Whether due to an acute injury or as a potential solution to severe arthritis or other chronic pain conditions, elbow replacement therapy certainly comes with quite a few tips during recovery. Similar to a knee or a hip replacement, a surgeon has gone in and created an artificial joint to replace painful or non-functional ones. Thankfully, your elbow isn’t a weight-bearing joint, making the healing and rehabilitation process just a little bit easier. And with the right physical therapy, you might just be feeling quite a few years younger!
Alright, this is going to sound like a broken record, are you ready? One of the biggest don’ts when recovering from an elbow replacement surgery involves doing too much too soon. Your surgeon has likely already given you a stern talking-to. Your physical therapist has made sure you’ve heard a horror story or two at this point about a patient who refused to listen to their sage advice. It can be easy to forget when you’re getting out of bed to only use your dominant arm in the beginning stages of recovery, but this will help prevent complications in the long run. Even if your elbow is feeling right as rain, it’s still important to listen to your doctor before moving too fast through physical therapy exercises.
On the flip side, doing absolutely none of your PT exercises will land you in hot water as well. You’ll likely start working on your range of motion while still in the hospital. It’s important to keep that up when you get home, progressing through your physical therapy stages when your doctor okays it.
Many of the protocols for physical therapy exercises following elbow replacements start out with your elbow close in to the body, gradually moving it away as you gain greater flexibility in that arm again. Keeping the arm supported in the beginning phases of your recovery will help achieve those long term goals. After all, the whole point of going through the surgery was to improve your quality of life, not detract from it.
Remember that even though your elbow was the part that was replaced, your physical therapy may involve more than just elbow exercises. The shoulder, elbow and wrist all work together to produce everyday movements. You’ll need to work on every part of that arm to ensure a smooth transition back to what will hopefully be full use of that arm.