Knee replacement surgery is a big undertaking. If you have knee arthritis or a knee injury that’s left you unable to move easily or enjoy activities, joint replacement surgery can significantly improve your quality of life, pain and mobility. But surgery is just the first step, and the actions you take afterward will define how successful your procedure is for long-term pain relief.
With that in mind, OJRCA is here to share 7 tips that will help you have the most successful outcomes from your surgery.
1. Ask All the Questions You Have
We know that getting surgery can be stressful and overwhelming, and we want you to go into it feeling confident. Call us with any questions or concerns you have leading up to your procedure. Our team is happy to walk you through every step of the process so you know what to expect. At OJRCA, we treat every patient like family.
Just because another doctor told you that you needed joint replacement surgery doesn’t mean we’re going to rush you off to the operating room the minute you call us. We perform a thorough history and physical exam for all patients before we make any treatment recommendations. If we believe there’s a non-surgical treatment you could try before surgery, we will discuss it with you.
2. Know What to Expect on the Day of Surgery
At OJRCA, the vast majority of our minimally invasive knee replacement surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis, so you’ll be able to return home the same day as surgery. Expect to spend a few hours with us the day of your procedure. After your surgery is complete, we’ll keep you in recovery and then get you up and walking within 1-2 hours. Early movement has so many important benefits: it helps reduce the risk of blood clots, pain and stiffness, and speeds up the recovery process.
After our team has gotten you moving, we will provide you with discharge instructions and then send you home so you can rest. Make sure you have a partner, family member or friend available to transport you to and from surgery.
3. Make Preparations for Your Recovery
You’ll be able to return home the same day as minimally invasive surgery with few or no restrictions and activity precautions. However, you’ll probably feel tired and sore your first few days after surgery. Make sure you have a good support system around to provide help by picking up prescriptions, buying groceries, doing house chores or driving you to your therapy appointments. You’ll likely need help moving around and performing daily tasks while you get used to your new joint.
Additionally, make sure you’re prepared to attend several weeks of physical therapy. You’ll need outpatient therapy a few days a week, so make sure your schedule is arranged to accommodate sessions. If you work, you may be out for a few weeks right after surgery, so make sure to get everything arranged before surgery.
4. Manage Your Pain
At OJRCA, we take pain management protocols very seriously. Before, during and after surgery, you’ll receive our unique mixture of medications — we call it our pain “cocktail” — to help reduce your pain levels as much as possible. Our protocols include using the latest local anesthetic blocks, which can effectively block pain signals for up to 2-3 days after surgery and significantly decrease post-op pain. Our aggressive pain management techniques can reduce or completely eliminate your need to take prescription narcotics after surgery.
Our post-op pain goal is that you only need to take a short course of prescription painkillers or none at all. It’s normal to have some pain, achiness, soreness or swelling after surgery. Apply ice packs several times a day for 25-30 minutes to relieve pain and swelling. Elevate the surgical leg on 5-6 pillows. Way above the head…not the heart!
Yes, 5-6!!! This will reduce the swelling and help control pain.
If you’re experiencing severe post-op pain that can’t be controlled with medications or at-home care, please call us as soon as possible. Our team will work with you to find an effective pain management solution and get your recovery back on track.
5. Take Physical Therapy Seriously
The real road to recovery begins with physical therapy. After a knee replacement surgery, you’ll need aggressive therapy for several weeks to regain movement, strength and mobility in the joint and surrounding muscles. Luckily, you don’t need to put your entire life on hold after surgery: you’ll be able to resume most of your normal activities while you’re attending outpatient PT.
We can’t stress this enough: work your hardest at PT, especially in the first few weeks, and religiously perform the home exercises your therapist gives you. After 2 weeks, we want you to be able to bend your knee to 95-100 degrees and have almost full extension capabilities. By 4-6 weeks, we want you to be able to bend to 120+ degrees and fully extend your leg. If you’re not pushing yourself in therapy, you may experience difficulty regaining full bending and extension capabilities. If that’s the case, you may have to come back to us and undergo a manipulation under anesthesia (MUA).
During a MUA, your surgeon will bend your knee while you are under anesthesia to break up scar tissue in the joint to improve your motion. And after that….back to even more aggressive PT. We truly don’t want to see you back in here for a second operation, so give your all to physical therapy from the very beginning.
6. Be Patient
Recovery can be a long and difficult process after a significant surgery like total joint replacement. It may take a few weeks or even a few months before your new joint feels comfortable and near pain-free. Remember, this isn’t the joint you were born with and it will take time for your knee to feel “normal” again.
When you’re in pain, uncomfortable or frustrated by your progress in PT, try to keep in mind that your surgery was a huge step to take in reclaiming your health and lifestyle. A few months of discomfort is worth it for the years you’ll have ahead of you with a healthy, fully functioning knee joint. Our joint replacement implants are incredibly strong and durable.
7. Keep Living a Healthy, Active Lifestyle
The key to maintaining your new knee joint for years to come is to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Regular exercise with low-impact activities — like walking, swimming, golfing, or yoga — can help you keep your joints and muscles strong and flexible, and prevent additional knee injuries. Eating a healthy diet to maintain a stable weight can help prevent excess body weight from exerting pressure and stress that wears down joints. Talk to your doctor about permanent lifestyle changes you can make to keep your new joint in good shape.
Call OJRCA to Learn About Outpatient Joint Replacement Surgery
If knee pain from arthritis or a knee injury is keeping you from being active and enjoying the quality of life that you deserve, it may be time to consider outpatient joint replacement surgery. At Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America, we’re committed to helping you reclaim your health and former activity levels. Please call us or reach out online to schedule an appointment at our Tampa, FL, clinic.