Joint pain can be unbearable, primarily when it affects your daily activities. If you've tried every other conservative option without relief and have significant damage in your joint, you may be a candidate for joint replacement surgery.
While joint replacement surgery is beneficial, you may have postoperative pain for several days to weeks after the procedure. Good pain management is necessary for a successful and quick recovery.
Dr. Brandon Downs is an orthopaedic surgeon at Orthopaedic Specialists in Nashville, Tennessee, offering joint replacement surgery when you're in constant pain.
Dr. Downs also provides information before your procedure to prepare you for recovery, including successful pain management techniques.
Understanding a joint replacement
A joint replacement is a type of surgical procedure surgeons use to remove damaged areas in a joint and replace them with prosthetics. The goal of joint replacement surgery is to restore function in the joint and improve chronic pain.
The prosthetics typically consist of metals, rigid plastics, or ceramics and mimic your natural joint in movement and feel.
You may need joint replacement surgery for various reasons, one of the most prevalent being arthritis. Various forms of arthritis affect the joints, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory form of arthritis where your immune system attacks the lining of your joints, causing pain and inflammation.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most dominant forms of the disease that affects the cartilage in the joints. It's a degenerative problem that destroys the protective tissues surrounding the bones in the joint.
What is the pain like after surgery?
The pain after a joint replacement varies from person to person, depending on pain tolerance, the type of joint replaced, and overall health. However, you likely have pain for the first few weeks after surgery as your body begins to heal the surgical incision and adapts to the new joint.
After your procedure, you may get IV pain medications to keep you comfortable for the first day after surgery. We then switch you to oral pain medications to ease the pain for the first week or so post-op.
As the weeks pass, you should experience less pain, swelling, and discomfort in your new joint. However, contact us immediately if you have more pain or notice increased redness and swelling.
Four tips for pain management
Although pain is common after a joint replacement, it's good to have measures to control discomfort and improve recovery time. A few of the pain management tips we recommend after a joint replacement include:
1. Use the R.I.C.E. method
R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation and is a great way to decrease discomfort after surgery.
Rest the joint when feeling pain, and apply ice (not directly on your skin) for about 20 minutes daily.
Use a bandage to wrap your joint if possible to decrease swelling and relieve pain. Elevate the affected joint when you're at rest to reduce swelling.
2. Take your pain medications early
The best way to manage postoperative pain is to begin your pain medications before your pain gets out of control.
If you had a nerve block or spinal epidural for the surgical procedure, we recommend taking your pain medication before the block wears off to stay ahead of your pain.
3. Go to physical therapy
Physical therapy is a must after a joint replacement, not only for mobility but for pain management too. During physical therapy, the therapist works with you to increase your strength, improve motion, and decrease pain and swelling in the joint.
Another advantage of physical therapy for pain is improved circulation to the joint, which aids in a faster recovery period.
4. Try over-the-counter medications
It's normal to have swelling and inflammation in your joint after surgery. Inflammation causes most pain after surgery, so taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications helps ease the pain while decreasing inflammation around the joint.
To learn more about our pain management techniques after surgery, call Orthopaedic Specialists today or request an online appointment at one of our six offices in the Nashville, Tennessee, area.