You’re feeling like yourself again. The key is to living well with your new joint is to stay active while avoiding things that place excessive stress on it.
Recovery from a total joint replacement varies from person to person depending on their level of pain and activity prior to surgery. The first six months after surgery is considered the active recovery phase, so it’s important that you pace yourself and not try to take on too much too soon. However, if your surgery and rehabilitation have been successful, by the end of three months you will be coping well with most normal activities. You will begin to feel like your old self—but without the pain.
Today’s advanced joint implants are designed to mimic your natural joint. That means that, just like a natural joint, an artificial joint actually needs exercise to function optimally. Since good muscle strength and coordination are needed to provide the necessary stability and sensation of normal joint function (especially after a knee replacement), it’s important that you commit to a sensible activity regimen that blends weight-bearing exercises and cardiovascular training.
Weight-bearing exercises will help strengthen the muscles around your new joint, and maintain or even increase your bone density, which in turn will improve the fixation and stability of your new joint. Exercise will also improve your balance and coordination. Daily activities such as walking, bicycling, swimming, golf, moderate hiking, yoga and ballroom dancing will help maintain your joint’s flexibility and overall health—benefits that are icing on the cake, given that returning to such activities probably played a role in your decision to undergo joint surgery in the first place!
Ideally, your new joint will function well and last you for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, some joints do wear out and become loose. How long your new joint lasts will depend on many factors, including your physical condition, your weight, and your activity levels. The best course is to stay active, keep your weight under control, and avoid contact sports or sports that create high joint loads in the replaced joint.
The pain relief achieved by total joint replacement is benefit enough for most people, but when combined with a balanced regimen of exercise and activities, this will do even more to improve your overall health.
You’ve gotten through the hard part. Now it’s time to celebrate your success and enjoy a future with less pain and more possibilities.