What to Expect during your Joint Replacement Surgery Journey

  • May 28, 2024
  • Joint Replacement Surgery
  • knee replacement
Rotator Cuff Tear | Dr Jason Ward | Orthopaedic Surgeon

What to Expect during your Joint Replacement Surgery Journey

Joint replacement surgery, whether for the knee, hip or shoulder aims to relieve pain and improve overall joint function. While the decision to undergo joint replacement surgery is often accompanied by hope for a better quality of life, it’s important to understand what to expect during the recovery process. The joint replacement surgery journey towards a full recovery will typically last six months to one year depending on the type of surgery.

Knee Surgery - Dr Jason Ward - Adelaide Knee Surgeon

Before your hospital admission

Once you have made your decision to have joint replacement surgery in consultation with Dr Jason Ward, there will be some pre-admission medical checks and preparatory scans for surgery.  There will be some paperwork to do which Dr Jason Ward’s admin staff will assist you with, as well as a health screening check with Dr Ward’s practice nurse.  Closer to the surgical date, you will be given details about hospital admission and fasting times (when to avoid eating or drinking).

Hospital Stay to Early Mobility

Immediately after your joint replacement surgery, you will be admitted to hospital for 2-4 days.  The length of admission will vary depending on the type of surgery. During this time, you will be monitored closely by Dr Ward’s team to ensure pain is managed effectively, infections are prevented, and any concerns are promptly addressed. This will include management of your sterile dressings and any surgical drainage tubes that may be required.

Dr Ward’s team includes in-hospital physiotherapy which will guide you through initial joint movement and early weight bearing for knee and hip replacement surgery.  The sessions with the Physio will aim to ensure you regain control over your joint movement with an exercise program that is carefully tailored, considering the type of joint surgery and your overall health.

The Physio team may also guide you in the proper use of assistive devices like crutches or a walking frame, to ensure you are walking safely and preventing undue stress on the recovering joint.

Once you are independent, you will be discharged and provided with a personalised home exercise program to follow for the next two-six weeks.  These exercises will focus on range of movement and gradual strengthening exercises to promote restoration of function and strength around the joint. In most cases, you will transition away from walking aides (for knee and hip replacement) over that time.

Your follow-up appointment in Dr Ward’s rooms will allow him to monitor your recovery progress. You will be discharged from the hospital with an initial supply of pain relief.  It is important that you also schedule a follow-up with your GP to ensure you have an ongoing supply of pain relief.  Using regular ice or cold packs as well as elevation of the limb will also help to manage post-operative pain.

Building Strength and Function during your joint replacement surgery journey

Your exercise program will start immediately post-op and will gradually progress to allow you to incorporate more movement and strengthening as you become more comfortable in the weeks following discharge from hospital.  The exercises will aim to increase your strength, flexibility and co-ordination so you can gradually return to your normal activities.

  • Physiotherapy: More advanced exercises are introduced to further strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint, aiming to maximise gains in strength, flexibility, and joint stability. Your program is tailored to take into consideration the type of surgery and your overall health.
  • Functional Activities: You will undertake an exercise program that aims to gradually incorporate activities you would normally do (for example walking up and down stairs, bending and reaching). The goal is to bridge the gap between the exercises performed in a clinical setting and the demands of your daily activities.
  • Progressive Resistance: Your rehabilitation will focus on building strength with progressive resistance exercises that target the muscles which provide stability around the joint. These exercises aim to improve coordination and proprioception (position sense).
  • Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy or water-based therapy can be introduced to enhance your rehabilitation. The buoyancy of water provides a supportive environment, allowing you to perform exercise and make gains more comfortably.
  • Sport-Specific Exercises: If necessary, you may undergo a gradual integration of training tailored to the demands of your specific sport, focusing on skills and movements required for optimal athletic performance.

Returning to Everyday Activities and Sustaining Your Joint Health

Depending on your type of joint surgery, you will gradually reintegrate into normal everyday activities, like returning to work and resuming more active pursuits.  A more active lifestyle will hopefully allow easier weight management, which will contribute to sustained joint health.

Dr Ward will see you regularly during your recovery journey.  It is important to understand from the start that recovery is a gradual process that requires patience, perseverance and a strong partnership with healthcare professionals. Adhering to your rehabilitation plan and communicating openly with your medical team is key.  Don’t forget to celebrate small victories along the way as they are important to keep you motivated to achieve a successful recovery journey.

Each patient’s joint replacement surgery journey recovery is different depending on the type of joint surgery performed and your individual overall health. Schedule an appointment and ask Dr Jason Ward any questions you may have about the recovery process.


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