Having a joint replaced is a big deal. Let’s say you’ve had knee or hip pain for years and you struggle to do even the most basic physical activities, it’s still a major surgery to elect to have done. Yet, more than 1 million Americans have a hip or knee replaced each year, and when they do, it’s probably safe to say a large majority of them hope to be back on their feet and active as soon as possible. This is where rehabilitation comes in. Nearly anyone who has joint replacement surgery will undergo some form of post-op rehabilitation. How long that rehabilitation takes differs for each patient, but there are new steps being taken to help make sure patients recover faster than ever.
Margaret Heather, manager of rehabilitation services at Blount Memorial Hospital says one of these methods involves rehabilitation that begins right after your joint replacement surgery – the same day, in fact. “For elective total hip and total knee replacement patients, our goal is to begin therapy on the day of surgery,” she said. “Early mobility helps prevent post-op complications, such as blood clots or pneumonia, and promotes quicker return of function. Beginning therapy sooner rather than later helps patients gain confidence and makes them more motivated to press on. We start with exercises, sitting at the edge of the bed and even standing or walking if the patient feels up to it,” Heather explained. “This fast-track methodology of rehabilitation has become more and more common. We actually flex our staff members’ schedules to be able to accommodate day-of-surgery physical therapy evaluations. So far, patients have responded well to doing this on the day of surgery. Patients are told by their physicians that they’ll be seen by a therapist after their surgery, so many of them are expecting it,” she added.
Another new method of rehabilitation involves group therapy. “In addition to starting to work with patients on the day of surgery, we also encourage them to participate in group therapy, which can start as early as the day after surgery,” Heather said. “These organized exercise sessions are led by a physical therapist or a physical therapist assistant. Patients either walk down to our rehabilitation gym or are transported there, and are led through exercises all together. These group sessions are great for building confidence, camaraderie and even a little bit of healthy competition. It’s exercise, but it’s also a motivational and social activity, as well as a time to compare notes about their experiences. We just started the group therapy in February of this year, but the response has been great so far. Group sessions are held once each day, and patients also have a daily one-on-one session with their therapist,” she explained.
For more information about joint replacement, contact Blount Memorial joint replacement coordinator Tiffany Norton at 865-980-4929. For questions about rehabilitation, contact Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation at 865-238-6118.