Recovering from Joint Replacement Surgery

You were in pain for months, maybe years, and you finally talked with your doctor and decided to have a joint replacement. The surgery went well and it’s time to head home. What’s next?

You were in pain for months, maybe years, and you finally talked with your doctor and decided to have a joint replacement. The surgery went well and it’s time to head home. What’s next?

For several weeks after the procedure, you might need to use a cane or a walker. Make arrangements for transportation home from the hospital and help with everyday tasks, such as cooking, bathing and doing laundry. If you live alone, talk with your surgeon's staff or hospital discharge planner about in-home services that are available to you.

Preparing your home after a joint replacement

As you recover, you may want to consider these tips to help make your home safer and easier to navigate:

  • Create a total living space on one floor since climbing stairs may be difficult.
  • Install safety bars or a secure handrail in your shower or bath, which is a good safety measure anyway.
  • Secure stairway handrails.
  • Get a stable chair with a firm seat cushion and back, and a footstool to elevate your leg.
  • Arrange for a toilet-seat riser with arms if you have a low toilet. Consider trying a stable bench or chair for your shower.
  • Remove loose throw rugs and cords that could be a trip hazard.

Physical therapy & exercise for joint replacement patients

The day after surgery, typically, a physical therapist will show you how to exercise your new joint. During the first few weeks after surgery, you’ll increase your chances for a good recovery by carefully following all of your surgeon's instructions concerning wound care, diet and exercise. If you have questions about the instructions or wonder if they can be modified in any way, be sure to talk with your surgeon first.

When it comes to exercise, remember, it’s better to resume physical activity slowly, carefully and consistently than to push yourself too far and risk potential injury or a setback. Your physical activity program needs to include:

  • A graduated walking program — first indoors, then outdoors — to increase your mobility.
  • Slowly resuming other household activities, including walking up and down stairs.
  • Strengthening exercises you learned from the physical therapist, performed several times a day, as directed by your therapist.

Joint replacement surgery recovery time

Everyone’s recovery rate varies, but typically, about three to six weeks after surgery, you generally can go back to doing most daily activities, such as shopping and light housekeeping. Driving may be possible at around 4-6 weeks, depending on your recovery.

After you've recovered, you can enjoy living with a lot less pain. You’re welcome to try a variety of low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, golfing or biking. You are wise to stay away from higher impact activities — such as running and any sport that involves contact or jumping. Ask your doctor about your specific limitations and recommendations for healthy exercises or physical activity. 

Questions to Consider

What questions do you have for your surgeon? Make a list.

Who will be able to help you after you return home from surgery?

What activities will you need help with when you arrive home after surgery? Plan ahead by making a list.

 

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