Call (855) 796-0593 today to learn more about Orthopedic Services and to schedule your appointment.
After surgery you can expect gradual improvement over the coming months. You should expect less pain, stiffness and swelling, and a more independent lifestyle. Returning to work depends on how quickly you heal and how demanding your job may be on a new joint.
After you are discharged from the hospital or rehab facility, there will be a few weeks before you return for a follow-up visit with your surgeon. This period of time is critical in your rehabilitation and for positive long-term results from your surgery.
In general, patients do very well after discharge. However, it’s important that you contact the surgeon’s office if any of the following occur:
- You have increasing pain in the operative site.
- There is new or increased redness or warmth since discharge.
- There is new or increased drainage from your incision.
- The operative site is increasingly swollen.
- Your calf becomes swollen, tender, warm, or reddened.
- You have a temperature above 101 for more than 24 hours.
- For total knee replacement, your ability to flex (bend your knee) has decreased or remains the same as when you were discharged from the hospital.
Managing Pain and Discomfort
We encourage you to take your pain medication as soon as you begin to feel pain. Do not wait until the pain becomes severe. Follow the instructions on the prescription label. Remember to take your pain medication before activity, therapy and bedtime.
If you need to have stitches or staples removed and you are still taking pain medications, be sure to have a friend or family member drive you to your surgeon’s appointment.
Pain medication may cause nausea. If this happens, decrease the amount you are taking or stop and contact your surgeon’s office. If you need additional pain medication, please contact your surgeon’s office. If you need more pain medication, you must give a three day advance notice before you run out medication. Please plan ahead, especially for holiday weekends.
- You are not permitted to drive a car while taking narcotic pain medication.
- It may take several days to have a bowel movement. Anesthesia and pain medication often cause constipation. Drink plenty of fluids and eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. A stool softener or laxative can help bowel function return to normal.
- Please do not hesitate to call your surgeon’s office with any questions or concerns.
Your incision will be covered with a dressing. Before you go home, your surgeon or nurse will explain how to take care of your wound and when to remove your dressing. Make sure you understand these instructions before you leave the hospital and who to contact if you need assistance. Note: How to care for your wound is included in your hospital discharge instructions.
*Call your surgeon immediately if you notice any increase in drainage, redness, warmth, or have a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 24 hours. These may be signs that your incision may be infected
Walker, Crutches, Cane
Use your assistive devices for balance as instructed by your surgeon or therapist. By your first post-op visit with your surgeon, you may have already improved and changed from using a walker or crutches to a cane (as recommended by your surgeon or therapist).
The First 48 hours at Home
No matter how much you prepared for your homecoming, it will be an adjustment. You will likely experience anxiety. This is a normal feeling, so relax and focus on your recovery. Report any problems to your surgeon. Also expect a visit from the physical therapist or occupational therapist within 48 hours of discharge.
- Continue your exercise program and increase activity gradually; your goal is to regain strength and function.
- Follow all therapy instructions.
- Resume activity as you gain strength and confidence.
- For total knee replacement, swelling of the knee or leg is common with an abrupt increase in activity. If this occurs, elevate the leg above the level of your heart (place pillows under the calf, not behind the knee joint), and apply ice directly to the knee.
- You may continue with elevation and icing as needed to help decrease swelling and discomfort.
- Continued exercise at this early stage is important to achieve the best outcome with your new joint replacement. Based on your needs, your therapy may be continued at home or in an outpatient setting of our choice. You will be given an exercise program to continue exercising at home.
- Do not sit for longer than 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Use chairs with arms. You may nap if you are tired, but do not stay in bed all day. Frequent, short walks—either indoors or outdoors— are the key to a successful recovery.
- You may experience discomfort in your operated hip or knee, and you may have difficulty sleeping at night. This is part of the recovery process. Getting up and moving around relieves some of the discomfort.
- Until you are stronger, you should climb stairs with support. Climb one step at a time – “good” leg up - “bad” leg down. Hold on to a railing, if available.
- You may be a passenger in a car, but you should sit on a firm cushion or folded blanket to avoid sitting too low. See the instructions at the end of this guide for specific information for getting in and out of the car.
- You may not drive before your first post-op visit. The decision to resume driving your vehicle is made by your surgeon.
Do not lift anything heavy after surgery. Avoid lifting objects in a position where you need to squat or bend. Avoid climbing ladders. Your surgeon will let you know when it is OK to lift heavy objects.
