How to recover well from orthopedic surgery


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Physical recovery from any surgery can take time depending on the specific diagnosis and treatment, ranging from a few weeks to over a year. But recovering from orthopedic surgery isn’t just about fusing bones, stitching up tears or replacing joints and will likely involve changes in your activities of daily living.

81-year-old Karen Anderson was watering her lawn on a hot summer day when she briefly turned her attention to the other side of the path. The next thing Anderson knew, she had landed on her driveway with her left ankle entangled in a garden hose. “At that age, you just can’t multi-task,” she says from her home in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

“It’s easy to use crutches in our twenties, but as we get older these, along with walkers and scooters, require coordination to use.”

Anderson ended up breaking her shin bone, which required a plate and screws and for her to not bear weight for 10 weeks. However, she believes that, as bad as her fall was, being physically fit was key to her successful recovery.

With two new knees in as many years, an exercise routine that includes three days of yoga, three days of water aerobics and daily walking to stay in shape, Anderson offers practical advice: “Stay active, be present in right now and follow doctor’s orders. “

“A foot or ankle injury is actually more debilitating than a shoulder, hip or wrist injury because you’re going to have to take your feet off your feet, and sometimes for months,” says Dr Andrew Hanselman, orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon. at Duke University.

Additionally, he stressed how essential it is to be in good shape, so if an accident occurs, you have the strength and balance to move around in other ways.

“It’s easy to use crutches in our 20s, but as we get older these, along with walkers and scooters, require coordination to use and minimize the risk of falling,” Hanselman notes.

life after surgery

If your doctor needs crutches after surgery and you’ve never used them before, make sure you have a medical professional explain how to use them properly. Practicing ahead of time can save you from underarm bruising or worse.

“Staying ahead of your pain is key to getting your discomfort under control.”

There is also youtube videos if you prefer to practice in the comfort of your own home.

Patricia Brennan, a 76-year-old active from Bloomington, Minnesota, credits her “boot camp” training (a group fitness class that focuses on intense activity alternating with intervals of lighter activity) for her recovery from total hip replacement surgery. the hip in 2020.

“Other people I’ve known are afraid to exercise because it hurts. But when I exercise and do my class, I often feel better afterwards and it stays better the next day. as well,” Brennan said.

The research validates Anderson and Brennan’s experiments. The more physically fit you are before an operation, the better your results.

“Even a single visit to a physical therapist before surgery helps reduce the need for acute care afterwards,” says Dr. Scott McAfee, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Clinical Specialist in Orthopedics at MovementX in Washington, D.C.

pain management

In the case of shoulder surgery, your arm will most likely be immobilized for about six weeks, although physical therapy often begins right away.

Dave Hermetet, 70, of Lancaster, Ky., weathered two shoulder surgeries just six years apart. He suggests asking your doctor about going home with a pain pump as an alternative to opioids.

“Staying ahead of your pain is key to getting your discomfort under control,” says Jane Hinton, clinical director at home health care agency Interim Healthcare.

This is especially true for those who have had a nerve block (an injection to relieve pain). If the blockage clears up and you don’t follow the medication, you may need to return to the hospital for an IV to get your pain management back on track.

Some additional tips

Hinton offered additional advice for those moving with or without a caregiver, post-surgery:

1) Call a doctor if you have sudden shortness of breath; it could be a sign of something serious.

2) Buy a pill dispenser to track medications.

3) Have things nearby while you are resting.

4) Consider using a personal emergency response system (like a collar you push to call for help) as an added safety measure.

5) Make sure a trusted family member, friend or neighbor has an extra house key, if needed.

6) Take time to listen to music, meditate, look at pictures, do a puzzle – anything that can calm your mind and lift your spirits.

7) Stay connected with family and friends.

In addition to patient education, data shows that a strong social support system is essential for a positive patient outcome.

Finally, patients who achieve the best results, according to McAfee, “stay engaged, consistently perform their personalized home exercise program, ask good questions, and actively seek ways to improve.”

Sheryl Stillman
Sheryl Stillman is a former retail executive turned freelance writer and change management consultant. She enjoys writing on a variety of topics including aging, technology, and solo travel. Learn more about Read more

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