Defining Your Personal Success

Your idea of success after joint replacement surgery is unique and likely dependent on many variables. Check out our 3 tips for defining what matters most to you.

Many people don't know what to expect after getting a joint replaced, which is completely understandable. A shoulder, hip, or knee replacement can be a life-changing surgery with many uncertainties and unexpected challenges—even if you feel fully prepared for the procedure.

For this reason, it's helpful to talk with your surgeon and clarify your expectations about what you should be able to achieve during and after your recovery. Here are a few things to help you recognize and celebrate your successes along the way.

1. Find inspiration in others—but remember to focus on your own recovery.

You might know other people who've had joint replacements before. Listening to their stories, setbacks, and successes can be motivating, so feel free to have those conversations. Just remember that no two people are the same and no two surgeries are the same, either. You probably won't have the same experience as your friend or loved one, and you may not even have the same aspirations either—and that's okay!

Before you feel tempted to compare your journey to someone else's, remember this quote from Albert Einstein: “I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings.”

You're the expert of your body and you know what's important to you. So appreciate other people's paths while honoring your own by working toward things that personally matter, whether that's being able to walk your dog, play with your grandkids, get out of bed by yourself, walk around the block, or something else entirely. 

Attitude and Outcome

2. Look for objective and subjective indicators of progress.

Your physical therapist and surgeon will likely keep track of objective information such as your strength, range of motion, and pain levels. These are all important data points to guide your plan of care. 

But, there is a lot more to success than just "objective" measurements. Try to find other things that will reveal your improvements. Be creative and look for what matters to you. Here are some ideas for "non-objective" signs of success:

  • You're sleeping more comfortably throughout the night.
  • You're able to climb the stairs without resting.
  • You need less pain medication. 
  • You've mastered how to put on your clothes by yourself (with or without adaptive equipment).
  • You've remembered to do your exercises or breathing routine every day for a whole week (or month). 

Look for signs of success in multiple areas of your life, including your health, finances, career (if applicable), family life, and social life.

3. Add in a "reach" goal or two—but be patient and respect the process.

Getting a joint surgically replaced can be a great opportunity to "restart" with a healthy active lifestyle. You can use this as inspiration to set one or two long-term stretch goals for yourself, such as joining a gym, losing a certain amount of extra weight, picking up a new hobby, or being able to do something with your family that you weren't able to before.

But, if you weren't very active before your surgery—or haven't been for a long time because of a painful joint—you shouldn't expect yourself to jump right back into a ton of activity. And, depending on many factors­ (including the type of surgery you had and whether you have any other health conditions), it could take you several months to the better part of a year or more to get back to (or better than) your prior level of function.

So, be patient with yourself! Don't be afraid to have a big goal...but just don't forget to celebrate all the small wins along the way.

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