Joint replacement surgeries, while effective in improving joint function, can lead to post-operative pain due to surgical incisions, tissue trauma, and manipulation during the procedure.
Managing pain after a total joint replacement is crucial to promote healing, facilitate rehabilitation, and enhance the overall recovery process.
Orthopedic surgeons typically prescribe a combination of pain management techniques to help patients cope with post-operative pain effectively. Let’s discuss five proven pain management techniques commonly recommended after a total joint replacement.
Prescription Pain Medications
Your orthopedic surgeon may prescribe pain medications to manage postoperative pain. These medications should be taken as directed to help control pain intensity, allowing you to participate in rehabilitation exercises and regain joint function.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and swelling around the surgical site, contributing to pain relief.
#2 Ice Pack/Cold Therapy
Cold therapy should be applied correctly for it to be effective in relieving pain:
Begin cold therapy as soon as possible after the surgery, ideally within the first 48 hours. The early application of ice helps control swelling and pain during the initial stages of healing.
Use of Ice Pack
Prepare an ice pack by placing crushed ice or ice cubes in a sealed plastic bag. Alternatively, use a specialized cold pack designed for post-operative use.
Duration and Frequency
Apply the ice pack to the surgical area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Do not exceed 20 minutes. During the first 48 to 72 hours after joint replacement surgery, aim to apply cold therapy every 1 to 2 hours while awake.
Elevate the operated limb while applying cold therapy to further reduce swelling.
As the initial swelling reduces and the healing progresses, reduce the frequency of cold therapy to approximately 3 to 4 times a day. Continue to apply cold therapy as needed for pain relief and swelling control.
#3 Physical Therapy
Early Exercises and Rehabilitation
Starting physical therapy shortly after the surgery is crucial for joint recovery. Patients are usually able to get up soon after a joint replacement and are encouraged to move. A physical therapist will guide you through exercises that help strengthen the surrounding muscles, improve joint flexibility, and promote faster healing. Gradual mobilization can reduce stiffness and alleviate pain.
A physical therapy program may also include the use of the following modalities, which can relieve pain in joint replacement patients:
- Cold therapy
- Heat therapy
- Massage therapy
- Ultrasound therapy
#4 Assistive Devices
Using assistive devices as advised by your orthopedic surgeon can help alleviate pressure on the healing joint, provide support, and ease pain during the early stages of recovery.
- Crutches – Crutches are commonly used to assist you in walking and maintaining balance, while reducing weight-bearing on the healing hip joint.
- Walker – A walker provides greater stability and support for patients with limited weight-bearing ability on the operated hip.
- Raised toilet seat – A raised toilet seat helps patients sit and stand with less strain on the healing hip after surgery.
- Shower chair – A shower chair allows you to sit while showering, promoting safety and reducing the risk of falls.
- Reacher/grabber – This device aids patients in reaching objects without bending or stretching, which is particularly useful during the early stages of recovery from a hip replacement.
- Compression garments – Compression stockings may be used to reduce swelling and improve blood circulation in the lower extremities after hip replacement surgery.
- Sling – A sling is used to support the arm and restrict movement in the shoulder after surgery and promote healing.
- Reacher/grabber – A reacher/grabber can help patients with limited shoulder mobility reach and grab objects safely.
- Detachable shower head – Makes it easier to shower while keeping the incision area dry.
- Shower chair – Limitations during movement can make you tired easily, and a shower chair can make it easier and safer.
- Wedge pillow – A special pillow allows you to rest the shoulder for extra support while at rest.
- Crutches – Crutches are often used during the early stages of knee replacement recovery to provide support and reduce weight-bearing on the operated knee.
- Knee scooter – A knee scooter is an alternative to crutches, allowing patients to rest their knee on a padded platform while propelling themselves with the non-operated leg.
- Walker – For patients requiring more stability, a walker can be used during the initial phase of recovery after knee replacement surgery.
- Raised toilet seat and shower chair – Helps make using the toilet and showering more comfortable while protecting the healing knee.
Keep in mind that pain is a natural part of the healing process after joint replacement surgery, and it typically improves as the body recovers. It is essential to follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions regarding pain management, which can help you have an easier recovery.
#5 Activity Modification
After a joint replacement, try to avoid being sedentary or staying in a seated or standing position for too long. By being active, you speed up recovery and avoid extensive pain, cramping, and stiffness.
Joint Replacement in Watertown, NY
North Country Orthopaedic Group is dedicated to providing you with the highest quality orthopedic care in Watertown, New York. Our physicians perform total joint replacement on the shoulder, knee, and hip using the most cutting-edge techniques.
We draw the most talented board-certified orthopedic surgeons in New York to our practice and are proud to serve the orthopedics needs of the US Army. From pre-surgery planning to post-operative care, our care team will remain with you throughout your journey to better health.
To schedule an appointment with us, call our office today at (315) 782-1650 or use our online request form.