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While you are waiting for Surgery

By Dr Jocelyn Lowinger

When you are waiting for your hip or knee replacement, being able to continue with day-to-day tasks without aggravating pain or injury is important. The follow tips should help you manage your everyday life in the lead up to your surgery.

 

Staying healthy before surgery

Staying as healthy as you can before surgery can help you minimise the chance of complications arising from the surgery and help your recovery time.  You may wish to follow some of the following tips:1

  • Quit smoking, or at least cut down as best you can, as smoking can cause delays in healing and recovery.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and try to lose weight if you need to—being overweight can cause extra pressure on joints and may affect your new joint.
  • Do not drink alcohol at least 24 hours before surgery.2

 

Keeping active

Prior to surgery, ask your doctor what exercises are suitable for your condition. Gentle exercises to increase your range of motion and strengthen your muscles are best.3

 

Water exercise is best for joint pain. You could try swimming laps, taking part in a water aerobics class, or even walk around in the shallow end of the pool. If you are unable to exercise in water, you can try gentle walking on smooth, even surfaces if it does not cause too much pain.3

 

After surgery you will need to use a walker or crutches. Gentle upper body strengthening exercises prior to surgery will help make the transition easier. Also check if your doctor can advise on the exercises that will be required post-surgery. By becoming familiar with the exercises beforehand, you will get a head start on your recovery.1

 

Managing day-to-day

When you have joint pain, it can be difficult to carry out usual day-to-day tasks such as shopping and climbing stairs. Here are some ideas to help you get around whilst managing the symptoms of your condition: 4

  • Use painkillers like paracetamol or anti-inflammatories. Make sure you check with your doctor before taking them and use as directed.
  • Modify the activities that cause you pain. Rather than climbing the stairs or escalators at the shopping centre, take the lift.
  • Using a walking stick may take some of the weight off the affected joint.
  • Always use a shopping trolley, even for a light load of shopping, to take the pressure off your joints.

 

Here are some ideas to help you manage at home: 4,5

  • Place items you use often in an easily accessible place so you can avoid reaching and bending.
  • If you have a two-storey home, consider minimising use of the stairs by temporarily living on the ground floor.
  • Plan ahead and reduce the number of trips up and down the stairs during the day.

 

Coping at work

It can be difficult to manage pain in your joints at work, but the following tips may help you throughout your day:

  • Allow for frequent breaks, particularly from repetitive movements
  • Take painkillers like paracetamol or anti-inflammatories as directed
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods
  • Use a trolley where possible for carrying and moving heavy objects.

 

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 

References

  1. Preparing for joint replacement surgery. OrthoInfo. Available at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00220 Accessed 23 June 2015.
  2. Preparing for surgery. General Surgeons Australia. Available at http://www.generalsurgeons.com.au/public-information/preparing-for-surgery Accessed 23 June 2015.
  3. Stay active and exercise – arthritis. MedlinePlus. Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000377.htm Accessed 23 June 2015.
  4. Total hip replacement FAQs. Orthoanswer. Available at http://orthoanswer.org/hip/total-hip-replacement/faq.html Accessed 23 June 2015.
  5. Arthritis at work: Ergonomics can help. WebMD. Available at http://www.m.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/ergonomics-at-work Accessed 23 June 2015.