Preparing for Joint Replacement Surgery

KerriSue_thumbby: Kerri Sue Stange, MPT at The Orthopedic Institute at Southwest Health

When you’re to the point where joint pain because unmanageable, joint replacement can help you get rid of that pain and get you back to your passions in life! Though recovery will take several weeks, if you plan ahead for the challenges it will go much smoother. As a physical therapist, it’s my job to make sure that my patients are not only physically prepared for surgery, but also mentally and environmentally prepared.

Here are a few steps I recommend to help prepare yourself, and your home, for joint replacement surgery:

  • Learn about the procedure. Ask your physician if you will have any restrictions and how long you will be off work (if currently working).
  • Find a COACH! Find someone who will be with you each step of the way; like a spouse, friend, or family member. Your coach can help you with your exercises, drive you to appointments, and help manage meals and other household chores (taking out the garbage, feeding the dog, etc)!
  • If you do the cooking, freeze meals ahead of time or buy frozen entrees to have readily available for easy meals when you are home.
  • Place items that you use regularly at arm’s length away so you do not need to bend down or reach up to retrieve something.
  • Ensure that a walker is able to be maneuvered around your home wherever you will need to go. You may need to rearrange furniture to ensure a safe walking path.
  • Remove throw rugs or thick rugs that may be a tripping hazard in your home. Watch for any electrical cords that could be tightened or taped down to avoid tripping.
  • Have someone bring your walker and cane (or ones that you borrow) up to your hospital room after you are back from surgery. A therapy member will ensure that the devices are safe and that they are at the correct height for you.
  • Wait to purchase any adaptive equipment (such as reachers, sock aides, and shoe horns) until you have been seen by occupational therapy after surgery. You may not need all the equipment and the therapist will help you determine what is or is not needed.
  • Consider the furniture in your home. Low couches and recliners are very difficult for patients to get up and down following joint replacements. Standard height or higher firm chairs with armrests will be the easiest to get up and down.
  • Railings on at least one wall, along stairs, are extremely beneficial and will make going up and down stairs much easier for you.
  • Get in shape! Building up your upper body strength prior to surgery will make it easier to use the walker and cane. Performing lower body exercises will help to maintain and build strength of your legs and prepare you for the exercises you will be doing after surgery. You can get a list of lower body exercises from your physician or a physical therapist prior to surgery.

For more answers to questions about joint replacement surgery, ask for a Joint Camp Book from a member of the Orthopedic Institute at Southwest Health – (608) 342-4748 or visit

Kerri Sue Stange, MPT
Physical Therapist / Director of Rehab Services
Orthopedic Institute at Southwest Health (608) 342-4748

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