Ester Marsh column: It’s important to do exercises after joint replacement surgery

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 20, 2016

My co-worker and dear friend received a knee replacement last week. She has been dealing with knee issues for years but tried everything else to prevent a knee replacement. Many of you have dealt with this or are dealing with bad knee(s) or joints. When you are dealing with bad joints, try to do everything else like physical therapy, exercise, eating healthy or losing weight (if needed) before you jump into any replacement. Too many times, I see people who have joint replacements not doing their therapy before and after their operation, which keeps the surgery from being as successful as it could be. Your doctor can put in a beautiful new joint but if you are not willing to do the prescribed exercises, that joint will not be as good as it could be. And you can’t blame the doctor when this happens.

My friend has been very good about getting ready for this knee replacement. She exercises, lost weight and is eating healthy. It has been less than a week, but I am confident that she will thrive with this new knee. At Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, they put you in a great program after a replacement called “joint camp” where they work very specifically on things to make your surgery successful. But if you go home and stop doing the specific exercises you are instructed to do, within a pretty short amount of time, you will feel your range of motion in your joint disappear. When you tell your doctor that your joint has gotten stiff or painful, they will ask if you have been doing your exercises.

We have to take ownership of our own health. Your doctors and physical therapists don’t just give you “homework” to annoy you. They know that in order to make a joint replacement successful, you have to continue the exercises to get the full benefits. If you say that you don’t have time for the exercises, my response would be, “How come you find time to go out to lunch or dinner but don’t find time to better your health?” If you say it hurts when I do the exercises, I would tell you that typically it will be painful in the beginning. Your doctor and physical therapist will teach you to differentiate between pain that is supposed to be there and pain that happens when you are pushing too hard. Most of the time, it’s a different pain than before the replacement. Within time and the correct therapy/exercise plan, you will be as good as new with your “bionic” knee or joint! So all the exercises they prescribe to you should become part of your daily workout routine. The better you listen to your doctor and therapist and do the exercises, the sooner you will feel great!

Ester H Marsh Associate Executive director JF Hurley family YMCA