Let’s be honest, nobody wants to spend their time recovering from surgery.
The rewards are worth it, but the journey from operating theatre to full recovery can feel pretty daunting. It’s a necessary irritation, but an irritation nevertheless.
So it follows that the best kind of recovery is one that lasts for the least amount of time possible! The question is, how do you achieve that? How can you go into an operation like a Total Knee Replacement (TKR) with the best possible exit plan?
Having treated hundreds and hundreds of patients with TKR over the years, we’ve made a few discoveries about what seems to work best in recovery. Here are five simple tips that may help.
There’s no point in disguising it: Total Knee Replacement is a big operation. We are removing the ends of two bones, taking away your old joint and replacing it with artificial components. For this reason it’s important to be realistic about your post-surgery journey. Full recovery from TKR can take up to two years. Many people find that the first fortnight is painful and hard going. That’s why it’s vital to keep the ‘long game’ in mind. You’ll get there, but it will take time.
Just to reiterate that point: you will get there! Some patients can get quite down after surgery. So we try to pep them up, particularly in the early weeks. Stick with it. Your body is getting stronger every day. You’re on the road to a better life. When we say this, we’re not being glib. Staying positive can influence physical symptoms. Studies like this one and this one have shown that an optimistic mindset actually contributes to reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and even the intensity of pain.
After your operation, there will be significant swelling around your knee. One way to help the body reduce this swelling naturally – particularly in the first few days – is to apply ice at regular intervals. We usually recommend doing this three or four times a day for the first week, for around 10 to 20 minutes per session. Place a cloth between the ice pack and your skin. Elevate the leg on a comfortable pillow and set a reminder for the next icing session.
Recovery times vary from person to person, but nothing influences a return to health like focused exercise. After TKR, you will need to rebuild muscle strength and regain range of motion. You’ll be doing things like straight leg raises and gentle knee bends. This article offers some examples, but be sure to follow the specific exercises that your physiotherapist shows you at your pre and post-surgery sessions. Be determined. Sticking with the exercise plan pays huge dividends in the long run.
Be kind to yourself
Take a leaf from every good student’s pre-exam revision handbook – encourage your hard work with small rewards and enticements. That might mean good food; your body will need plenty of protein and a wide range of nutrients after surgery, so why not plan time for some healthy cooking – or interesting precooked meals from the freezer? Some of our patients find that enforced time at home is its own reward; we’ve known people who use the first few weeks to learn a new language or start an Open University course. As with so many things in life, it’s amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it.
For more information about Total Knee Replacement, feel free to get in touch with us direct at the clinic. We’d be very happy to help you talk through the options available.