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Recovery From Orthopedic Surgery

Recovering from any orthopedic surgery takes time, patience and a commitment to follow the doctor’s orders. Your surgeon will talk to you on the typical recovery times and rehabilitation process for your specific procedure before your surgery. This will help to ensure you have realistic expectations and fully understand what is likely to to happen following your surgery.

After you've been discharged, you'll have to follow a rehabilitation program to take place either at home and on your own, or with in-home visits from a physical or occupational therapist, or prescribed therapy at another location. Regardless of where, the goals of rehabilitation will include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Increasing your range of motion.
  • Improving function and mobility.
  • Learning to stand and walk again following orthopedic surgery on the hip, knee, foot or ankle.
  • Retraining your muscles and nerves to work together again.
  • Restoring your strength, balance, mobility and overall range of motion.
  • Learning to use assistive or adaptive devices.
  • Helping you to perform daily living tasks, such as dressing, bathing, eating, and getting out of bed.

Here are some DON'TS that you want to follow immediately after orthopedic surgery:

  • Don't drive too soon. Never try to drive yourself home from an outpatient surgery. And, be sure you have the surgeon’s clearance before getting behind the wheel again after your rehabilitation.
  • Don't lift heavy objects or weights. Heavyy lifting could not only cause wounds  to reopen. It will be tempting to start working out again for some following orthopedic surgery, but be sure to get clearance from your surgeon before doing so.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking potentially decreases the amount of oxygen that can reach a wound and has been proven to interfere with the functioning of inflammatory cells that help to speed healing. Smoking can increase the healing time of surgical wounds by up to weeks, while simultaneously increasing the risk of post-operative infections and pneumonia.
  • Don't skip appointments. It is understandable that once you feel better, you want to get back to your regular schedule. DO NOT SKIP DOCTOR’S AND/OR THERAPY APPOINTMENTS. Your appointments are very important to your full recovery.

The amount of time needed for your recovery from orthopedic surgery varies on your procedure. Your surgeon will help you better understand what that timeframe will be. And, because each person's pain tolerance is different, your pain may be hard to predict. 

You may want to prepare your home and environment before your surgery to help you navigate more easily afterwards. Here are some things you may want to consider stocking up on:

  • Antibacterial soap
  • Easy-to-prepare meals
  • Comfortable, loose clothes
  • Necessary prescriptions filled and/or the over-the -counter remedies suggested by your surgeon
  • Emergency contact information
  • Movies, music, or books
  • Incision care supplies
  • Plenty of water

Recovery from orthopedic surgery won't be easy and takes a strong commitment from the patient. You, your surgeon and physical and/or occupational therapists will become partners in your recovery, so be sure to ask questions before, during and after your procedure to have all of your concerns and expectations met.