More people are staying active as part of a healthy lifestyle. While that’s great news, all that activity can take a toll on our joints as we age.

Whether it’s normal, age-related wear and tear, or pain from arthritis, sometimes joints like hips or knees grow painful and reduce our mobility. But thanks to surgical advances and new technology, total joint replacements are a great option for many.

Understandably, you may fear the recovery process. But the fact is, recovery from joint replacement surgery typically proceeds in a smooth, well-coordinated fashion. After surgery, initial efforts focus on swelling control, pain management, and getting patients moving. Elevation and icing are both key following both hip and knee surgery. Walking, performing daily activities, and simple exercises are the cornerstones of recovery. To boost healing, our physical therapists help patients with this while they’re still in the hospital.

Going home

Following a short hospital stay, the majority of patients are able to go home to complete their recovery. This is good news for long-term results. Research shows that individuals who live alone can follow a home exercise program and have the same outcomes as patients who spent 10 days in a rehabilitation center or skilled nursing facility. It’s also worth noting that there wasn’t an increase in complications for those who recovered at home. In fact, other studies have actually shown a lower rate of complications in those who go directly home. 

Karen Holt Prefers Rehab at Home

For some people, home is where the heart is. For others, home is where recovery happens. For our patient, Karen Holt, both were true. 

Read Karen's story

As part of the discharge process, we arrange for home nursing evaluation and services as well as instruction and supervision by a physical therapist. This helps ensure a safe recovery for patients treated through the Total Joint Center.

Home versus skilled nursing facility

Before going home, all patients who have a total joint replacement must prepare for the support they’ll need. But that doesn’t mean supervision is required 24 hours a day. In our pre-operative education program, you’ll learn how to make your home safer and more “user friendly” for getting around, preparing meals, and other activities. Restrictions, if any, are minimal and little formal medical equipment is needed, thanks to modern surgical techniques.

Remember, performing your typical daily activities and walking are the most important aspects of your rehabilitation. Studies have shown that an exercise program following knee replacement shouldn’t be intensive.

Be your own health advocate

While joint replacement surgery involves a team of professionals, the patient plays a key role in recovery. Most patients recover smoothly and with positive results.  Patients can accelerate their recovery by following these guidelines:

  • Address any skin problems with a physician.
  • Take good care of your teeth and gums. Your oral health should be in good condition, because it plays an important role in your overall health. 
  • Patients who are significantly overweight benefit from weight loss programs. 
  • If you’re diabetic, be sure to control your blood sugar.
  • If you are a smoker, quitting is extremely important. 

For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit our website.

John Froehlich, MD

Dr. John Froehlich is an orthopedic surgeon and the program director of the Total Joint Center at The Miriam Hospital. He specializes in adult reconstructive surgery and sports medicine.

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