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Joint Surgery Recovery Tips

After joint surgery, a patient’s first few days at home can often be the most difficult. Naturally, they will be tired and in pain. However, they will also need to adjust to a surgical recovery process that takes time, and limit their body’s mobility.

Initial post-surgery readjusting can be frustrating, so make sure they know to lean on others for assistance whenever possible. This is especially true in situations like hip, knee, and shoulder surgery recovery, as basic mobility may be a difficult. Simple things like sitting, standing, and moving from different rooms can often be a struggle for patients as they start to recover. Because of all of this, mental preparation is key to their long-term recovery health.

It’s important to ensure that all wound care treatments and medications are kept on a schedule. Try to maintain proper timetables to regularly change their wound care healing products like gauze pads, medical tape, wound dressings and other wound care supplies to treat their surgical incision.

Knee Surgery Recovery Tips

Below are some things to keep in mind for their knee surgery recovery:

  • 1-10 days on crutches after knee surgery is very typical. This aids in the healing and recovery process.
  • Maintaining a passive range of motion immediately after surgery is strongly suggested.
  • Instruct them to listen to their body, and avoid putting weight on their knee until their doctor allows it.
  • Instruct them that starting isometric hamstring and quadricep movement exercises should be an early focus of their recovery, of course this is only with prior approval from their doctor.
  • Try to motivate them to continue the mobility of their lumbar spine, hips, ankles, and pelvis as best as they can during the beginning and middle stages of their recovery process.

Hip Surgery Recovery Tips

There are a handful of factors that can play a part in a patient’s recovery time after hip surgery; however, most patients are able return to normal activities within 1 to 6 months after surgery. It is best to always keep in mind the differences between their "short-term recovery" and "long-term recovery" goals. This is crucial so as to not over exert themselves. Below are some tips to keep in mind for each stage during their road to hip surgery recovery:

Short Term Recovery Tips

  • Patients will most likely be provided with a walker to stabilize themselves during the first couple days of hip surgery recovery; this is very typical and aids in the healing and recovery process.
  • While most patients are often allowed to go home within the first 3-5 days after surgery, make sure to reinforce that they should always maintain their own pace, and listen to their body. Their recovery timeline is different than others.
  • A final stage in their short term recovery is if/when they no longer need a walker or cane. This is usually a precursor to be able to  move consistently without pain. A good indicator is if they can walk the distance of two to three blocks without pain or the need to rest.

Long Term Recovery Tips

  • Long-term recovery means full healing of the surgical wound incision as well as all internal soft tissue.
  • The average long-term recovery for hip surgery patients is around 6 months, but is by no means the standard a patient should look to for their personal recovery timeline. Make sure to reinforce that they maintain their timeline their doctor has laid out, and never rush their healing and recovery process.
  • One of the earliest indicators of successful long-term recovery is when they start to finally feel normal again. The first time they don’t realize they were encumbered by their surgical repair is the first big long-term recovery milestone, and should be celebrated.  
  • Typically, the other big milestone for recovery is when they can return to work, as well as participate in the typical life activities they did prior to surgery--this typically occurs after the 6 month mark, post-surgery.

Shoulder Surgery Recovery Tips

Below are some tips to keep in mind during a patient’s shoulder surgery recovery healing process:

Tips for 1 to 6 Weeks after Surgery
In the days after the operation, patients will be encouraged to keep their shoulder very still. Keep in mind that pain can vary from person to person. How much surgery their shoulder needed can also play a part in pain levels. Make sure to reinforce that it is best to listen closely to their doctor, and not rely too heavily on general timelines. But instead to focus only on those specific to their recovery. During this time, the use of wound care products and cold packs are recommended to reduce the swelling and pain, and aid in the healing process.

Tips for 6 to 12 Weeks after Surgery
During the next 6 to 12 week period, most patients are allowed to start using a limited range of movements with their arm. Reinforce that they should not be discouraged if this does not line up with their personal timeline. Shoulder surgery recovery is a long-term process. If their doctor has permitted them to move their shoulder, they will most likely still not be allowed to lift heavy objects. Let them know to avoid lifting anything heavier than your doctor has recommended, as this could place strain on their shoulder and lead to a longer recovery. Also make sure to keep them from trying to support any body weight with their arm or shoulder during this time period.

Tips for 3 to 6 Months after Surgery
During this period a patient should begin to feel a strengthening of their muscles in the arm due to doctor-recommended physical therapy. This is key to a full surgical recovery. However, make sure to let them know to not place too much strain on the joint, as the tendons in their shoulder are still healing. Remember, their recovery is a process, and should never be rushed. Continue to follow their doctor-recommended timeline to maintain and strengthen their shoulder muscles during their recovery.

Preventing Wound Infection during Joint Surgery Recovery

Patients who undergo joint surgery need to be very aware of the potential for infection, as it is one of the most serious aspects of the recovery process. Though infection only occurs in a percentage of patients, if untreated, it can lengthen and possibly limit the joint surgery recovery timeline. Notify their primary doctor immediately if they develop any of these signs of an infected wound.

Need additional wound care information? Call our nurse hotline at 1-800-526-3967 Monday through Friday EST (8am-8pm) to talk to a nurse and discuss additional information about joint surgery recovery time. Or consult with their primary doctor if there are any additional questions.

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