Joint replacement surgery can mean big improvements in your quality of life, relieving the pain, stiffness and limitations imposed by your damaged or diseased hip or knee. However, these procedures are serious ones, and being well-prepared for all aspects of surgery and recovery process is important to ensuring the best possible outcome.
Here, we'll discuss the most common mistakes patients make before joint replacement surgery that can make the process harder on them than it should be.
Not Preparing Themselves Physically
Patients who get in shape before surgery typically have shorter recovery times and better results in terms of regaining mobility than those who don't. Physical therapy before surgery – often referred to as “pre-hab” – helps strengthen and tone the muscles that will control and stabilize your new joint and increase your strength, flexibility and balance overall, which has been shown to lead to faster, easier recoveries.
Not Getting Mentally Prepared
Knowing exactly what to expect can make the surgery and recovery process much less stressful. Why is that important? Because too much stress can affect physical health, including healing efficiency and immune system function, so minimizing it is important to ensuring the best possible outcome.
You can avoid excessive stress during surgery and recovery by taking the time to learn all you can about the process. Ask your doctor for all the details, including what you'll need for the hospital admission process, what type of anesthesia will be used, the steps involved in your procedure, what complications are possible, and how you can expect to feel during those first hours, days, weeks and months after joint replacement surgery.
Not Being Prepared to Come Home
Many patients aren't well-prepared for homecoming after surgery, a mistake that can make those first few days and weeks of recovery long and difficult. To avoid this, ensure that you have made solid transportation arrangements for getting home from the hospital and getting to follow-up and physical therapy appointments, and make sure you have set up your home for recovery. Those preparations may include installing a shower chair to make bathing safe and accessible, putting in a raised toilet seat, getting rid of trip hazards, and making sure that frequently-used items are at arms-length throughout your home. Your doctor or physical therapist can provide some tips on other preparations that may be wise in your particular circumstances.
Not Asking For Help
Patients who reach out for help, building a network of support among family members, friends and health care providers, fare better after surgery, getting the help they need for a quick, comfortable and safe recovery. So don't go it alone – joint replacement surgery is a big deal, and doing too much too fast can lead to serious complications.
Underestimating Recovery Time
Patients often underestimate the time it will take to heal and recover after surgery, which can lead to problems. If you are working, make sure that you have been realistic in terms of the time off you have requested for recovery – most patients need at least six weeks. Additionally, make sure that you're stocked up on food and other necessities for that period of time, and that family members and friends are aware that you may need some help for several weeks.
The bottom line is that there is no such thing as being over-prepared when it comes to joint replacement surgery. Ensuring that you're covered in terms of taking good care of yourself before, during and after surgery can make a big difference in how well and how fast you're able to recover and get back to your life.