Weeks 1 to 6 at Home
Our health team members are available to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You or a family member can call and receive answers to general questions as well as instructions in the event of an emergency. Do not hesitate to call your surgeon’s office regardless of the issue.
During the first six weeks after discharge, you should be making progress week by week. Most patients are eager to report their progress at follow-up visits and are ready to move to the next level in their recovery. Most patients can accomplish the following during the first six weeks after total joint replacement:
- Walk without help on a level surface with the use of walker, crutches, or cane as appropriate.
- Climb stairs as tolerated.
- Get in and out of bed without help.
- Get in and out of a chair or car without help.
- Shower using a tub bench once staples are removed – as long as there are no issues with the incision.
- Resume your activities of daily living including cooking, light chores, walking, and going outside the home. You should certainly be awake and moving around most of the day.
- Some patients return to work before the first follow-up visit. This is approved on an individual basis and should be discussed with your surgeon.
Icing and Elevation
After a joint replacement, swelling is expected. Swelling can cause increased pain and limit your range of motion, so taking steps to reduce the swelling is important. Continue using ice packs or some form of cold therapy to help reduce swelling.
For knee replacement, you may use pillows to elevate; however, it’s important to elevate the entire leg, down to the ankle. Never put a pillow only behind your knee so your knee is in a bent position. Your knee should be straight when elevated.
Sexual Activity After Joint Replacement
Many people worry about resuming sexual activity after a joint replacement.
Hip - Generally, it is safe to resume sexual activity six weeks after surgery as long as there is not significant pain. Initially, being on your back will be the safest and most comfortable positioning. As your hip heals, you will be able to take a more active role. Please discuss any specific concerns with your physical therapist or surgeon.
Knee - Sexual activity may resume when you are comfortable. Choose a position that does not strain or cause pain in your new joint. Talk with your physical therapist or occupational therapist.
Resume your diet as tolerated and include vegetables, fruits, and proteins (such as meats, fish, chicken, nuts, and eggs) to promote healing. Also, remember to have adequate fluid intake (at least 8 glasses a day). It is common after surgery to lack an appetite. This may be the result of anesthesia and the medications.
Proper nutrition is needed for healing. During the healing process, the body needs increased amounts of calories, protein, vitamins A and C, and sometimes, the mineral zinc. Eat a variety of foods to get all the calories, proteins, vitamins, and minerals you need.
If you have been told to follow a specific diet, please follow it. What you eat can help heal your wounds and prevent infection and potential complications. If you’re not eating well after surgery, contact your healthcare provider about nutritional supplements.
Weeks 6 to 12 at Home
This period after joint replacement is a time of continued improvement. You will probably notice an increase in energy, a desire to do more activities, and a noticeable improvement in your new joint. Please keep in mind that every patient is different and will improve at different pace. If you are not happy with the pace of your recovery, please contact your surgeon’s office to discuss your concerns.
After your two-week follow-up visit, you may or may not need an assistive device to walk. Everyone progresses at a different pace. It is important to follow the instructions of your surgeon and/or therapist.
Back to Work
Many patients return to work after the six-week follow-up visit.
Tips to remember for returning to work include:
- Avoid heavy lifting after you return to work.
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.
- Avoid activities such as frequently climbing stairs or climbing ladders.
- Avoid kneeling, stooping, bending forward or any position that puts the new joint under extreme strain.
- Expect a period of adjustment. Most people return to work with few problems.
However, you may find the first several days very tiring. Give yourself time to adjust to work again and gradually this should improve.
Continue Exercise Program
Continue to exercise. Many patients stop working with physical therapy during this time. However, exercising is the most important activity to increase strength and leads to the best outcome. Work or home activities should not replace your exercise program.
Comply with all Restrictions
Although you are feeling back to normal, it is important to understand and follow the restrictions your surgeon discussed with you. Any restrictions are to protect your operative hip or knee as you continue to heal. If you want to achieve a successful outcome, be patient and follow your surgeon’s instructions.
A full recovery from hip and knee replacement can take up to 18 months from surgery. Be patient with your progress and diligent with your therapy. Even after full recovery it is not uncommon to have some pain, remember, the majority of joint, including tendons, ligaments, bursa, etc., were not replaced and can be sources of pain in the future. If you have questions about whether the pain you are experiencing is normal, please ask your surgeon.
Call (855) 796-0593 today to learn more about Orthopedic Services and to schedule your appointment.