Life After Total Joint Replacement

For most people, arthritis is the leading reason for requiring a joint replacement procedure. The degenerative disease can cause the bones in affected joints to touch, thanks to a loss of cartilage. Constant contact can manifest as pain or discomfort when in motion. While some individuals are candidates for partial surgeries, other joint pain sufferers are best served by a total joint replacement. During the procedure, the affected ends of the joint bones are replaced by more durable materials. However, for best results, lifestyle changes may be required.

Total vs partial replacement

An orthopedic surgeon will consider various factors when providing a formal diagnosis for either a partial or total joint replacement procedure. A primary concern includes the extent of the joint damage. Patients that are ideal candidates for partial replacements have less degenerative progression in the affected joint. However, most people will require a total joint replacement. The following tips can improve recovery and long-term outcomes.

1. Lose weight if necessary

A leading cause of arthritis is weight gain. Being overweight or obese can translate to significantly more force exerted on the joints. A joint replacement in the hips or knees, areas that are required to support significant loads, is better served if people carrying excess weight commit to an exercise plan. Research suggests that even being just 10lbs overweight can translate to a load of 30-40lbs more on the knees.

2. Strengthen the joint

After surgery, working with a physical therapist is essential to recover and improve mobility. This professional can provide tips for best practices to improve movement and minimize the risk of future injuries. Additionally, licensed physical therapists can also offer guidance for the correct exercises to enhance mobility. Physical therapy (PT) also supports building muscle strength and ensures better joint stability for weight support.

3. Get back to normal slowly

Arthritis is a primary contributing cause of joint replacement. However, arthritis is degenerative and can be repetitive depending on a person’s habits. While recovering, avoid engaging in the same movements over extended periods, as the habit can increase the risk of experiencing additional strain or discomfort. If needed, consider using therapeutic devices like braces or tendon straps to distribute force and reduce the overall load on the joint.

A proactive recovery

Not all people with joint pain will require surgery. In many cases, non-invasive solutions such as steroid injections or even platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections can aid in repairing damage for more minimal joint issues. However, partial or total joint replacement surgery may be necessary for some patients. To achieve the best outcomes during recovery, patients should follow physician guidelines and participate in PT as recommended.