need physical therapy twice a week for six to eight weeks. During these sessions, you’ll work on improving strength, range of motion and balance. You’ll also learn exercises you can do outside of your sessions to help your body continue to heal and get stronger. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, you can get a head start on learning post-op exercises when you participate in a pre-habilitation program offered at our fitness centers.
- 6 weeks after surgery – It’s time for a check in with your doctor. During this appointment, he or she will evaluate your progress and decide if you’re ready to drive again.
- 8 weeks after surgery – You’ll feel the benefits of your hard work and will be able to walk with significantly less pain. At this point, most people are able to move around without the assistance of a walker, crutch or cane.
Throughout rehabilitation, it’s important to listen to your doctor and do the prescribed exercises. Rehabilitation is a lot of work but will help you avoid permanent limitations and achieve the best possible outcome.
One thing to remember is that everyone is different. If you find you’re not hitting your goals within the expected timeframe, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. He or she will help you stay on track. In time, you’ll achieve your goals and get back to the activities you enjoy most in life.