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4 Ways for Physical Therapists to Move More During a Full Caseload

The Total Joint Replacement Journey

by Tim Fedorski, MPT, FAFS, CAFS, 3D MAPSLeave a Comment

Do you know someone who has undergone total joint replacement surgery recently? How did they describe their experience? Were they happy with the outcome? Would they do it again? The answers to these questions can vary with different people answering them. As people remain active into their more mature years and develop joint pain, the option of a total joint replacement can become a reality if conservative treatment fails.

The Rise in Total Joint Replacements

A total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which parts of an arthritic or damaged joint are removed and replaced with a metal, plastic, or ceramic device called a prosthesis.1 The prosthesis is designed to replicate the movement of a normal, healthy joint. Projections on the number of joint replacement surgeries in the United States alone are staggering in the next twenty years. According to a study in The Journal of Rheumatology, the number of hip and knee replacements performed in 2020 was about 1.5 million. That number is estimated to be about 5 million in 2040.2 With that in mind; it is helpful to understand some of the important factors that help patients have a successful outcome following total joint replacement surgery.

Pre-Operative Preparation

Preparing for joint replacement surgery is crucial to a good outcome. Choosing the right doctor is an excellent place to start. Talking to friends and family about their experiences can be very helpful. Many patients choose to interview a few different surgeons to find the right fit. As we all know, it is important to have questions for your surgeon written down beforehand so that you have a good understanding of their protocol and expectations for recovery. Your primary care physician will have you undergo a physical and testing to make sure that your body can handle the stress of the surgery. Your physical therapist can help educate you on exercises before surgery to build strength and flexibility for a faster recovery. They can also help determine if you will need any equipment at home in the early days of rehab like a raised toilet seat, walker, cane, grab bars, etc. Education is key. Knowing more about what to expect can help alleviate some of your fear about the surgery.

The Day of Surgery

In today’s world, patients have options for total joint replacement surgery. More and more people are choosing to have it done in a surgical center where they return home the same day. For others, this is scary, and they may decide to stay a day or two in the hospital to be monitored before going home. Pain management and early motion are essential for a good recovery. Many doctors may advise you to take pain medication as needed in the early stages of recovery to tolerate movement and exercise with less pain/difficulty. Trying to ‘tough it out’ can backfire and set you back, so it is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations. Early motion is vital to preventing scar tissue and blood clots. Walking once an hour is a good idea to stimulate your body in many ways. Walking can help improve balance, strength, mobility, swelling, and blood pressure. You may be tempted to sit and not move because of the pain and swelling but strive for a good balance between resting and movement. Be active for short periods and then rest and elevate.

At Athletico Physical Therapy, we are proud to offer outpatient physical therapy visits in-home, where we can help get you moving right away. You can expect a home therapist to arrive the day after your hospital discharge. Your physical therapist will ensure that you have all necessary medical equipment, improve your range of motion, strength, balance, and endurance as well as prepare you to transition to an outpatient clinic setting. The benefit of in-home therapy is that your early stages of recovery are done in a familiar, comfortable environment to maximize your rehabilitation potential.

Post-Op Recovery

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘patience is a virtue?’ This saying might be a proverb worth committing to memory if you are recovering from a total joint replacement. Most surgeons will tell you that it takes six months to one year to recover fully from surgery. It is so important for a patient to keep that in mind as they recover. The first two weeks can be the toughest as your body deals with the pain/stiffness from surgery, but maintaining a consistent exercise schedule, medicine, ice, and rest can help you gain some control over the pain.

Physical Therapy’s Role in Recovery

In most cases, physical therapy starts right away. From the moment you wake up from surgery to the last session of outpatient therapy, your physical therapist will be there helping to guide your recovery. Physical therapists are movement specialists and experts at knowing how fast or slow to progress your program and motivate you to reach your fullest potential. They help individualize and customize your rehab program to include exercises that build your strength, mobility, balance, and endurance. Physical therapists also help educate patients on how best to reduce/control swelling and pain while maintaining and improving mobility and function.

At Athletico Physical Therapy, we successfully treat patients recovering from joint replacement surgery every day. If you or a loved one requires skilled rehabilitation following total joint surgery, we hope that you choose Athletico to ensure you have a safe, strong, and complete recovery. Get started by scheduling a Free Assessment today. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

References:
1. “Total Knee Replacement – Orthoinfo – Aaos.” OrthoInfo, https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/treatment/total-knee-replacement.
2. Singh, Jasvinder A., et al. “Rates of Total Joint Replacement in the United States: Future Projections to 2020–2040 Using the National Inpatient Sample.” The Journal of Rheumatology, 1 Sept. 2019, https://www.jrheum.org/content/46/9/1134.

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