If an injured or diseased joint is causing chronic pain and/or disability, joint replacement surgery is often the best means of treatment. These procedures have proven very effective in reducing pain, increasing function and mobility, and improving quality of life. However, if your medical team has recommended surgery for you, it is important to know that this procedure is not a quick fix. Realizing the potential benefits of joint replacement will mean spending quite a bit of time on recovery and rehabilitation after surgery—anywhere from 3 months to a year.
Just where you will fall in that range depends on a lot of factors. Some are beyond your control, including the surgical techniques used in your case, your age and your general health, but other factors can be managed to your advantage in speeding recovery.
Here are 2 ways to shorten recovery times after joint replacement surgery.
Prepare yourself—mentally and physically—for your joint replacement surgery
Joint replacement surgery is a major procedure, and the healing, recovery and rehabilitation period afterward will take hard work and determination. Going into that procedure well-prepared for that experience, both physically and mentally, can help smooth your path during that period for a quicker and more successful recovery.
Preparing mentally means learning as much as you can about what will happen during and after surgery. Knowing exactly what to expect from the joint replacement process is essential to making the best decisions about your care. It can also significantly reduce your levels of stress, anxiety and frustration as you move through that process, helping you maintain the clear focus you'll need to make your best recovery.
Preparing physically means taking good care of yourself to ensure that you are in the best possible physical condition when you go into surgery, which can help ensure that healing and recovery moves along at the quickest possible pace. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest, and consider spending some time in physical therapy in advance to increase the strength and function of muscles and tissues that will soon surround your new joint. All these measures can give you a headstart on rehabilitating the affected joint after surgery.
Plan early for good rehabilitative care
Good rehabilitative care is an essential factor in minimizing the time it takes to recover from joint replacement surgery, so planning that care carefully and well ahead of surgery is important. Typically you'll be presented with two basic options for rehabilitative care as you plan your procedure and aftercare: outpatient rehab programs, which entail keeping appointments with therapists several times a week, or inpatient short-term rehab programs, which involve a stay in a rehabilitation facility.
Of these two options, an inpatient rehab program is generally the best bet for the fastest, most complete recovery and rehabilitation. Going with an inpatient program means more comprehensive treatment immediately after surgery than can be offered on an outpatient basis, including any medical care you need, pain management, medication management, nutritional support, and a minimum of three hours of daily physical/occupational therapy to get you back on your feet and back to your life as quickly and safely as possible.
Planning early can help secure your access to the higher level of care offered by inpatient rehab, ensuring that details like referrals and insurance coverage are in place and your bed is reserved and waiting for you when you're ready to leave the hospital and begin your journey towards recovery and rehabilitation.