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    Tips for an Easy Joint Replacement

    By Cinder Ernst–

    In past columns, I’ve told you about how I managed along the way toward getting my new hip. I’ve written about keeping my physical strength, staying as mobile as possible and purposefully feeling hopeful and positive. Following my own advice paved the way for an easy recovery from my hip replacement surgery. If you are heading toward a hip or knee replacement, keeping your fitness level as strong as possible and your heart hopeful will bring you your best outcome.

    Today I’m going to give you the lessons I’ve learned since having my hip replaced. Did you know that a total hip surgery is considered an outpatient procedure? Amazing! At my care facility, the physical therapists come as soon as patients wake up. If you can walk with the walker, manage any stairs to get home and have someone to be with you, you can go home. If you feel unsafe or nauseous, they will keep you.

    In my case, I was totally planning on going right home. As it turned out, my surgery was late in the day and the PT staff was already gone so I stayed overnight after my anterior hip replacement. This procedure required the surgeon to make his entry cut in the front of my thigh, just below my hip bone. Anterior hip replacement has a much faster and easier rehab and recovery because you are able to move around more freely after surgery.

    Once home, I was able to move around easily with a walker. Your medical provider will advise you about all of the devices that will make your life easier. I bought a recliner before my surgery, and I’m really glad I did. For hip or knee replacements, you will also need a raised toilet seat and a walker.

    You can purchase a “hip kit” or a “knee kit” online that will have a grabber, a long shoehorn, a long handle clothes hook, a sock putter-onner and even a device that helps you to lift your leg into and out of bed. Because I had kept up my strength and flexibility, I was able to get my leg in and out of bed.

    Not everyone is a candidate for an anterior hip replacement, so the other option is to undergo a posterior hip replacement. For this procedure, the surgeon cuts in the back of the hip. The results are reliably good, but the rehab time takes longer because there are more movement restrictions. Imagine not being able to bend forward, and then consider all of the activities that you would need help with. This is where a sock putter-onner, a long shoehorn and a dressing hook are essential.

    Knee replacement generally requires a more involved recovery/rehab, but the same rule applies—the more strength, mobility and stamina you have going in, the better your outcome will be. Stay positive and hopeful. Trust your care team. They handle these procedures all of the time. Follow all instructions and you’ll likely be back to your life in no time.

    The most amazing experience right out of surgery for most who have a hip or a knee replacement is the realization that “I no longer have that awful pain.” Yes, I had discomfort from the surgery itself, but it was nothing compared to what I had been living with beforehand. I did not even need to take major painkillers after the surgery. A strong anti-inflammatory and Tylenol were enough pain relief for me.

    The advantage to not needing/taking narcotics was being more stable, so I came off of my walker quicker. Without narcotics, you will be cleared to drive sooner, too. I also noticed right away that having my hamstrings and lower back flexible made it much easier for me to maneuver and to take care of myself.

    The worst part of the rehab for me was doing less than I wanted to. Walking is restricted after a hip replacement. Stairs are better avoided. I think the hardest thing for me was boredom and being a little lonely. My friends were wonderful, but there is only so much sitting around that is enjoyable. As a result, I’m so glad that I’m on the other side! The hip pain is gone and I feel like a curtain has opened and brought light back into my life.

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Her book, “Easy Fitness for the Reluctant Exerciser” ( http://cinderernst.com/easy-fitness-book/ ), is available in paperback and E-book. She specializes in fitness and rehab for plus-size clients, but her stress-free approach is suitable for all. Find out more at http://cinderernst.com