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Return to active lifestyle after hip, knee surgery by following a recovery plan

Posted on: December 19th, 2017 by Dr. Victor D. Antonacci

The virtue of patience rings true for many aspects of our daily lives, particularly when recovering from an injury.

Whether the injury was sudden, or pain built up over time, we want it fixed, and we want it fixed now. And we want to feel better quickly and return to our normal lives as soon as possible.

There is opportunity where our minds and bodies can meet in the middle. Patients who adhere to post-surgical recovery plans are the most successful. That means following your provider’s advice for resting and healing; physical therapy; and any additional exercising or strengthening to help your body recover.

At OrthoIllinois, I specialize in hip and knee replacements, which are most often the result of arthritis brought on by general wear and tear on the body. The decision to have surgery often comes after patients have tried medications or various nonsurgical therapies. As technology has improved, we have been able to offer more minimally invasive surgery options, which allow patients to recover faster and with less pain after making the big decision to have surgery.

For hip replacements, most patients today are good candidates for the direct anterior total hip replacement procedure, which is a minimally invasive surgery that minimizes muscle damage and doesn’t require muscles to be cut, resulting in a smaller incision, reduced pain and shorter hospital stay. I have performed more than 1,600 anterior hip replacements.

The anterior approach is a great example of improvements in treatment techniques that focus on getting patients better faster. With a traditional total hip replacement, patients are given restricted limitations on hip motion and flexing of the hip for six to eight weeks. Patients who qualify for the anterior approach can bend the hip freely and bear full weight as soon as they are comfortable doing so.

Most patients will stay in the hospital overnight after hip and knee replacement surgery. For hips, physical therapy often begins the same day as surgery to help with walking, strengthening and range of motion. Patients can also qualify for outpatient total hip and knee replacements. These candidates are assigned a “total joint coordinator” who facilitates plans for pre-operative and post-operative recovery, which includes therapy before discharge and then either in the home or on an outpatient basis.

Here are a few more general tips that can help with your recovery.

Prepare your home: Post-surgery, you will have some soreness and have limited range of motion. Be proactive about moving rugs and arranging furniture at home so you can maneuver around safely and prevent injuries. That means also adjusting the bedroom and the bathroom for safer sitting and standing.

Follow instructions: Whether those instructions include restrictions on driving, crossing your legs or bearing weight on your hip or knee, follow the advice of your provider, and your body will have the time it needs to properly heal.

Work with your therapists: OrthoIllinois Rehabilitation specializes in many aspects of care, including physical and occupational therapy. With the surgery behind you, this is where the rubber meets the road. You will have an individualized plan to help you strengthen and rebuild your body over a period of weeks and months. That plan considers your goals, commitment and participation to improve your quality of life.

You can read stories on our website of patients walking and running 5Ks and even marathons after recovery from their injuries. These tend to be exceptions, but our goal is always to get patients back to their normal, everyday activities without pain. That reality can be achieved by sticking to a post-surgery recovery plan.