How often do you think about your knees? Chances are that you don’t give them much thought, unless you have arthritis or if you are injured in some way. Most of us don’t pay attention to our joints until they are in pain. If you have been in pain for some time, you may need to consider a knee replacement.
Deciding whether to go ahead and have major surgery like this can be challenging and you’ll need your doctor’s input each step of the way, but there are some things that you can watch for that might indicate that a knee replacement will be recommended shortly.
You’ve tried all the other options, especially anti-inflammatory shots. If you’ve been having anti-inflammatory shots and the pain in your knees is not subsiding or is getting worse, there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
You see a noticeable difference in the appearance of your knee, not just the pain inside of it. If you’re noticing bulging or puffiness, there may be swelling because of fluids trapped inside of it.
When the rest of your life is being adversely affected because of your knee, it’s time to get it taken care of. Only you will truly know when that is, but when the pain and inconvenience after a surgery is preferable to your current pain and inconvenience, it is probably time to go in.
Once you decide that it’s time to have surgery, check the credentials of your orthopedic surgeon. Have they done a large amount of these surgeries? Is he/she recommended to you by anyone who has had one? You’ll be surprised at how many people you’ll meet who have had a knee replacement once you start asking for recommendations! You want experience and good reviews on the surgeon you’re going with, just as you would for any other service you decide you need.
When your surgery is scheduled, make sure to stay as healthy as possible. Take immune system boosting supplements. Stay hydrated. Eat healthy. Also, be sure to install anything that will make your life a little easier during the recovery time. If you have places in your house that you know are going to be incredibly difficult to navigate after surgery, be sure to take care of them. If you’re accustomed to making each meal from scratch, prepare a week’s worth of food ahead and freeze meals. Ask for time off from work and arrange for someone to be at home to help you for as long as the doctor advises. It is also good to start working on the muscles around the knee joint, the shin area and thigh/hip area so that they will be in good shape to aid in the recovery of your knee joint.
You can expect to be in the hospital for anywhere from 1 to 5 days after your surgery. You should be able to resume normal, functional activity within 6 weeks, but it may take up to 6 months for total healing to occur. These time frames are variable depending upon whether you have a partial, one-sided knee replacement or a total knee replacement surgery.
Knees are unsung heroes in our bodies. If you’re needing to get your knee replaced, don’t wait for a more ideal time. There will never be a more ideal time, and as you age, surgery can become more difficult to recover from. It’s important to make the best decision for your own body with the doctor’s guidance. Don’t live in misery out of fear of the unknown.
Physical Healing and Rehabilitation
Aging requires much of the human body. A mere 200 years ago, the life expectancy of the average American was less than 40 years of age. With the dramatic increase in length of life (due primarily to sanitation measures & advances in medicine) came the expectation that at some point in your life, you’ll probably have a surgery or another procedure that you’ll need to recover from. These days, surgeries are fairly commonplace & most people barely slow down for some of the simpler procedures. Doctors are finding that the more quickly that people, especially the elderly, are able to get back to normal activities, the better their bodies heal. Loss of muscle can greatly inhibit the healing process. While years ago people were kept in the hospital for long periods of time following surgery, these days it can be as little as an overnight stay for what once would have taken a week or more in the hospital. Do not be surprised by these changes. They have found it better all the way around.
People who are relaxed heal better than those who are stressed. Being in an unfamiliar environment (like a hospital) can stress some people. Being at home in your own bed can be very healing. There is also less chance of infection at home if you are taking care of your incisions properly. In a hospital setting, all different kinds of bacteria & viruses are around…that’s what hospitals are for. While the surgical rooms are sterile, it does not mean that every surface is. The risk of contracting a staph infection, for instance, are far higher if you are in a hospital setting.
During the healing process, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice. Resting will be paramount to your healing. Resting is possible without being entirely sedentary, however. Depending on the type of healing that you are doing, the doctor may recommend that you rest while also having brief periods of movement to keep your other muscles in tact and keep you as mobile as possible. Listen carefully to the instructions, and if you have any questions after arriving home, be sure to call the physician’s office to clarify any instructions or ask for a re-cap if you are unsure about anything. If one of your joints is supposed to remain immobile (shoulder, for instance), they will let you know and tell you how to stabilize the joint so that it will not move.
Hydration is paramount after surgery, as well as after a major illness. Water flushes out any toxins created in your body from stress & also keeps you from getting dehydrated. Drink good, clean water, or if you prefer warm beverages drink a mild herbal tea or lemon water.
