Most people experience reduction in joint pain and improvement in their quality of life following joint replacement surgery. While joint replacement surgery may allow you to resume many daily activities, don’t push your implant to do more than you could before your problem developed.
Give yourself at least six weeks following surgery to heal and recover from muscle stiffness, swelling and other discomfort. Some people continue to experience discomfort for 6-12 weeks following their joint replacement.
During visits to the physical therapist’s office, your therapist may use heat, ice or electrical stimulation to reduce any remaining swelling or pain. You should continue to use your walker or crutches as instructed.
Your physical therapist may use hands-on stretches for improving range of motion. Strength exercises address key muscle groups, including the buttock, hip, thigh and calf muscles. You can work on endurance through stationary biking, lap swimming and using an upper body ergometer (upper cycle). Physical therapists sometimes treat their patients in a pool. Exercising in a swimming pool puts less stress on your joints and the buoyancy lets you move and exercise easier.
When you are safe putting full weight through the leg, several types of balance exercises can help you further stabilize and control the hip or knee. Finally, you will work with a group of exercises to simulate day-to-day activities, such as going up and down steps, squatting, rising up on your toes, bending down and walking on uneven terrain. You may be given specific exercises to simulate your particular work or hobby demands.
By six weeks, you may be able to return to many normal activities such as driving, bicycling and golf. When you see your surgeon for follow-up two to six weeks after surgery, he or she can advise you on both short and long-term goals.
As a rule, all joint replacement recipients should heed the following limitations during the first weeks after surgery:
In general, physical activities should:
Additional tips for living with your new joint:
Most patients have less pain and better mobility after joint replacement surgery. Your physical therapist will work with you to help keep your new joint healthy for as long as possible. This may mean adjusting your activity choices to avoid putting too much strain on your joint. You may need to consider alternate work activities to avoid the heavy demands of lifting, crawling and climbing.
More extreme sports that require running, jumping, quick stopping or starting and cutting are discouraged. More low impact exercises such as cycling, swimming, golfing, bowling and level walking are ideal.