Joint replacements can be daunting if you don’t know the facts. We’re committed to educating, as well as caring for, our community of seniors and outpatients. Here is some information to help you understand the essentials of joint replacements and the benefits of physical therapy.
A joint replacement is a surgical procedure whereby the diseased cartilage and bone of, for example, the hip joint is surgically replaced with artificial materials. Replacement of hips and joints are actually rather common in the U.S. Indeed, in 2015 alone, U.S. surgeons performed an estimated 378,000 total hip replacements, and by 2020, that number will grow to more than 510,000, according to Medscape.
After surgery, the patient is usually taken to a recovery room for observation, which generally lasts between one and four hours. During this immediate recovery period, patients are given intravenous fluids to maintain electrolytes and replace any fluids lost during surgery. Using the same IV, antibiotics and pain medication might be administered.
Pain-control medications are commonly given through a patient-controlled-analgesia (PCA) pump, which allows patients to administer their own dose of medication on demand. Pain medications occasionally can cause nausea and vomiting. Anti-nausea medications may then be given.
Many post-op patients begin physical therapy soon after surgery, because physical therapy is vital for ensuring the best chance of a full recovery.
So what is involved in the rehabilitation process?
One day after surgery, it is common to take some small first steps with minor physical therapy while sitting in a chair. Later, rehabilitation incorporates stepping, walking, and climbing. Initially, supportive devices, such as a walker or crutches, are used. Pain is monitored while exercise takes place. It is normal to experience a degree of discomfort, but don’t push yourself and take direction from the nurses and physiotherapists who’ll be monitoring you.
The goals of physical therapy are to prevent contractures, improve patient education, and strengthen muscles around the joint through controlled exercises. Physical therapy is extremely important to the overall outcome of any joint replacement surgery.
Specific techniques of body posturing, sitting, and using an elevated toilet seat can be extremely helpful. If the operation has been on a hip, patients are instructed not to cross the affected lower leg across the midline of the body (i.e. not crossing the leg over the other leg) because of the risk of dislocating the replaced joint. Patients are also not advised to bend at the waist. And when lying on the affected side, it’s often best to use a pillow between the legs to prevent the affected leg from crossing over the midline.
In the case of a hip replacement, patients are given home exercise programs to strengthen the muscles around the buttock and thigh. Patients are instructed not to strain the joint with heavy lifting or other unusual activities.
Many patients attend outpatient physical therapy for a while to learn and use exercises regularly into their daily living.
Occupational therapists are also part of the rehabilitation process. These therapists review precautions with patients related to everyday activities. They help educate patients about the adaptive equipment that is available and the proper ways to conduct “activities of daily living,” commonly called “ADLs” by therapy staff.
The GreenFields Continuing Care Community offers a wide range of services in injury prevention, pre-surgical treatment and rehabilitation, all orthopedic injuries (before and after surgical care), joint replacements, arthritis-related conditions, chronic pain management, rehab (stroke and cardiac), outpatient therapy and more. Contact us to learn how we can help you on your road to recovery.