I think it is safe to say that many of us know of at least one or more people who have been affected by osteoarthritis resulting
in joint replacement. Surgeons are able to replace many joints from the shoulder to the hip, knee, fingers and even joints within the toes. Technology has come a long way over the years and made joint replacements simpler and less invasive, resulting in shorter recovery period over all. However, during my short career as a clinician so far I have seen a common theme among many joint replacement patients: recovery is much harder and takes longer than anticipated.
I have heard on more than one occasion “I thought this would be a 6 week recovery,” or “I didn’t’ realize how painful this would be.” I have even had one patient allude to the fact that their surgeon told them the recovery would be only a few weeks. The reality is that joint replacement, especially knee, hip and shoulder, are very involved surgeries and can take up to one year for full recovery.
Maybe you are reading this knowing that you are facing one of these joint replacements in the near future. My intent is not to give you doubt or make this a negative experience, but to help you enter this challenge with eyes wide open. Your surgeon may have a very good reputation and while they may perform the surgery perfectly, the body will always react to trauma the same… With swelling, inflammation and pain. But don’t worry! There are things that can be done to help! And physical therapy is an important part.
First, you will want to educate yourself before arriving for your surgery date. Often there are classes that are offered through your surgeon or the hospital that help to prepare you. I think it is important to do your own research as well. The internet is a great tool to use to understand the process of surgery itself. You may even want to find a video on Youtube (if you can stomach it) to watch whatever surgery you are about to go through. It will also be important to know what is expected of you in the 1-2 days following your procedure. For the lower extremity, many surgeons have requirements such as the ability to walk a certain distance or going up or down stairs before they will sign discharge documents.