Jun 28, 2017
Managing And Reducing Post-Op Pain After Hip And Knee Surgery
Patients who are about to undergo a knee or hip replacement surgery often worry about how pain will affect them and how they will go about their daily activities. Adhering to a comprehensive pain management strategy is the best way to control any discomfort you may experience following hip or knee surgery. Your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend a postoperative plan for your individual circumstances, but it’s a good idea to educate yourself on how to stay ahead of the pain after surgery.
The combined measures you take can make all the difference on your road to recovery, so consider these guidelines for providing postoperative pain relief after undergoing orthopaedic surgery.
Manage Pain With Prescribed Medications
“Keeping pain under control is an important part of recovery, and it can also help with reducing inflammation and swelling."
It is likely you’ll receive prescribed medication to help manage any postoperative pain; and it’s so important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. If your medication isn’t effectively managing your pain or is making you feel nauseated or groggy, you should consult with your doctor. You may wish to lower or increase the dosage prescribed. Remember, you’ve just undergone a significant operation. Keeping pain under control is an important part of recovery, and it can also help with reducing inflammation and swelling.1
If you are worried about the side-effects of some drugs, simply reach out to your general practitioner or orthopaedic surgeon to discuss an alternative form of relief. Ask them about the different types of pain relief available to you — they will be your primary advisors before and after surgery. A professional who understands your specific needs will prescribe the best treatment for a safe, healthy recovery.
Above all, a combined approach to postoperative pain relief is the best way to reduce the side effects of certain pain medications. There are a multitude of ways to manage your pain after surgery.
Use Ice Packs
“Repeated ice pack application can prevent swelling, bruising, and any prolonged post-op pain, so it’s important to stay on top of your regime after a hip or knee replacement procedure.”
Apply a gel ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to the affected areas to help with the pain and reduce inflammation. Cold therapy is is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it is also a highly effective means of alleviating pain, with joint arthroplasty patients seeing a significant decrease in pain by day two postoperative.2 Repeated ice pack application can also prevent swelling, bruising, and any prolonged post-op pain, so it’s important to stay on top of your regime after a hip or knee replacement procedure.3 As a general rule of thumb, apply an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time 3 to 4 times per day. However, it’s a good idea to ask your physician or orthopaedic surgeon for their recommendation.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, postoperative swelling can last for up to 3 to 6 months. As the severity of your pain decreases, you may wish to cease taking painkillers, using ice packs exclusively to manage swelling and pain at the acute stage of your recovery.
Elevate Your Legs
“To ensure a full recovery, it’s advisable to elevate your legs, keeping the affected area or limbs above the heart to promote good circulation.”
Keep your toes about the nose.
Any lower extremity pain or swelling you may be experiencing can often be caused by poor circulation. To ensure a full recovery, it’s advisable to elevate your legs, keeping the affected area or limbs above the heart to promote good circulation.4
If you’re lying down, lift your legs above your hips by placing a couple of pillows underneath to prop yourself up. This technique is highly effective in minimising any pain or discomfort felt in your legs, ankles and feet. Try and exercise rotations whilst your feet are elevated to further encourage circulatory function.
Get Your Strength Back
“Physiotherapy rehab is an essential treatment as it maximises patient independence and significantly lowers the risk of complications.”
It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but it’s so important to try and move around as much as possible to gain back your strength and prevent future chronic pain after an orthopaedic procedure.
A physiotherapist will assist you with your exercises in a safe manner which avoids injury with specific and tailored stretching. Walking or massaging the area is a good place to start. Hip surgery recipients often require assistive devices like walking aids to get around. Knee surgery recipients can use crutches.
By following your therapy recommendations, you’ll encourage blood flow, reduce discomfort and fast-track the recovery process. Physiotherapy rehab is an essential treatment as it maximises patient independence and significantly lowers the risk of complications.4 Some patients may begin their recovery at home, while others recover best within a short-term rehab centre, which offers around-the-clock support.
Rest Up And Recover
“You won’t be able to carry out your regular activities immediately after surgery, so rest up and allow your body the time it needs to recover and minimise your pain.”
Take it easy. Pain affects patients on an individual level, but you should avoid exercising too much strength in the early stages of recovery. You won’t be able to carry out your regular activities immediately after surgery, so rest up and allow your body the time it needs to recover and minimise your pain. Don’t push yourself beyond the limits your physiotherapist has set for your recovery. Running into any complications with your hip or knee replacement is the last thing you need.
Don’t ignore severe discomfort that interferes with your sleep, and remember to take your medication as prescribed. Getting plenty of sleep will provide some much needed relief from any pain you may be experiencing; but do try to walk every couple of hours while you’re awake.
Dr Jason Tsung does not endorse any treatments, procedures or products referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon.
- Health Quality Ontario. 2005. Physiotherapy Rehabilitation After Total Knee or Hip Replacement: An Evidence-Based Analysis. Ontario Health Technology Assessment Series, 5(8), pp. 1-91.
- Ni S.H., Jiang W.T., Guo L., Jin Y.H., Jiang T.L., Zhao Y., Zhao J., 2015. Cryotherapy on postoperative rehabilitation of joint arthroplasty. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 23:3354–3361.
- Hays, M.B. and Mayfield, J.F., 1988. Total blood loss in major joint arthroplasty: a comparison of cemented and noncemented hip and knee operations. The Journal of arthroplasty, 3, pp. 47-49.
- Sinatra, R.S., Torres, J. and Bustos, A.M., 2002. Pain management after major orthopaedic surgery: current strategies and new concepts. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 10(2), pp. 117-129.
- Argenson J.N., Parratte S., Bertani A., Aubaniac J.M., Lombardi A.V. Jr., Berend K.R., Adams J.B., Lonner J.H., Mahoney O.M., Kinsey T.L., John T.K., Conditt M.A., 2009. The new arthritic patient and arthroplasty treatment options. J Bone Joint Surg Am, 43-8.
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