Joints can experience a lot of wear and tear, particularly if you’ve managed to stay active through the majority of your life.
Due to this break down, total knee replacement is one of the highest volume orthopedic surgeries in the US. It’s likely you know someone who has undergone the procedure or is getting ready to.
There were nearly 700,000 total knee replacement surgeries in 2018. Due to increases in population, activity levels, and average weight, that number is expected to increase to more than 3 million by 2030.
Despite how often the procedure is performed, a number of patients (about 1 out of 12) need to be readmitted to the hospital due to complications after surgery. These complications range from infection to wound healing, cardiovascular problems, venous thrombosis, pain, and arthrofibrosis (scar tissue development that limits knee function).
If a total knee replacement is in your future (or someone you know), here are 5 ways you can increase your chances of a successful recovery from surgery.
Prehabilitation is the concept of developing as much strength and range of motion around the knee (and in the legs in general) as possible before surgery. You “pre-hab” by working with a qualified therapist or strength trainer.
By doing so, the theory is that you will have a better surgical outcome, and the research indicates this theory is true. Pre-hab has been shown to:
2. Lose Weight
Weight plays a significant role in your total knee replacement outcome, so much so that certain hospitals have stopped providing the surgery for patients who are extremely overweight. Obsese patients nearly double their odds from infection after surgery. Those who go through surgery at a healthy weight decrease the risk for:
As an added bonus, weight loss should also help those knees feel a little better before surgery.
3. Start rehab early
…And this could mean really early. Ask your doctor how soon they plan to start mobilizing the knee after surgery. Some studies have shown that mobilization within 4 hours of surgery can decrease risks for venous thrombosis (one of the most common causes of hospital readmission).
It can also contribute to a shorter length of stay at the hospital, higher functional scores after surgery, and improved pain control.
Whether your doctor clears you for mobilization after 4 hours or 4 weeks, make sure you adhere to their schedule. Don’t blow off your rehab, as it will significantly affect your chances of a successful recovery.
4. Be Prepared For Setbacks
Expect the unexpected. Even if you’ve done everything right, there’s still a chance there may be setbacks along the recovery process. Make sure your physician and his/her team are educating you on any potential setbacks that may occur after surgery.
By being well educated, you can prepare psychologically for any obstacles in your way during the recovery process and tell yourself that no matter the setback, you WILL make a full recovery.
5. Eat Healthy
If you’re not already well versed on the basics of a healthy diet, now is the time to seek help. Not only will eating healthy help you to lose weight before surgery, but it will also optimize your recovery.
A healthy diet will give you all the nutrients your body needs to make that knee feel brand new. After surgery, your diet might need to be a little higher in protein, fruits, and vegetables. You’ll also want to avoid foods that are likely to cause an inflammatory response.
If you need help in this area, let me know – I’d be happy to connect you with a few of the experts in my network.
If you've already had a total knee replacement and still aren't back to 100%, you'll want to reach out to a member of our team.
We may be able to point you in the right direction to help you restore range of motion, decrease pain levels, build strength, and get back to an active lifestyle.
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1. Wang L, Lee M, Zhang Z, Moodie J, Cheng D, Martin J. Does preoperative rehabilitation for patients planning to undergo joint replacement surgery improve outcomes? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ Open. 2016;6(2):e009857. Published 2016 Feb 2. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009857
2. O'Neill SC, Butler JS, Daly A, Lui DF, Kenny P. Effect of body mass index on functional outcome in primary total knee arthroplasty - a single institution analysis of 2180 primary total knee replacements. World J Orthop. 2016;7(10):664-669. Published 2016 Oct 18. doi:10.5312/wjo.v7.i10.664
3. Same-day Mobilization following Total Hip and Total Knee Arthroplasty. Alberta Bone & Joint Institute. Published 2009 Oct 1.
About the Author
Evan Lewis is a nationwide leader in Neuro Therapy and founded the Baltimore area's only specialist Neuro Therapy facility.
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