The Power Of Robots
In recent years robotics has become an integral part of medicine, and surgery is no exception. Orthopedic surgeons now turn to robotic total joint replacement (TJR) for damaged, arthritic knees. This procedure uses an automated arm device and imaging technology to improve joint replacement outcomes. The surgeon guides the device via an external console. Through small incisions, the surgeon can remove damaged cartilage and bone. From there, a specially designed prosthesis is installed. Robotic TJR improves speed and accuracy for the surgeon. The patient can also benefit from the procedure. These benefits increase significantly with exercises before total joint replacement.
Benefits of robotic TJR
What does robotic TJR mean for patients? In the past, TJR required the surgeon to make large, open incisions to access and replace the joint. Now, robotic TJR is minimally invasive. The surgeon can remove and install the new joint with a few small incisions. The patient will experience less pain, fewer scars, and faster recovery. There are also higher success rates when compared to open surgery.
Exercise before surgery
Some patients are surprised when the surgeon suggests a series of exercises in the weeks leading up to joint replacement. Exercising the knee beforehand is part of a rapid recovery process, preparing the surrounding muscles for the new joint. This additional step helps the patient to start walking almost immediately after surgery. Rapid recovery is not for every individual, but patients who are generally healthy can benefit from this process. A doctor or physical therapist will likely recommend these 4 exercises to increase the chances of success.
1. Try heel slides
Before surgery, heel slides can strengthen the ankles and calves. Start the exercise by lying flat on the floor, therapist’s table, or bed. Wear a pair of socks or invest in sliding discs. Start the activity by sliding the heel of the injured knee toward the buttocks and holding for 5 seconds. Then slide the heel back to the starting position. Patients can also use an exercise band, belt, or strap along the foot. Use the arms to pull along as the heel slides on the ground or bed. Repeat the exercise as advised by the therapist.
2. Add in leg raises
Another great pre-op exercise is leg raises, which can target almost all of the muscles of the leg. Again, start by lying flat on the floor or bed. Bend the non-injured knee and place the foot flat on the floor or bed. Next, keep the affected leg straight while raising that leg to the height of the non-injured knee. Hold the position for 5 seconds, then lower the leg back down. Increase the repetitions and intensity as advised by the therapist.
3. Strengthen your quads
In arthritis patients or those needing TJR, the quadricep muscles are often weakened. To improve the quads, try sitting in a chair with the knees at a 90-degree angle and the feet flat on the floor. Place the hands on the thighs, then extend the leg of the damaged knee. Hold the position for a few seconds. Another quad exercise starts by lying flat on the bed or floor. Push the knee down into the floor and tighten the quadriceps. Hold for at least 30 seconds for multiple repetitions. If there is a bend in the knee due to stiffness, add some support like a towel, pillow, or yoga block under the knee.
4. Ankle pumps and stretches
Strengthening the ankle and calf muscles will help the patient walk faster after surgery. This exercise starts with the patient lying on the floor with extended legs. Place a rolled-up towel just under the ankle on the Achilles tendon. Pump the ankle by pointing the toes to the nose, then back to the ceiling. Making circles clockwise and anticlockwise can also help.
Get ready for a better knee
Exercise before surgery can enhance the success rate of robotic TJR. The patient will be able to walk faster after the procedure. Additionally, post-operative exercises will be easier to perform after surgery during recovery. Remember to start with a few repetitions and increase the intensity as the doctor or physical therapist advises. With the proper preparation, a better recovery is possible.