Joint Pain - FAQs

Questions About Joint Replacement Surgery

When can I do normal around-the-house activities?

You can – and should – follow all of the activities that your therapists showed you as soon as you arrive home. For example, you may climb stairs one after the other; just follow the technique you were taught. You will be able to resume normal stair climbing in about two or three months. If you have a total hip replacement, you should avoid kneeling for any purpose until your physician permits you to do this. Knee replacement patients can begin to kneel when you feel comfortable. Also, if you had hip replacement surgery, remember to place a pillow between your knees when sleeping for about two months, or until your physician advises you to stop. Replacements of the arm joints (shoulder, elbow, wrist) may be limited on certain activities. You can expect to need assistance with activities that require lifting. However, you are able to use your hand and wrist for simple activities such as feeding yourself, brushing your teeth or shaving. Again, follow the instructions of your therapist and physician.

When can I shower?

You will be helped to shower while still in the Hospital. Continue as you are shown when you go home.

How long do I need to use the walker or cane?

Let your physician tell you when to stop. Expect to use the walker for about four to six weeks, and the cane for as long as three months.

Do I need to wear the sling?

Yes, do not forget to wear the sling every night for at least the first month after surgery or as your surgeon directs.

When can I drive?

In about four to eight weeks. Driving should wait until you can perform the necessary functions comfortably and confidently. Only your surgeon can give you the proper advice and will let you know when you are ready. You also need to be careful about riding as a passenger in either a car, train, or plane for the first few weeks following surgery. Plans for all long trips should be reviewed with your surgeon.

When can I return to work?

This depends upon the type of work you do. Plan to resume your work schedule in about three months.

When can I resume sexual activities?

In about four to six weeks when you feel comfortable.

When can I resume recreational activities?

If you are a swimmer, you need to wait about one month until your wound is completely healed. If golf is your hobby, you may need to wait about three full months. Your physician will be able to provide a more exact time frame.

How long will I have pain?

Our goal is to minimize your discomfort. The amount of pain varies from individual to individual. You should note a gradual reduction in pain over the first few weeks.

When do I start strengthening exercises?

Generally within the first few weeks, you will begin a modified exercise program. Four to six weeks after surgery, therapy will begin for strengthening. It may take some time before you feel you are returning to normal function. Do not get discouraged.

How long will the swelling last?

About two to three months for total knee replacement patients, and about one month for total hip replacement patients.

How long will I need to take a blood-thinning medicine?

About four to six weeks. Your physician will tell you when to stop.

How long do I need to maintain hip precautions?

The strict precautions should be followed for about six weeks. Your physician may modify your precautions after that point.

How long will I be in the Hospital?

Most patients stay between three and five days for a hip or knee replacement. Elbow or shoulder replacements can expect an overnight stay, while other replacements may be done on an outpatient basis.

Where do I go after my hospitalization?

There are three possibilities: home, an acute rehabilitation facility, or a subacute or extended care facility.

Home: if you go directly home from the Hospital, you may receive therapy as an outpatient. Knee replacement patients may need therapy as much as three times per week. Hip replacement patients may not require outpatient therapy. Please discuss questions about outpatient therapy with your surgeon or therapist. Be aware that you will need transportation to and from outpatient therapy! Your therapist and social worker will work together to obtain any special equipment or services that you may need at home.

Acute Rehabilitation Facility: you will receive approximately three hours of physical and occupational therapy daily; this intensity of therapy may help you go home faster.

Subacute Rehabilitation or Extended Care Facility: at such a center, you will receive about 1-1/2 hours of physical and occupational therapy each day.

What determines whether I need to go to a rehabilitation center or can go home following surgery?

Primarily your progress during your physical therapy sessions immediately after surgery. The layout of your home, as well as the amount and kind of support you have there, are important considerations. Your physician, social worker, and nursing team will help you plan for your discharge.

If I need to go to a rehab center, how long will I be there?

About one week. Keep in mind that total knee replacement patients may require outpatient physical therapy even after they leave the rehab center.

Will I be able to go through metal detectors?

It is possible that you will set off a metal detector. Ask your surgeon or the Hospital for a joint prosthesis identification card to carry with you.

What else do I need to know?

Information about follow-up care, diet, incisional care, and medications will be discussed with you before you are discharged from the Hospital. Please ask if there is something you do not understand. Once you are discharged, you may still have questions or concerns that are important. Please feel free to contact your physician’s office, or call 484-628-JOINT.