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Ester Marsh column: Are you facing knee replacement surgery?

I had such great response on the hip replacement column that I figured I would touch knee replacement surgery this week. As I mentioned before, when you are dealing with bad joints, try to do things like physical therapy, exercise, eating healthy and losing weight (if needed) before you jump into any replacement. Too many times, I see people who have joint replacements not doing their therapy pre- and post-operation exercises and their surgery isn’t as successful as it could be. Your doctor can put in a beautiful new joint but if you are not willing to do the exercises they prescribe, that joint will not be as good as it could be. You can’t blame the doctor when this happens.

At Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, they will put you in a great program called “joint camp” after a replacement. This program is where they work specifically on things you need to do to make your surgery successful. But make sure when you go home to continue the specific exercises your doctor or physical therapist instructed for you to do. If you don’t, within a pretty short amount of time, you will feel your range of motion in your knee joint has disappeared. When you go back to your doctor and you tell them your knee has gotten stiff or even painful, you might find out it is because you haven’t done your exercises. You have to take ownership of your own health. Your doctor and physical therapist give you homework to make a surgery such as a joint replacement successful, and you need to continue the exercises to get the full benefits. 

I have never had a knee replacement but have dealt with enough people to know that it hurts when they start the exercises. 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 you experience before the replacement. With time and the correct therapy and exercise plan, you will be as good as new with your “bionic” knee or joint. All the exercises they prescribe 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 is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley family YMCA.

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