What can speed up my recovery after joint replacement surgery?

Dr. William A. Leone, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Early mobilization after joint replacement surgery helps to prevent many potential complications and psychologically gives people confidence, which results in a faster and better recovery. Many people will be out of bed walking the same day as their surgery. Other factors that result in people getting well more quickly include the following:

  • Regional anesthesia (when appropriate) is combined with a multimodal approach to manage pain. The goal is to prevent pain before it starts. Also, by minimizing parenteral (IV) narcotics and other drugs, doctors have vastly diminished postoperative complications such as nausea, vomiting, confusion, urinary retention and gastrointestinal problems.
  • Doctors do not request that people donate blood in advance of surgery. People go into surgery feeling stronger and are not anemic from having donated blood. People also lose significantly less blood during surgery than in years past due to improved anesthetic and surgical techniques. The likelihood for needing a postoperative transfusion is now very small.
  • People go home much sooner because they feel better more quickly. Early postsurgical mobilization has helped give people confidence and regain strength much sooner. For many older people, inpatient rehabilitation after the acute stay at the hospital is still appropriate. The rehab facility must be clean and safe with caring and competent personnel. Your doctor will discuss and begin planning for postsurgical rehab prior to surgery; most people visit various facilities ahead of time, which again builds confidence.
  • People of all ages are encouraged to prepare for their surgeries with specific exercises that strengthen muscles and improve stamina, which can result in a faster recovery.

Your body takes time to heal.  Joint replacement surgery is a major operation, and it places a significant stress on the body. These steps can make the recovery process easier to tolerate:

  • Stay on top of pain control.
  • Use ice to control swelling.
  • Do not do too much too early.

Early on after surgery, it is usually best to schedule your medications around your therapy visits to treat the pain before it happens. Swelling is normal, particularly after activities and therapy, but can lead to more discomfort. Aggressive icing of the joint will help to keep the swelling and inflammation down, making the recovery more comfortable. The more active you try to be, the more stress you are putting on the recently replaced joint. This also leads to more swelling, inflammation and pain. It is recommended to follow the rehabilitation protocols provided by your surgeon and under the guidance of your therapist to ensure that your recovery progresses at an appropriate rate.  Remember, every patient is unique and recovers at their own rate.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.