You’ve had pain for a while, and your doctor has finally said you will get a new hip or knee … and recently, the BC Government promised an influx of money into the health care system to reduce the wait times for surgery … so, what does this mean for you and a joint replacement? You could be moving up the waiting list sooner than you expect, so now what?
Likely your doctor mentioned that people who are healthier and fit prior to their surgery have better outcomes and shorter recovery times. But, it’s common with ongoing hip or knee pain that activity decreases prior to surgical consultations and interventions. When people stop moving because it hurts to walk or do the most basic daily activities, muscles become weaker and joints become more unstable. If there is little strength or support for the damaged joint prior to the replacement, after surgery the spiffy new joint won’t be strong or stable, and this is important.
There are many issues to be addressed and some things you could be doing to make this whole process easier. What can you do BEFORE your surgery (pre-hab work):
Make sure your upper body is strong. You will need to rely on a walker, crutches, or a cane for a period and having strong muscles in your arms, shoulders, back, and especially your trunk (core) will make getting around easier. The last thing you want to do is stumble or fall with one of your assists, so add in some weight training.
Work on your balance. Challenge yourself to stand on both your ‘good’ leg and on your ‘bad’ leg. You’ll be doing this A LOT after your surgery. You need to feel confidence in your ability to stay stable.
Any exercises you can do to maintain mobility and strength in your lower body – like lunges, squats, and calf raises. You can perform all of these exercises in a pain-free range, no matter how small the range is.
What should you do AFTER your surgery:
Ankle pumps – lay on your back (and try and get to the floor for an added push, rather than your bed) and flex and point your foot. This will increase blood flow and return (for better circulation) and help prevent blood pooling – which will decrease the swelling (and often it’s the swelling that increases the pain). Do lots of these, just keep pointing.
Straight leg raise – Sit up tall on your bed, bending your ‘good knee’ and keeping the surgical leg straight. Squeeze your thigh muscle and lift your leg (which will raise your foot). Don’t forget to do both legs to improve muscle balance.
Glute (butt) squeezes – this is just what it sounds like … while you are laying down, clench your bum cheeks together in sets of 10 or 15 trials. A wonderful physiotherapist in Prince George says to imagine you are picking up $100 dollar bills J
Single leg stance – stand beside a chair and shift your weight to one side. Try and get all of your weight onto one leg. This should be made easier because of all the pre-hab balance work you did before your surgery!
We have rehabilitation classes specifically designed for people prior to or recovering from joint replacements. After you have stabilized the joint with your physiotherapist, come and see us for a 6-week series or two of classes. Following that work, you are welcome to stream into our Vitality or Golf series. No matter what your pre- or post-surgery timeline is, we have a class for you!