5 Ways to Recover Faster After Joint Replacement Surgery
If you have a hip or knee replacement on the books, there's no doubt you've spent a lot of time thinking about recovery. What will recovery be like? How painful will recovery be? How will I know if my recovery is (or isn't) normal? How long will I be down for the count? When can I return to work or regular activities again? When will I be able to drive? What do I need to know that I still don't know?!
Okay...breathe in, breathe out. We totally get it—there's a lot of information to process about surgery and recovery. However, getting ready for surgery doesn't have to be complicated, stressful or even boring (e.g. that darn hospital pamphlet)! Regardless of where you are in your surgery prep or recovery, there are things you can do today to set yourself up for a better tomorrow.
Did you know we have a PreHab AND ReHab app for joint replacement surgery prep and recovery? The app breaks down everything you should be doing into small, 10-15 minute daily lessons. Sound better than reading a giant hospital handout or manically googling? We know.
Read on as we break-down all the best ways to have a faster recovery from a hip replacement or knee replacement. We're also going to offer must-know info (like red flags for complication) and offer tips on how to achieve your recovery goals.
5 Must-Do's to Speed-Up Your Joint Replacement Recovery
1. Do PreHab BEFORE Surgery
PreHab is quickly becoming commonplace before a scheduled surgery. A couple years ago, patients were like "What's Prehab?". Today, we connect with hundreds of people each week who are interested in PreHab and PeerWell's PreHab app.
So, what is PreHab before surgery? In a nutshell, PreHab is actively preparing for surgery by doing the activities, lessons, exercises (and more) that are proven to lower your risk and improve your outcome. For example, spending 10 minutes per day in the weeks leading up to your surgery to perform knee stability exercises would be considered a PreHab activity.
Your Joint Replacement PreHab program should:
Guide you through exercises that: strengthen your joint and surrounding muscles, improves flexibility and range of motion, and builds a foundation for you to recover more easily.
Encourage dietary changes that promotes healthy weight loss, incorporates foods that boost healing, stabilizes blood sugar, and won't interfere with medications (yes, some vitamins found in fruits and vegetables can affect your prescriptions).
Prepare you mentally for surgery and recovery by working to decrease stress and anxiety, and teaching you helpful breathing techniques and calming methods.
Reduce your medical risk so that you can have a better surgery outcome with lower complication risks.
2. Know The Red Flags: "WORST"
After surgery, it's critical to recognize the signs that your recovery may be taking a turn for the worse. However, it can be difficult to differentiate between regular ol' post-op healing and symptoms that may be abnormal. Knowing the red flags to watch out for can save you from infection, and prevent complications from worsening. Although serious complications after hip and knee replacement surgery are rare, they can happen and often could have been prevented.
To keep it simple, we created the acronym WORST to follow as you recover.
Worsening, discolored or foul smelling discharge from your wound/ excessive bleeding
Out of breath, chest pain or difficulty breathing
Red streaking down the leg from your incision
Sharp pain in the back of your surgical leg calf
Temperature of 100.5 degrees fahrenheit or greater
By looking out for "WORST" you can catch infection, blood clots, or potentially larger complications before they worsen. There's no bigger kink in your recovery plan than an infection or complication. Check out the full post on WORST and what normal healing after hip or knee replacement surgery should look like.
3. Plan For Support & Ask for Help
Surprisingly, asking for help and support is something that a lot of people struggle with in recovery. People don't want to feel like they're a burden on loved ones (or care teams) after surgery, so often try and go it alone. However, not having the physical and emotional support of caretakers and peers after surgery can leave patients feeling stressed, isolated, alone, and depressed in recovery.
The bottom line is: during recovery, you will need help. In recovery, there will also be difficult days where you may feel down in the dumps. After all, your body has endured trauma, and emotional healing after surgery is real. Don't ever feel ashamed of how you feel during your recovery. It's important to be open and honest with loved ones and ask for help when you need it.
For a speedy recovery, we recommend that you join a supportive community of people who have also gone through a hip or knee replacement. Getting peer advice and recognizing yourself in the stories/ posts of others is invaluable when going through an unfamiliar, trying time. Let others lift you up and keep you focused on your end goal: happy, healthy, pain-free living!
4. Measure Your ROM/ Track Success
Recovery from a replacement isn't easy. With things like preparation and PreHab, you can positively influence the ease and speed of your recovery, but there will always be challenging days. Some days, you may be in pain, frustrated that you still can't do something by yourself, or simply feel like you're not improving. However, you've got to look at the larger picture—not the day-by-day. By measuring and tracking certain movements or abilities after surgery, you can step back and see how far you've really come. Tracking progress also keeps you motivated and takes away any "smoke and mirrors" regarding how much effort you're realllllly putting into recovery.
Here are some measures of success you should track after surgery to watch (and ensure) progress:
Range of Motion: For knee replacement recipients, range of motion is the measurement. Your knee flexion and extension measurements are used to determine how well you're regaining normal movement, leaving behind stiffness, soreness, and immobility. For the first time ever, you can track knee flexion at home with your smartphone. PeerWell's ROM tool tracks your progress while comparing you to peers so you know where you stand. Imagine not having to wait for your physical therapist to check-in on your ROM!
Walking Test: After joint replacement surgery, timed walking or walking distance tests are often used to test the functionality of your new joint. The "6 minute walk test" is commonly observed by your physical therapist or care team. Timing and measuring how far you can walk (without pain) is a good way to measure your own improvement.
Track Daily Exercises: A PreHab or ReHab app will tell you how many daily exercises you should be doing but take not of how many sets you're doing, the ease of the movements, whether you're adding in a couple extra etc. These are not just signs that you're getting fitter, but signals real progress in getting back to your new and improved normal!
Hot Tip: Celebrate the small victories! Remember when you couldn't stand long enough to microwave your dinner? Remember when you could only walk up 3 steps without pause?
5. Use PeerWell's ReHab App
We're saving the best for last. A good ReHab program wraps all of the above "must-dos to recovery faster" into digestible daily activities. PeerWell's ReHab app guides patients from surgery day throughout the first 90 days recovery. A daily smartphone ReHab program gives you 10-15 minutes of things to do each day to monitor symptoms, regain mobility, boost healing, destress and more. This means even when you're feeling foggy and overwhelmed after your replacement, if you can just get through your daily ReHab program, you will be making notable progress and consuming the information you need for a safe recovery. Bada boom, bada bing!
BONUS: 8 Must-Read Joint Replacement Recovery Articles
Looking for more guidance in your surgery prep and recovery? PeeWell's PreHab and ReHab will show you how to lower your surgery day risk and set yourself up for a faster, smoother recovery.