Realistic Expectations of Joint Replacement Surgery

Approximately one million Americans have joint replacement surgery every year. Most people who get an artificial hipknee or shoulder report a dramatic decrease in pain – and a new lease on life.

Once you’ve recovered from surgery, you’ll find it easier to perform everyday activities. For example, if hip pain made it hard for you to get in and out of your car, you’ll appreciate driving again after surgery.

But it’s important to understand just how active you can be once you’ve recovered from surgery. Even though artificial joints are durable, they don’t last forever. Certain intense activities can cause harmful wear-and-tear or loosening of your implant.

To get the most from your new joint:

Use it, don’t abuse it. Joint replacement surgery is meant to help you perform normal, everyday activities – not run a marathon. Freedom from pain allows you to walk, clean your house and go to the grocery store. These accomplishments may seem small compared to taking up rock-climbing. But your ability to perform daily tasks keeps you independent.

Set the bar low, not high. It’s important to stay active, but make sure your exercise and hobbies are low-impact, not high-impact. Safe, low-impact activities include walking, biking, swimming, ballroom dancing, light hiking, doubles tennis and gardening. Avoid high-impact activities that put a lot of stress on your joints. These include running, jogging, basketball, football, downhill skiing and mountain hiking.

Watch your weight. If you’ve had hip or knee replacement surgery, maintaining a healthy weight is key to maintaining your new joint. Your hips and knees support much of your weight, and often absorb forces several times your body weight. Obesity is a risk factor for joint failure and joint revision surgery.

Be sure to ask questions and discuss your concerns with your Mercy orthopedic surgeon. He or she will help you set realistic expectations about your joint performance. Our goal is not to hold you back, but to help you embrace and enjoy life after joint replacement.