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Preparing for Recovery after Surgery

By Dr Jocelyn Lowinger

Recovery after a hip or knee replacement does not just start following your operation. There are many things you can do to get your recovery underway before you even go to hospital.


Getting your home ready

When you are preparing for joint replacement surgery, it is important to make sure that your home is safe. Things to think about include minimising tripping hazards and making sure you do not need to reach or bend for items in your home.


The key is to try to make it easy for yourself. Things you can do before having surgery include:

  • Set up a bed on the ground floor if you can so you do not need to climb stairs. It is also important to make sure that your bathroom is easy to access in the middle of the night.
  • Make sure that all the things you are likely to need throughout the day, such as your phone, remote controls, tissues, and reading material, are easy to access.
  • Remove any items that may cause trip hazards, such as mats, cords, and low tables.
  • Make sure that your lighting is bright enough for you to see clearly so you can avoid tripping.


If you live alone, try to organise someone to stay with you initially after surgery. The hospital may organise an occupational therapist to assess your living arrangements to see if you need handrails or other home modifications. The occupational therapist may also help you with things that can help make recovery easier such as a long-handled shoehorn or a grabbing tool.


Looking after yourself

Your physical and mental health are critical for your recovery.


Getting into shape, losing weight, and building strength before the procedure are important to help you recover physically from a joint replacement. It can take up to three months to feel fully recovered.  It is important that your expectations for recovery are realistic. So talk to your doctor to find out how long you can expect it to take you get back to your normal routines.


It is also important to eat well before and after the procedure to promote your recovery.  Before your procedure, stock up on healthy, nutritious meals and cook double batches of meals for freezing in the weeks leading up to surgery. This provides easy access to healthy meals and minimises the burden of shopping after your surgery.


It is normal to feel nervous or anxious before surgery, but too much anxiety can cause problems with healing, pain levels, and your immunity to infection. So it is good to be as calm as you can before the procedure. Breathing and relaxation exercises and listening to music can all help you manage anxiety. Talk to your doctor if you cannot get your anxiety under control.


Get support

Following surgery, daily routines and getting out to attending appointments, and going to the pharmacist will be difficult for a few weeks, especially while you are unable to drive. Make prior arrangements with your carer, family, or friends to help support you during this time.


Jocelyn is a doctor and professional health and medical writer with 20 years’ experience in the health industry. She has extensive experience in a range of approaches to improving the delivery of healthcare such as clinical governance, quality use of medicines, and developing high-quality health communications for consumers and health professionals.