Medication may be necessary during your recovery for pain relief. Many people can get by without these but be sure to talk with your doctor. Some of them are given so that you can stay ahead of the pain and if you stop taking them it could take several days before you are able to control the pain again. If you do not like taking medications, let him/her know so that they can prescribe the bare minimum.
Follow-up appointments are very important. If you are not healing just right, or if your illness has left you with unexpected repercussions, let your doctor know. If you’ve been on a stint of anti-biotics, for instance, and notice that you are having stomach issues following their use, bring it up to the doctor. If your infection was knocked out by the antibiotic, they may then recommend a therapeutic probiotic to combat the stomach issues. Medicines can be life-saving, but almost all of them have side -effects. It is important to be aware of that when you are using them. Also, be aware that medicines and herbal remedies can have very strong interactions. Doctors are beginning to have more training in herbals in order to recommend things to their patients that could be less invasive. In some cases they will recommend traditional medications along with herbals or supplements. They & the pharmacist have great understanding of interactions between them, so be sure to list everything that you are taking, herbals, pharmaceuticals, and supplements. Do not be afraid to do so & follow their recommendation for discontinuing certain supplements while you’re taking a new medication.
Lastly, listen to your body. If something does not seem right, contact your doctor’s office immediately. They want to know sooner, rather than later, if things have gone amiss. They will let you know the steps that you need to take to get back on track.
Preparing for Surgery When You’re Older
As we become older, surgeries become more common. Not just because we have more ailments that need to be dealt with, but because science and medicine (as a whole) are advancing to the point that surgeries are more easily performed. Things are easily done, and with less risk. Surgeries that used to require the patient to be cut open dramatically are often done laparoscopically now. Robots are used with extreme precision to reach places that human hands could not. It is no wonder that more surgeries are occurring, then, as a result.
Sometimes, however, because surgery is becoming a bit more commonplace, we tend not to do the best job preparing for them. People neglect the rest that they need before and after surgery simply because the surgery is not deemed as dangerous while it is occurring. More importantly, perhaps, they neglect the sense of community that comes when there is a major event happening in their lives. In the not so distant past, if a family member needed to have a surgery for cancer, for instance, family members would come around to support the one having surgery by visiting in the hospital afterwards, taking meals to their home, sending cards of support and well wishes. Some people now, neglect to even tell family what is going on, have the surgery and are back to work right after surgery. This is not a healthy way to approach the adjustments that your body or you mind must make.
Preparations for a major surgery can require extra time and energy. You must think ahead to the recovery time-period in advance. Clear your schedule for as long as the doctor says you should be resting. Do not take on extra commitments during this time. If you’re not comfortable sharing detailed information with people, simply say, “I’m having surgery during that time, so I cannot take that on.” It is not necessary for them even to know the type of surgery that you’re having if you are uncomfortable with sharing it. It IS necessary that you resist the temptation to put more onto your plate when you’re supposed to be removing it. Preparations also include being sure that you have groceries fully stocked for your resting time, and at least as many meals pre-made as you will need before you are able to begin cooking again. Be sure to have preparations made in your home, as well. If you are going to require sleeping in a different location for a time, get everything ready in advance. Consider which books you’ve been wanting to read, or movies you’ve been wanting to watch & get them ready before surgery so that you have things to do that do not require high activity levels & will promote resting. If you enjoy writing letters, put your stationary by your bedside before you read with a stack of books. You may not feel up to gathering supplies after you get home from the hospital.
Think about the clothing that would be most comfortable for you to wear on your return trip from the hospital. Generally something with an elastic band around the waist & things that are loose fitting are your best bet. Slip on shoes, if you have them, can also be appropriate to help you avoid bending and pulling, too much. If you need to spend some days in the hospital, bring along a robe or nice blanket that you own. Bring slippers. Bring a book. Make your recovery time something to look forward to & you’ll be more relaxed & heal better. Plus, your nurses will feel more relaxed around you when they know you’re occupied and will only call if necessary. People who have more time to lay awake, bored, thinking of their ailments also tend to call the nurses more often for inconsequential things! Call when you have questions & if necessary, but be sure you have things to occupy the time without straining yourself so that the time will pass quickly for you.
When you get home, take time to relax. When you’re done relaxing, relax some more. There are not many times in your life that you have mandatory rest thrust upon you. You can resist it and resent it or embrace it and enjoy it. The choice is yours!