Jumping Back Into Life: Recovery after Joint Replacement

IMG_1209For many of our clients, and millions of Americans, joint replacements can mean the difference between an active life and a life of chronic pain. Thankfully joint replacement surgery has become a feasible option for more people than ever. With shorter recovery times and longer life spans of the replaced joint, this surgery can give renewed life to sufferers of chronic pain, joint degeneration, and arthritis. However, joint replacement is still a major surgery and requires physical therapy, care, and awareness before the surgery and throughout rehabilitation and post-rehab. For most, physical therapy begins the day after surgery–Activating and using the replaced joint ensures joint mobility and blood circulation begins right away. However, there are clear advantages in preoperative training through physical therapy or Pilates as well.

Ideally, you want go into the surgery as strong as possible, doing preoperative Pilates, physical therapy or some other exercise regimen that accommodated the injured joint while focusing on total body strength. Coming out of surgery and post-physical therapy, you will have a lot of physical needs that need to be addressed.  These include muscular imbalances, loss of strength, range of motion, and balance. Because Pilates is so easily modified for varying needs, it allows instructors and patients to build and individualize programs for very specific needs and goals depending on both the type of surgery and the patient. It helps to restore, function, strength, and balance.

We often think, “Oh, I’m having my hip or knee replaced so I just need to focus on that one joint.”  But everything is connected and any sort of trauma to one joint has repercussions for the whole body. When we get so concerned about our knee or our hip, we forget about taking care of everything else! Pilates is built to address the whole body and the mind. So while your physical limitations might be greater after surgery, Pilates will also engage the mind and challenge the body in a way that keeps you engaged and moving towards accomplishing all of your post-surgery goals.

Surgery, discharge, and physical therapy all happen much quicker these days.  So we tend to think that once physical therapy is over we’re healed. But often, the work is just beginning. So take care of yourself, give your body what it needs, find a program that’s built for you, and get moving.  Before you know it, you’ll be hooked on Pilates and feeling better than ever. 

Headed into surgery soon? Find a professional who can help you before your surgery. Build a pre- and post-operative plan, set preliminary goals, get to know your instructor, and schedule sessions so that everything is ready for you when you and your new joint when it’s time to return to Pilates.


Sources: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/joint_replacement/