If you are preparing for joint replacement surgery, our guide aims to help you feel as ready and informed as possible.
Undergoing joint replacement surgery can immeasurably improve your quality of life.
However, while most people will look forward to reaping the rewards of the procedure, in the weeks before the surgery they are likely to be more focused on their concerns about the risks of surgery and the length of the recovery period.
One way to ensure you feel as confident as possible going into the operating theatre is to prepare thoroughly for the procedure.
Preparation starts one to two weeks before surgery to ensure that you are in optimal condition.
Ahead of the operation you should have a pre-operative assessment session where you will meet members of our integrated multi-disciplinary team who’ll be involved in your care.
Prior to surgery, you will be seen for an outpatient consultation where you will meet the surgeon.
While the main aim of such sessions is to make sure you are healthy enough for the procedure, it is also a great time to ask any questions you may have.
Keep a notepad on you in the weeks leading up to the session and jot down any queries that pop into your mind. Ask your family if they have any concerns or questions too.
It’s important to go into the surgery in as healthy condition as possible so if you are able to perform some light exercise in the weeks leading up to the operation it should be beneficial.
Swimming and walking are good examples of activities that shouldn’t put too much strain on you, or a physiotherapist may give you some exercises to improve muscle strength and movement, such as standing on one leg for short periods or laying flat on your back or stomach for 20 minutes.
Plan for recovery
Following your surgery, movement may be limited and you will need to plan for how you are going to cope at home. Small changes such as adding a seat to the shower, placing useful objects where they are easily reached or investing in a grabber, and pre-cooking and freezing meals can all help make the recovery process go smoothly.
You may also wish to move your bed downstairs if you have a bathroom on the ground floor or set up a base camp in the room you plan to use the most. Your physiotherapist or nurse will be able to discuss this with you at the pre-assessment.
Remember, recovery can be a long and trying process, so be patient and don’t try to do too much too soon, or you could risk setting yourself back.
Rally the troops
Recovering from joint replacement surgery will be a lot easier if you have the help and support of your friends and family.
Speak to them before the operation and ask if they are willing to help out and what sort of time commitment they’ll be able to make. Even just having someone to drive you to and from the hospital can be a huge weight off your mind.
If loved ones can help with tasks such as shopping, cleaning and keeping you entertained then you will have fewer things to worry about in the run-up to having surgery.
The consultant's advice
Mr Mark Flowers is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at BMI Thornbury Hospital. We asked him how exercises can help patients in pain.
Joint surfaces are lined with cartilage, which breaks down if a patient has arthritis. Keeping joints moving nourishes the cartilage and keeps it healthy longer.
This is one of many ways in which exercise can reduce pain, in this case from arthritis.
Before you try any sort of exercise, speak to your GP. They can advise you on the best sort of action to take, which will depend on a number of things. Their advice will consider which joints or muscles are causing your pain, the underlying diagnosis and whether you have any other health issues (e.g. angina).
Exercise has beneficial effects in various areas including strengthening muscles, nourishing cartilage through movement, reducing weight and improving cardio-respiratory function. It also commonly generates a feeling of well-being.
You will know when you have done enough, as your body will feedback this information to you simply through fatigue and an awareness to stop.
Excessive activity can certainly harm bone and soft tissues, which will cause pain and functional impairment. If you are worried about hurting yourself, speak to a physiotherapist.
Physiotherapists understand the musculoskeletal system and how it works in the human. They are therefore able to assess your abilities and encourage you to gain the most you can through exercise and conditioning without damaging your body.
Joint injections are valuable in some forms of arthritis and in moderate to severe arthritis where for one reason or another surgery is not an option.
I would suggest asking about surgical options if you have an inability to function normally, sleep disturbance and a need for higher orders of painkillers.
The primary benefit of joint replacement surgery is pain relief. After that comes improved sleep, less medication and increased functionality.
Find out more about managing joint pain and download your free guide today
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