The Value of Exercise Prior to Joint Replacement Surgery

There is nothing like having a surgical procedure and post-op rehab to learn more about what my patients are experiencing! On March 7, 2011, I had a Birmingham Hip Resurfacing surgery by Dr. Ed Su at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC. In the next several posts, I will write about my experience and offer helpful tips and information to your joint replacement surgeries even more comfortable and safe.

Exercising your stiff, sore joint prior to having a joint replacement surgery is important in order to improve range of motion and increase strength of the muscles around your arthritic joint. I played ice hockey in a men’s beer league (old guys) up to one week before my surgery. My hip was fairly flexible, despite the fact that I had bone on bone hip arthritis. Hips that lack soft tissue contractures are more easily manipulated when exposing the acetabulum (socket) and femoral head/neck. The same applies for arthritic knee patients who have poor flexion (bend) or a fixed bent knee (flexion contracture). This makes the surgery technique less difficult for the surgeon and also helps greatly with post-op physical therapy exercises.

What I learned from my own personal experience was that how much stress your other body parts have to bear as you learn how to do simple tasks post-op: moving in bed, getting on your side to use the urinal, getting your legs over the side of your bed to sit up, standing comfortably, and learning how to walk using a assistive device (walker or crutches).Thank God my other leg and arms were strong and powerful.

My advice: even if your joint is stiff and hurts with every step, some form of exercise will be helpful as you go through the surgery and rehab program. Aquatic pool exercises can be extraordinarily helpful to get you moving in a positive direction. The buoyant effect of waist deep water decreases the force of gravity pulling on your body, allowing you to move more freely. A physical therapist will have several exercises you can perform in bed, sitting in a chair, or at a local gym to maximize your rehab potential. Exercise also puts your mind on the right track of gaining confidence in how you will perform after your surgery. A positive attitude is a powerful force to assist you through your journey. I have a favorite saying: “life is motion, motion is about living, get moving and get groovin”!!!

In addition to increasing the flexibility and strength of the arthritic knee or hip, engaging in a disciplined exercise program will help get your cardiovascular heath and bowel habits on the right track. Patients who exercise raise their heart rate and get the blood pumping. Ask any patient who routinely enjoys a water exercise class at the neighborhood YMCA how they feel after a workout. Not surprisingly they will proclaim that they feel “alive”, invigorated, energetic and confident. By the way, the YMCA is an inexpensive sports club to join – I highly recommend it. Many older patients also have lots of fun meeting new friends while participating in the water program. Also, as you exercise, your water intake will increase and this will help patients who have problems with constipation. If possible, patients can also enjoy other non-impact activities such as riding a stationary bike or doing a gentle elliptical machine workout. Stay away from the treadmill! As your overall conditioning improves with a comfortable program, you will become more prepared for your post-op rehab exercise routine.




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