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Joint Replacement Surgery is Changing

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 surgical outcomes?

 

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 full function.

 

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.

 

Margaret 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 (607) 252-3500.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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