Will I Need A Wheelchair After Total Joint Replacement Surgery?

Mobility After Total Joint Replacement

Chronic hip or knee pain that fails to improve could lead to total joint replacement. Joint replacement surgeries are on the rise and are expected to grow in the coming years. Due to the advancement in surgical techniques, younger patients are opting for joint replacements. Old and younger patients alike are anxious about life after surgery. What will the recovery process bring? Is a wheelchair necessary after surgery?

Understanding joint replacement

Joints help the body with hundreds of movements but are subjected to wear and tear, injury, and arthritis. Over time, the bone and cartilage wear away to the point where simple movements are near impossible. A total joint replacement removes the degraded material and installs a prosthetic joint. The replacement consists of metal, plastic, or ceramic components and can reduce pain and improve range of motion. Hip and knee surgeries are the most common, with an over 90% success rate.

It’s time to heal

For a joint replacement to succeed, patients need at least 3-4 months of a successful recovery. In the first few days after surgery, mobility is difficult without help, but not all patients need a wheelchair. Based on the procedure, patients can walk immediately for short distances with a cane or walker. Most joint replacements happen at an ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) that use minimally invasive means. That means small incisions and an arthroscope or robotic technology. As a result, healing time is significantly shorter, there’s less pain, and better outcomes.

Consider rapid recovery

For some patients, rapid recovery surgery is an option that can eliminate the need for a wheelchair. With rapid recovery, the patient undergoes physical therapy and pain management before surgery. The surgery is minimally invasive, followed by extensive consulting, pain management, and physical therapy. With rapid recovery, patients can walk unassisted for short distances just a few hours after surgery. As healing progresses, patients use walking aids only when necessary.

Wheelchairs aren’t obsolete

Total joint replacement with minimally invasive means sounds like wheelchairs are no longer necessary. Wheelchairs are one of several essential mobility aids available in the recovery process. Doctors and physical therapists encourage patients to walk short distances or use a walker or cane for longer journeys. However, a wheelchair or mobility scooter helps older patients who need to go extensive distances. There’s a catch 22 with wheelchairs, as becoming overly dependent slows down recovery.

Here are some mobility tips during recovery

A total joint replacement aims to reduce pain and get moving unassisted as quickly as possible. Patients of total hip or knee replacements should walk within a day after surgery. For the best results, establish a healthy diet, removing as many inflammation-causing foods as possible. Use ice, rest, and pain medication as needed. Follow the directions of the physical therapist, performing exercises as often as possible. Exercise will improve blood flow, reduce pain, and aid in recovery.

Use your wheelchair as necessary

The use of a wheelchair will depend on several factors. These factors include the type of surgery, age, and general health. Minimally invasive joint replacement and rapid recovery significantly reduce the need for a wheelchair. With these procedures, patients walk almost immediately after surgery unassisted. If long-distance travel is essential after surgery, a wheelchair or scooter is practical. Over time and with physical therapy, mobility significantly improves. Before deciding on total joint replacement, ask about minimally invasive means to improve mobility faster.


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