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If you’ve decided to get a knee or hip replacement, you probably already know that getting around won’t be easy while you’re recovering from surgery. It’s normal to be nervous about falling and injuring your new joint, but thankfully you can greatly minimize your risk of falling if you take a few simple precautions. We spoke to physical therapist Jennifer Becker to find out exactly what you should do to stay safe.
First things first: You want to make sure you’ve removed all fall-hazards from your house before you head to the hospital. That innocent throw rug by your bed and the mat under the kitchen sink turn to landmines when you’re recovering from joint replacement surgery. Tuck cords out of the way and tidy up any clutter on the floor, including pet toys.
If you have pets, we can almost guarantee they’re going to be super excited see you after a night away from home. Becker recommends having a family member keep dogs and cats quarantined in another room when you arrive at home. Excited pets tend to jump up and down around your ankles and may cause you to trip. Greet them only after you’re safely seated!
Don’t try walking without your walker or cane until your physical therapist gives you the green light. The distance to the bathroom might be short, but you’ll be unsteady after surgery. Don’t risk it. Period.
And, of course, it’s very important to go to your physical therapy appointments after you’ve been discharged from the hospital. “Physical therapy will address strength, range of motion, balance deficits, and gait dysfunction. All of this will help patients decrease their fall risk,” explains Becker. You also learn how to use your walker or cane correctly so you can get around safely as your body heals and strengthens.
Fall and winter are popular seasons for knee and hip replacements. That means there’s a good chance patients will run into bad weather at some point during the recovery process and need to be extra careful when going outside.
Regardless of the weather, Becker says you should definitely make sure you’re wearing shoes with good tread that won’t slip—but that’s extremely important if the ground is wet. She stresses that you should also use your cane or walker and take or your time. If there’s ice on the ground, just stay home.
If you fall and can’t get up, call 911. If you can get up, get an appointment with your doctor ASAP or come to a walk-in Care on Demand clinic to make sure you didn’t damage the surgical site or sustain a new injury.
There are many types of injuries you can get from a fall. Minor injuries include bruising and muscle soreness. More seriously, you could break a bone, damage your surgical prosthesis, or reopen the incision, which can lead to infection. Concussion or brain bleeding are also possibilities if you hit your head.