A Brand New Joint

After years of severe arthritis, some patients opt for total joint replacement surgery. Arthritis wears away the smooth cartilage and bone, which helps with shock absorption and reduces friction. Over time, patients experience severe pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. A total joint replacement procedure first removes damaged bone and cartilage. Next, a metal or ceramic prosthetic is installed to relieve pain and restore range of motion (ROM). Total joint replacements are common in the knee, hip, ankle, and shoulder. The surgery requires ample recovery time, and patients are often concerned about returning to work. How long does recovery take?

How long is joint recovery?

The recovery time for joint replacement surgery depends on the type of surgery. In the past, surgeons used open surgery for most joint replacements. Open surgery required an incision several inches long that went through the muscle. This process increased the recovery time. Now surgeons have the option of minimally invasive surgery (MIS). This technique uses smaller incisions and a unique device called a scope to view the damaged joint. Small tools help to remove damaged parts and install the new joint. Healing from open surgery can take an average of 3-6 months. MIS can significantly reduce that timeline.

Back to the office

Recovery starts as soon as the patient leaves the hospital. In the first 2 weeks, pain management and wound care take priority. After the 2-week mark, any stitches and bandages are removed. The patient will re-learn how to use the joint with physical therapy. These exercises can take several weeks. By the 4-6-week mark, patients should be able to manage simple desk work for short bursts of time. Some jobs are physically demanding, so more recovery time is required. Studies show that these patients need at least 12 weeks for total hip and knee replacements.

How can you boost your recovery?

Even with minimally invasive surgery, patients can perform different activities to speed up the process. Consistent physical therapy improves strength and flexibility, allowing patients to resume normal activities faster. Furthermore, a healthy diet provides the nutrients necessary for building new tissue, reducing inflammation, and increasing energy. Some patients may be suitable for a rapid recovery protocol. Rapid recovery consists of exercises in the weeks leading up to surgery, MIS, and special pain management protocols. As a result, patients return to normal activities in weeks, not months.

Back to business

A total joint replacement can help patients regain a high quality of life. However, recovery, including physical therapy, is necessary before resuming normal activities. Some patients are eager to return to work but must take things slowly. With MIS, patients can perform light work in a few weeks. High-effort, physical jobs need about 2-3 months to avoid injury. Then, following the doctor’s instructions and sticking to the recovery schedule, patients return in the blink of an eye.