Recently, we asked the readers of our sister site, Spine-health.com, to share the best tips they received from their surgeons when they had surgery. Their responses generated some great and useful feedback.
Although the Spine-health.com readers were mostly speaking about surgeons for their spinal surgeries, we feel these tips are applicable to all types of surgeries, including joint replacements:
- Total Hip Replacement for Hip Arthritis
- Undergoing Total Knee Replacement for Knee Arthritis
- Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery
Here are pieces of advice that readers received from their surgeons, which include tips for both before and after surgery:
- Be patient.
For example, even though you may be sitting on the bed or even standing within 24 hours of a hip replacement surgery, it will still take several weeks or even months before you’ll be able to stop taking pain medications and walk without the help of a walker or cane.
- Seek a second opinion.
It may be surprising to hear a surgeon say this, but they want you to hear more than one opinion on what your options are and whether surgery is the right choice for you. Just beware that studies show people are more likely to give more credit the second opinion they hear, so weigh both opinions equally (or seek a third).
- Work on losing extra pounds before surgery.
If you’re a healthy weight when you have surgery, your recovery will be quicker and less likely to involve complications.
- Keep moving.
Your recovery will be quicker and less painful if you stay active during recovery. Your surgeon may ask you to walk for 20 minutes on most or all days.
- Stay faithful to movement precautions.
After surgery, you will have certain movements or positions that you’re instructed to avoid so you don’t put a strain on your surgery site. It can be easy to forget or discard these instructions in the spur of the moment, so before surgery think through scenarios that may occur and how you’ll manage them without violating these movement precautions. This may even protect you from the need for a revision surgery.
- Know what to expect.
Studies show that the better understanding patients have about what results they can expect after surgery, the more satisfied they are. Ask your surgeon about whether long-term pain may still be a factor for you and/or whether you'll be able to return to full activities. Remember, a surgeon's idea of a successful outcome may not be the same as yours.
- Keep an eye on mental health.
If you are experiencing any mental challenges like depression, it's important that you discuss your surgery options with a psychologist and get treatment. This can help your surgical outcomes and recovery.
- Do gentle stretching exercises.
Gentle stretching can prevent muscle stiffness and soreness as you recover. But remember to be careful with any type of exercise, and follow the advice of your physical therapist and/or doctor.
- Quit tobacco.
Smoking is one of the primary causes of post-surgical complications that you can do something about, so work on quitting or cutting down before your procedure. Ask your doctor about resources for quitting, or visit smokefree.gov.
- Don’t bail on pain medication too early.
You may be tempted to cut down or quit early with taking your pain medications, but pain can slow down your recovery by hurting your emotional well-being and discouraging you from staying active. Work with your doctor or pharmacist if you feel you need to adjust your plan for managing pain after surgery.
- Eat a healthy diet, including protein.
Protein is important because it helps your body build bones, muscles, and soft tissues. Include proteins in your diet by eating lean meats, fish, beans, and nuts.