What Can I Do Before Knee or Hip Replacement Surgery to Better Recover After?

Doctor showing hip replacement piece on patient's leg

October 07, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this story:
William Baione, M.D.

Today, hip and knee replacement surgeries have high success rates of helping people return to their previous quality of life and reducing pain. Taking steps even before surgery can help improve your recovery period.

William Baione, M.D., a joint replacement fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon at Jersey Shore University Medical Center and Raritan Bay Medical Center offers five tips for setting yourself up for maximum success post-knee or hip replacement.

1. Stay active but safe

“Run-of-the-mill arthritis can be aggravated by high-impact activities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still stay active,” Dr. Baione says.

If you have pain, avoid high-impact exercises like running and jumping. Instead, choose low- or moderate-impact exercises such as:

  • Swimming
  • Using an elliptical machine
  • Walking
  • Riding a stationary bike

2. Strengthen existing muscles

“I often tell patients that I can replace your joint, but I can’t give you new muscles,” Dr. Baione says. “Anything you can do to preserve the strength you have now will help post-surgery.”

He suggests a combination of stretching and strengthening before surgery, and notes that you do not need elaborate tools and machines for this. For example:

  • Light hand weights: One exercise is to sit cross-legged on the floor, hold your weights, and lift and extend your arms until they are bent at 90 degrees (in a goal post stance). Rotate your arms so your elbows move to meet each other in front of your face, then move back to the starting position (goal post) and repeat.
  • Leg lifts: Lay on your back, bending one leg and extending the other fully out. Raise the extended leg up about 12 inches while keeping your knee straight. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower. If you aren’t able to do this lying down, you can to it while standing up.
  • Sitting kicks: Sit down in a chair with arms. Holding the arms of the chair, push down and straighten your arms as you raise your buttocks a few inches off the seat. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower

3. Use the common sense rule

“If any exercises or stretches are excruciating to do, don’t do it,” Dr. Baione says.

If you are in too much pain for muscle-strengthening before surgery, he recommends focusing on maintaining your mobility, avoiding falls and staying as active as you can.

4. Take advantage of pre-op classes

Before your surgery, learn as much as you can about the procedure and what recovery will be like. Hackensack Meridian Health offers joint replacement classes at locations across the network for patients who decide to have joint replacement surgery.

During these classes, patients meet with a variety of professionals from the orthopedics team. They can ask questions about the procedure and learn how to best prepare for their surgery and recovery.

“These classes put patients at ease in terms of what to expect with the surgery, where to go the day of the procedure, what to expect in recovery and how to prepare your home for your discharge,” Dr. Baione says. “It’s similar to how an expectant mother takes a class and tours the hospital before the birth.”

5. Keep strengthening and staying active after surgery

To maintain strength, continue exercising over time. Stay as active as possible well after surgery.

“All of the things we recommend leading up to surgery, we also recommend after surgery,” Dr. Baione says. “The good news is most patients—now that they don’t have the pain that limited them—can return to the activities they enjoyed, from tennis to golf to skiing to bike rides.”

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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