Joint Replacement is Changing
By Margaret Vence, DPT
The age of patients seeking joint
replacement seems to be trending downward. While sixty-five is the average age
of hip-replacement and knee-replacement patients in Cayuga Medical Center’s
Joint Solutions program, we are now seeing more people in their forties and
fifties who want joint function restored before they lose their ability to
remain fully active.
What are the biggest changes in
joint replacement surgery?
Joint replacement surgery has evolved
to improve recovery time. Some joint replacement surgery can be performed
through smaller incisions. Newer pain management techniques make it easier for
patients to be up and moving around more comfortably immediately following
joint replacement surgery, which speeds the healing process. Physical therapy,
in particular aquatic therapy, can significantly reduce recovery time. All of
these factors influence people’s decisions not to postpone joint replacement
surgery until their movement is severely restricted and painful.
How does Joint Solutions influence
In progressive medical communities
such as ours, the entire approach to joint replacement has been modified to
provide a continuum of care for prospective hip- and knee-replacement patients.
The results from programs like Joint Solutions support the premise that for
patients, knowledge is power. Through pre-operative education classes and
exercise, prospective joint replacement patients know ahead of time what to
expect and what is expected of them. As a result, their surgical experiences
and individual outcomes are very positive.
An important aspect of the
continuum of care is that joint-replacement patients interact with the same
caregivers throughout the process, from pre-operative classes through
hospitalization and rehabilitation. Following surgery, our patients continue
with outpatient physical therapy. In many cases we incorporate aqua therapy
into their rehabilitation regimen with excellent results.
How does aqua therapy help
following joint replacement surgery?
There are many proven benefits of
physical therapy in water. Following surgery, joint-replacement patients use a
device (a walker or cane) to assist with walking, due to pain, loss of
strength, and restricted range of motion in the affected leg. However, the
buoyancy of water allows these patients to move much more easily. This enables
them to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and carry themselves
naturally, with less deviation.
Joint Solutions patients undergo
aqua therapy in the pool at the Island Health Center, in addition to physical
therapy on land. Water is a great medium for healing. The pool temperature is
set at a very pleasant 89 degrees and there is equipment used for specific
aquatic strength training and range of motion work. Recovery from joint
replacement surgery is a progression for each individual patient; we outline
goals together and assess progress regularly. Our land therapists and pool
therapists work together for optimal approaches to speed recovery and regain
Aquatic therapy offers camaraderie
to people as they recover from surgery: they exercise together in a wellness
environment and share experiences. We also find that while in the pool, often
for the first time in quite a while, people are able to move and exercise with
confidence and independence.
Can I continue to swim after my
rehab is completed?
Physical therapy patients of Cayuga
Medical Center have the benefit of transitioning to membership at Island Health
and Fitness at a discounted rate, following completion of their physical
therapy. This membership includes use of all exercise equipment and the pool.
The advantage of this is that people can continue to work out in the same
place, on the same equipment they used throughout rehab.
Vence is a doctor of physical therapy, a certified aquatic therapist, and the
director of Joint Solutions at Cayuga Medical Center. Aqua therapy is offered
every day of the week at the Island Health Center, in group classes and
individual sessions for those needing one-on-one care. To find out more, call