Paving The Way to Joint Replacement Success

By Dr. Jeanette Kochman, PT, DPT, OCS

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disease in the world. At the end stage of the disease, usually when patients cannot handle the pain anymore and other more conservative treatments have failed, joint replacement surgery is the most common and effective treatment to reduce pain and improve function.

 After making the decision to undergo knee or hip replacement surgery, some people worry that post-surgery rehabilitation will be too much for them. A new focus on “prehab” is helping some patients prepare physically and mentally for the road ahead.

The term “prehab” refers to preoperative (before your surgery) visits with a physical therapist. Prehab has been gaining acceptance around the country and has been demonstrated to improve preoperative function.  Preoperative function has consistently been associated with early postoperative function following knee and hip replacement surgery. In other words, the better you are functioning going into the surgery, the better you’ll be functioning on the other side of the surgery. Think of prehab as paving the way to joint replacement success!

During prehab, you and your physical therapist will cover three main areas:

  1. What to do before your surgery (you’ll receive an exercise program customized to your needs and fitness level) 
  2. What to expect while you’re in the hospital
  3. How to set yourself up for success after surgery

Prehab helps with the recovery process for a number of reasons:

  1. Better support: the strength you’ve gained from doing exercises provides support for the new joint which makes it much easier to move around, with or without walking aids
  2. Increases confidence: you already know what to expect, so you aren’t fearful and you are already familiar with some of the exercises, so you can get going quicker
  1. Builds good habits: if you have gotten into the habit of doing exercises regularly before surgery, it is easier to commit to doing them afterwards
  2. Quicker recovery: The more strength and movement you achieve before surgery, the easier it will be to recover after surgery. You will be starting from a much better place.

Physical therapist, Dr. Jean Flanagan Jay (Director of Rehabilitation Services at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital) has this to say about her patients that participate in prehab:

            “These patients come in feeling confident and prepared for surgery,” says Jay. “They have     improved their functional level. Some even may delay surgery because they are doing well.”      She also adds, “If someone has expectations that they will be up and walking the first day and            that they’ll be in the hospital typically just one night, they do better. Telling people what to   expect is very reassuring to them.”

It is also worth mentioning that a recent study showed that prehab can successfully be implemented via telehealth, thereby capturing patients with reduced access to therapy.  Lifeline offers this option to patients, as well as in-office visits.

Let Lifeline help you pave the way to your joint replacement surgery success!