If you have arthroscopic knee surgery planned, you may be so overwhelmed with the details of your surgery that you haven't even thought about your rehabilitation period. Here are seven tips you should know now, so that you can have the best recovery possible after your surgery.
Discuss your rehab timeline in advance with your surgeon.
Too often pre-op visits with an orthopedic surgeon focus on the surgery itself. Make sure to ask about your rehab period then too. If you wait until you're in the recovery room, you will be too woozy to properly remember everything, and it will be too late to make any necessary plans.
Get your post-care supplies in advance.
Another thing to take care of in advance of your surgery is getting your post-care supplies. After your surgery, even though you'll be up and around quickly, you'll still have limited mobility and may not be able to drive due to pain meds. Get all your prescriptions filled, stock your fridge with easy-to-prepare foods (or plan on getting delivery), and have your laundry done.
Make ice packs and have them ready in your freezer. If you mix rubbing alcohol and water in zippered plastic bags, it won't completely freeze, and it will be easier to mold these packs around your knee joint.
Learn about life with crutches.
You will likely be on crutches for a while after surgery, but just like many things, after surgery isn't the time to learn this skill. Ask if you can get your lessons on how to use crutches in advance of your surgery, and be sure to cover tricky things like climbing stairs. Make or buy a pouch to hang from your crutches or over your shoulder to hold your phone, keys, and other essentials you want to keep on your person during those early, less mobile days.
Be prepared to elevate your leg for a while.
Your leg will need to be elevated to reduce swelling and pain. Have a stack of pillows anywhere you're going to be hanging out, like your bed, your sofa, or the lounge chair on your deck. You can also ask about a foam knee elevator that keeps your leg more firmly in place while it's raised.
Eat a healthy diet, and stay hydrated.
Of course, eating healthily will help you recover better and possibly faster. However, eating a diet with lots of fiber and drinking lots of water can have another benefit as well. You may be constipated from any pain medications you're on, and these two elements may help you move your bowels much more easily. (Your doctor should recommend a stool softener too, but if not, get one over the counter.)
Don't skip physical therapy or prescribed exercises.
You will be asked to start performing some rehab exercises fairly soon after surgery at home and may need to attend physical therapy with a professional as well. Don't skip these exercises! You can form permanent scar tissue, as well as lose flexibility and muscle tone, if you do.
If you are worried about learning rehab exercises after surgery, ask to be taught them in advance of surgery. Then, you can practice them while you're healthy and help them become part of your muscle memory post-operatively.
Ask your physician about complementary medicine to assist with recovery.
Don't forget about the potential role of complementary medicine in helping your rehab process. Ask your surgeon about massage therapy for muscle suppleness, acupuncture for pain, and arnica gel for bruising and swelling. These days, complementary medicine works right alongside traditional Western practices to provide the best possible rehab experience.
Your knee surgery won't necessarily be a breeze, but you can do much to make the rehab process easier and faster. Use this article to develop a list of questions for your doctor and to prepare a pre-op to-do list, and by the time your surgery date arrives, you'll be completely ready and more relaxed. For more information, talk to a rehabilitation professional like Nick Roselli Occupational Therapy.