I was talking to 3 members of our fitness center the other day, and it dawned on me that between them, there were 5 artificial knees! I do not think a day goes by in my professional life where I am not helping someone recover from a joint replacement It amazes even me how many people are getting knee or hip replacements these days. In our fitness center, it is a little comical to see people rolling up their pant legs to each other, not to flirt (I hope not), but to show off their scar! ‘When did you get yours?’ is a common greeting in our office! But far from letting major surgery slow them down, these folks have taught me about human resilience and a sense of a ‘can do’ attitude that is very encouraging.
Here are some takeaways I will share from nearly 30 years of experience in this area:
1. There is never a convenient time to get joint replacement surgery. You think that you can’t have it now, because, of course, you have that trip to Williamsburg in October. Then there are the holidays, so you couldn’t do it then. You would rather not have it in the first of the year, since you have that deductible to meet. Then there is spring break with the grandkids. Then of course, you don’t want to miss the warm weather in summer…..Get it? Time marches on, so you might as well get on with it! When asked when a patient should have a joint replacement, most surgeons will say, ‘When you no longer want to live the way you are living with pain, you will come to me!’.
2. The first month after surgery, you will say, ‘why did I have this done?!’ The second month you will say, ‘Why did I wait so long to do this?’ Now, that is certainly a GENERAL statement, and everyone has heard of someone who had a bad result of surgery. That is just how this planet works! However, IN GENERAL, there is a period of feeling bad, followed by a longer period of good. The point here is to expect that there is a period of pain, and it is most often temporary. Our patients who know what to expect, get the best results. Plan on your knee (less for a hip) to continue to make improvements over a year or so. I am not saying that you will feel lousy for a year, I am saying your knee will keep improving for at least a year. How cool is that?!
3. In very basic terms, your knee bends(flexes), and straightens (extends). The secret is that you don’t need to bend it very far to be able to do your daily activities. However, you DO need to be able to fully extend it. If you can’t straighten your knee all the way, you will always limp, and that ain’t good! The key to a good recovery is straightening the knee.
4. We have seen many people BEFORE they get surgery for ‘pre-hab’. This is a very forward thinking concept, and that is to exercise the knee and muscles around it, as well as working on balance, agility and coordination in preparation of surgery. In our experience, nearly EVERYONE who does this has a great result after surgery. Why doesn’t everyone do it? Good question. Some surgeons are concerned about using insurance benefits prior to surgery, knowing that it will be needed after surgery. Some fear that the patient will ‘use up’ their benefits. In today’s healthcare environment, the consumer now must play an active role in deciding what is best for them. More and more people are opting to take this route, even if it involves out of pocket expense, to obtain an optimal level of function. In general, these patients seen in pre-hab need less therapy after surgery. I have never seen this work be a waste of time or money.
5. If you are considering a knee replacement, there are exercises that you should be doing NOW that will help! Please go to our website, and click on the ‘patient center’ tab, then ‘videos’. Here, you will see stretching and strengthening exercises that we recommend.
Knee replacement has advanced so much in the 30 years of my practice; it is incredible to see how quickly people can recover. However, it is still a major procedure. If you are considering this route, my tips will make your journey quicker and less painful. Who knows, you may be lifting YOUR pant leg to show off your scar sooner than you think!