Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions about recovery from joint replacement

The information presented is for educational purposes only. If you are experiencing joint pain, seek treatment from your doctor. There are a number of treatment options that he/she may recommend ( other than joint replacement). Your doctor will advise you whether joint replacement is suitable for your condition.

Individual results following joint replacement can vary between patients. Consult with your surgeon on your individual clinical factors and the type of activities you could resume after surgery. The lifetime of any device is limited and depends on several factors like weight and activity level. Your doctor will help counsel you about strategies to potentially prolong the lifetime of the device which may include avoiding high-impact activities, such as running, as well as maintaining a healthy weight.

 

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Why are my ankles still swollen?

Why are my ankles still swollen?

Healing tissues are nearly always more swollen than normal tissue, and swelling may last for several months after your operation. Ankle swelling is caused by the calf muscles contracting each time we take a step, to help pump blood back to the heart.

If you are not putting full weight on the leg for a while after your operation, this pumping action becomes less effective, and fluid builds up around the ankle. After joint replacement, many people complain their ankle is more swollen by the end of the day.

What can I do about ankle swelling? 

Ankle pump exercises when sitting work the calf muscles and help pump fluid away. Try putting equal weight through each leg and ‘push off’ from your toes on each step – unless you’ve been told to limit your weight bearing after your operation. Alternatively, rest on a bed after lunch for an hour, with cushions under the foot of the mattress or bricks under the legs at the bottom of the bed, so gravity will help drain the ankles.

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Why is my scar warm?

Why is my scar warm?

Even when the incision wound has healed, there is still healing going on deep inside that creates heat you can feel on the scar surface. This may continue for up to six months, and is different to the warmth you feel when there’s an infection.

Signs of infection include:

  • Increased swelling or redness at the incision scar.
  • Changes in the colour, amount an odour of incisiondrainage
  • Increased pain.
  • Chills or fever greater than 38˚C.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

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Why do I get pain lower down my leg?

Why do I get pain lower down my leg?

As tissues settle it’s quite normal to experience ‘referred pain’ in the shin or behind the knee. If you are uncomfortable or concerned, please contact your doctor.

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Why do I stiffen up?

Why do I stiffen up?

You may notice you feel quite mobile while moving around, but stiffen up after sitting down for a while. And when you stand, you may need to take three or four steps before your joint loosens up again. This is because healing tissues are often still swollen, and respond more slowly than normal tissue.

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Is it normal to have disturbed nights?

Is it normal to have disturbed nights?

Very few people sleep right through at six weeks after a joint replacement operation. As with sitting, you tend to stiffen up when sedentary, and the resulting discomfort wakes you up. Also, many people don’t normally sleep on their backs, so their normal sleeping patterns are disturbed and it can take a while to adjust.

If you’ve had a hip replacement, you should only start sleeping on your non-operated side after 12 weeks. It may help you sleep to have a pillow between your legs.

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I have a numb patch – is this okay?

I have a numb patch – is this okay?

Surgery causes disruption to small, superficial nerves around the incision, which, in turn, can cause a numb patch. This usually gets smaller as the wound heals, but there may be a permanent small area of numbness.

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Why does my joint ‘click’?

Why does my joint ‘click’?

A clicking sound from the replacement joint area is normal, and is usually a sign that swollen tissues are moving over each other differently than before. It’s part of the healing process, and should reduce as you continue to recover.

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When should I stop using a stick?

When should I stop using a stick?

Stop using the stick when you can walk just as well without it as you can with it. Carry on using a stick if you still have a limp, so you don’t get into bad habits that are difficult to break. Limping puts extra strain on other joints, especially in your back and your other leg, as they ‘compensate’ during your recovery, so try using the stick on the opposite side to your recently operated joint.

Many people take a stick out with them for three to four months after the joint replacement, as they tend to limp more as they get tired.

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How far should I walk?

How far should I walk?

This depends on your fitness and your home situation. You should feel tired but not exhausted when you get home from a walk, so gradually build up distance, remembering you have to get back home from wherever you walk.

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Will I set off the security scanner alarm at the airport?

Will I set off the security scanner alarm at the airport?

Joint replacement implantsare usually made with stainless steel, and may activate metal detection devices such as those used at airport security checkpoints. With this in mind, it’s useful to carry a patient ID Card or a certificate from your doctor when you fly, and let security staff know before you walk through the scanner. 

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Next Steps

Contact your GP or health professional to discuss your options