– Richard Szabala PT, OCS

How can I avoid needing a knee or hip replacement in the future?

Recovery from joint replacements can be anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months, depending on several factors, including a person’s medical history, extent of the arthritis, and surgical procedure. But, if you ask anyone who has had a joint replacement, the reduction in pain and return of function is well worth the recovery time.

When someone needs a joint replacement, 90% of the time it is due to osteoarthritis or wearing down of the cartilage in your joints from wear and tear placed on our joints through our daily lives. There are several factors that contribute to osteoarthritis, including:

• obesity,
• walking on hard, uneven surfaces,
• keeping our joints in excessive bent positions,
• general muscle weakness, and
• heredity.

The best way to minimize the wear and tear on your joints is to keep the joints moving, keep your muscles strong and be aware of the positions that increase stress on your joints.

Begin an exercise program that focuses on high repetition, low resistance exercises like biking or walking and leg raise exercises that focus on hip strengthening.

If you already are demonstrating signs of osteoarthritis, minimize the use of the stairs and avoid the squatting position. An occupational therapist can help with modifications in how daily living activities are completed to minimize stress on arthritic joints including training in the use of adaptive equipment. As always, keep an eye on your body weight with a healthy diet.

Why Do I Still Have Pain after a Knee Replacement?

A total knee replacement is an extensive surgical procedure in which a metal prosthesis is placed in the knee to take the place of the worn down joint surfaces. Although there is a lot of cutting in bone and soft tissue, often times, the main muscles surrounding the knee are merely moved out of the way during the surgery.

Although it is rare to continue to have surgical soreness many years after surgery, it is not totally unheard of to have soft tissue and other joint pain. Generally, it takes a full year for muscle strength to return to 100%.

When patients are discharged from our physical therapy clinic we educate them that the exercise program they were provided with is a lifelong commitment and should be continued at least every other day. Not following these instructions can cause all of the muscles to atrophy and become weaker, thus making it difficult to climb stairs and rise from a sitting position. If this is the case, I would recommend making an appointment for physical therapy so that you can receive a refresher course on your exercises.

Another factor that can cause difficulty climbing stairs and rising from a sitting position is the condition of the other joints in your body. If you have extensive arthritis in your hips or other knee, then climbing stairs and rising from sitting can agitate the other joints. Once again, strengthening can help in those cases.

The moral of the story is that you should continue exercising long after any surgery of the joints, as Motion is Lotion and keeps the joints healthy.

If you would like to learn more about joint replacements, Partners In Rehab & AthletiCare regularly sponsors a 2-hour seminar on joint replacements titled Knee to Be. Call HealthConnection at (716) 447-6205 for information about future classes or visit www.chsbuffalo.org.

Richard Szabala PT, OCS is a Senior Physical Therapist at AthletiCare-Orchard Park.