Did you know doctors replace more than 1 million hips and knees each year? According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 1.5 times more Americans with a knee or hip replacement as there are Americans living with heart failure. When pain medications, steroid injections, and mobility devices are no longer helpful, it may be time to explore surgery. Sometimes joint replacement surgery is the only option to regain independence and life without joint pain.
Ask your doctor if he or she has a preference of the orthopedic surgeons in your area. Researching your surgeon is a good way to feel confident in your decision. Orthopedic surgeons spend four years in medical school and five years as a medical resident; most orthopedic surgeons spend an additional year of fellowship mastering a specific area of expertise, like knees or hips.
Before you meet your surgeon in person, Google him or her. Learn where he or she went to medical school and where he trained as a resident or what awards she won. When you meet your doctor, ask him what made him choose the specialty or why he is interested in joint health. Knowing how passionate your doctor is about her field will feel reassuring in the days and weeks to come.
People who thrive have support networks. And the time to work on your support network is before you need it. Will you have someone stay with you after surgery? Will you need to have your meals prepared? Will your physical therapist visit you at your home?
Ask your doctor what to expect after surgery. Plot out what you do each day and assess which activities will be impacted by limited mobility. Then, as Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” Whether you ask one of your children to stay with you or tap your neighbors and friends to help with different tasks, try not to feel uncomfortable asking others for help. One of the most important and meaningful parts of belonging to a community is contributing to a cycle of giving and caring. People will be glad to help.
You may be surprised to learn that gradual exercise and physical therapy is healthy and expected after joint replacement surgery. Recovery begins on day 1. You’ll start walking a little to regain strength and you’ll ice and elevate as much as possible. If you stay in a rehabilitation center, you’ll have help getting around and guidance using your new, healing joint. At home,you may need a walker, crutch, or cane to move around.
After some time passes post-surgery, your doctor will prescribe advanced range of motion exercises like knee-straightening and knee bending stretches. After three to six weeks, you can get back to the things you love doing, like walking, gardening, and even low-impact yoga classes. On days when you are experiencing pain or feeling discouraged, know that you’ll be on the go again before you know it.