If your arthritis has progressed to the point that pain, stiffness, and declining joint function are a major impediment to your daily activities, your doctor has likely recommended joint replacement surgery. If so, you should know that being well prepared for surgery can help ensure that you are among the approximately 90 percent of patients who experience significant improvements in pain levels, mobility, and quality of life after these procedures. Being in good physical condition before surgery is a big part of that preparation as well as the reason physical therapy is a good idea for arthritis sufferers facing joint replacement.
How Physical Therapy Before Joint Replacement Surgery Can Improve Your Recovery Afterwards
If you are suffering from advanced arthritis, you have probably become less active due to its symptoms. Even if you are fairly active in spite of the pain and stiffness, chances are good that your symptoms have changed the way you use your most affected joint – the one slated for replacement. Either way, the limitations caused by severe arthritis typically lead to a deterioration in the condition of the muscles surrounding affected joints. While your muscles may not be able to help your diseased joint feel or function well, they will be crucial to the function of your new, healthy, artificial joint. Physical therapy can help make sure those muscles are in optimal condition as you go into surgery, which can make a substantial difference in recovery by helping you make faster, greater gains in range of motion, joint function, and mobility.
What You Can Expect from Pre-Surgery Physical Therapy
Physical therapy before surgery, often referred to as "pre-hab," is a comprehensive and individualized physical conditioning plan focused primarily on building strength and flexibility in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the joint that will be replaced. It typically begins with a thorough assessment to determine your needs, evaluating joint function and range of motion as well as the condition and function of its supporting muscles and tissues. Then a treatment plan will formulated to meet those needs, which generally consists of a variety of structured activities that are guided by your therapist. Activities typically begin with simple, mild, low-impact exercises, then become progressively more complex and challenging as physical condition gradually improves. Anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks of therapy may be recommended to help you achieve your best level of conditioning before joint replacement surgery.
As eager as you may be to have your joint replacement surgery done and get on the road to recovery, taking the time to prepare your body for the experience with a good physical therapy program is a worthy investment of your time. Doing so can not only help you get back on your feet sooner than you would otherwise, but can also help reduce your level of pain and discomfort during recovery and speed up the healing process.