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Four Things You Can Do to Prepare for Orthopedic Surgery

Posted Apr 05 2013 6:00am

Akiva Shmidman

For over 10 years, the Physical Therapy department for the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics has supported thousands of people as they work for a successful post-surgical recovery. As a member of this outstanding team for over five years, I’ve treated hundreds of patients who need to undergo joint replacement and other orthopedic surgical procedures. One of the most common questions my patients ask is what they can do before surgery to ensure a smooth recovery.

There are two chief elements for a smooth comeback – focused muscular contractions, which are more regimented exercises; and, simply enough, just to keep moving. After surgery, it’s not unusual for your body to feel stiff. You may find it difficult to move as your muscles still react to the trauma of the surgery. However, following these simple steps before surgery will help ensure that you experience a speedier – and ultimately more comfortable – recovery.

1. Focused muscular contractions, also known as isometric exercises, can help your muscles loosen up by training them to quickly respond to your brain’s commands as they normally would prior to surgery. You really must do these after surgery, but it’s advisable to get a headstart beforehand. You can help yourself out by doing the following exercise: Sit or lay down with your knees stretched out in front of you; tighten your upper thigh muscles so that your knees press down onto the surface, and hold for five-10 seconds before releasing. It’s recommended that you repeat 30 times, and that you do this exercise twice a day.

2. The best solution for post-operative muscle stiffness and discomfort is to keep moving; unfortunately, it is often difficult to move freely on the affected side right after surgery. You’ll want to have a strong upper body to help compensate for a healing hip or knee. Why not try some chair push-ups? This exercise can be done in a chair with armrests, sitting with your feet on the floor. Just put both hands on either armrest and use your arms to lift your derriere off  the seat of the chair. This may be difficult at first, but keep at it! You’ll have an easier time lifting up from a chair or bed after surgery.

3. Don’t forget about your “core.” Your abdominal muscles provide stability, support and the power you’ll need to lift up out of bed and get moving. To perform a basic crunch, lie down on the floor, with a pillow under your knees, hands resting on your thighs, and your feet and lower back pressing into the ground. Tighten your tummy as you lift your upper body toward your knees; just lift off the ground then lower down. Your hands will naturally move up and down your leg. Work your way up to two sets of 10 repetitions, twice a day.

4.  Consider that following orthopedic surgery you will likely need to use crutches or a walker for a short period. Scan your home, remove any throw rugs, and clear hallways and walking spaces of all obstacles prior to surgery. If you have a multilevel home, you may want to arrange your home so that you can stay on the first floor for a short while.

-Written by Akiva Shmidman, Physical Therapist, Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics

To schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained physicians and find out why LifeBridge Health is Baltimore's premiere health care organization, call 410-601-WELL.

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