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Prepare Your Body For Joint Replacement Surgery

Updated: Feb 7, 2021


So you've made the decision to go ahead and have surgery to replace your joint due to osteoarthritis. It's a big decision, and once it's been made it's time to start preparing yourself for the big day.


This is not a list of things to do a week or so before the surgery....start now, even if surgery is a year away, and it can make a huge difference. The healthier you are before the operation, the less the risk of complications and the likelihood of a good outcome will be better.



Make your way through the following list and see if there's something that you feel you can work on, however small. As you start to work on one thing, see if there's something else that may be useful and realistic to work on, and keep building slowly.

  • Are you a smoker? If so, try to give up smoking or at least cut down. Smoking can have a direct impact on tissue healing and also pain (see my article about smoking, stress and pain). Also, hospitals do not allow smoking, and usually you have to go out of the grounds of the hospital to smoke, so quitting before the operation will mean that you don't have to go cold-turkey for the first couple of days after your operation.



  • Do you drink much alcohol? If the answer is yes then consider reducing the amount you're drinking to a lower level (or even eliminate it if that doesn't feel to big a leap). This can have a huge impact on your overall health, as well as help you sleep better.



  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of nutrients. Try to make sure you get all of your essential nutrients from your food rather than relying on supplements. If you have a good diet this can help significantly in the long term and can also aid in reducing the chronic low level inflammation in your body from eating lots of processed and unhealthy foods.



  • Drink plenty of water / fluids. If you can drink water then this is best. Aim to get at least 8 decent glasses a day or aim to drink over 1.2 litres per day. Staying hydrated has a huge impact on the body and is essential for optimal tissue and joint health. You could add some fresh fruit flavouring to your water by using a fruit infuser bottle, which may make it a bit more palatable if plain water really doesn't float your boat.



  • Maintain the correct weight for your height (body mass index – BMI). If you have sufficient time before surgery, losing weight will be a huge help in reducing the load on your hips and knees, as well as your wrists when using crutches. Being overweight and less mobile also increases your risk of developing a clot after surgery. The other thing is that being overweight or obese adds to the underlying chronic inflammation within the body, which can also have an impact on joint pain and inflammation.



  • Work on mindset. This is very important. Having a positive mindset can be really important when preparing for a big operation as well as the recovery afterwards. This isn't an easy thing to master, so it's a great idea to start on this well in advance of your operation. Checking-in and listening to your self talk is a good start. What sort of things are you telling yourself on a daily basis? Is it positive or negative? Keep notes and purposefully try to adjust how you talk to yourself if you find that there's a lot of negativity. Maybe try some positive affirmations that you can repeat to yourself each day e.g. "I can do this", "I feel good", etc. You can use whatever you want, just make sure it's based in the present (not the past or future).



  • Do high stress levels have a huge impact on your life and general wellbeing? If so, try to find ways that work for you to reduce stress. This may be through exercise like yoga or tai chi (there are basic exercises available if you have significant joint pain), through taking time out to relax, read, buy an adult colouring book, do breathing exercises or meditations, having a warm bath or booking in for a relaxing massage. Whatever works for you, make it a regular activity, or even better, have a selection of a few things you enjoy and cycle them so you've got something for every mood.



  • Walk and exercise regularly, and within the limits of your pain. Some discomfort is ok but don't cause yourself high levels of pain that keep you awake at night and stop you doing much for the few days afterwards. Pace yourself (see my article on pacing). The more active and independent you can remain before surgery, the better your outcome after surgery. Keeping fit with some walking and doing exercises to strengthen your hip and knee muscles will greatly help in your recovery, and don't forget to work on your upper body as well so that you don't struggle with walking with crutches.



  • Closer to the time of the surgery, make sure your teeth and gums, open wounds/sores on your body are free from infection. Look after your oral hygiene and make sure you keep an eye on any cuts that you may get prior to your surgery, and always declare these if they are still there so the medical team can check them out. This may feel like a drag, and no-one wants surgery delayed, but any infection anywhere may head straight for the new prosthesis, and you can end up with a joint infection. Believe me, this is something you really want to avoid.




Please note: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment or personalised advice.

I do not hold responsibility for the information on any links to external websites within this article and information within these links/websites may change at any time or no longer be accessible. Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only.

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