Overweight and obese patients that need to get knee replacements may be devastated if their doctor says that they have to lose weight before general surgery. Since exercising may be painful on worn-out knees, this prospect of losing weight before surgery may seem impossible. Don't lose heart. Take a look at why it may be important to shed some pounds before surgery and how to do it without hurting yourself.
Why Would Patients Need to Lose Weight Before Surgery?
Some hospitals and doctors will not perform some operations on extremely overweight or obese patients. This decision may be due to the increased costs and resources required. There have been studies on arthroplastic surgeries that have shown that excess weight can extend the operation time and increase the risk of dislocated joints.
Also, weight can in fact be a contraindication—especially when paired with other issues like asthma or diabetes. For example, Heavier people often struggle with anesthetics. These drugs can slow down respiration, and the excess weight can make it challenging to breathe—similar to obstructive sleep apnea.
As you can see, there are some valid concerns for postponing surgery until some weight is lost.
So, How Can a Patient Lose Weight Before Surgery?
Right before surgery, your doctor will likely have you perform range-of-motion exercises to strengthen your knees (hips, ankles, etc.) for surgery. Ask your doctor to give you these exercises early on to help you lose weight and stretch out. These kinds of exercises are great because they are often akin to Pilates, meaning they can be done sitting or lying down on a mat. Range-of-motion exercises focus on flexing and extending your legs.
For more cardio-intensive workouts, consider low-impact activities like swimming or cycling. Swimming is one of the best activities out there since it's a whole-body workout and since floating in the water means zero weight on your knees. If you want to try cycling, find a gym with recumbent bikes. Since these bikes are ergonomic and let you recline, they are often great for people with knee issues.
The Benefits of Losing Weight Extend Beyond Surgery
If you've been exercising before surgery and losing weight, your healing time will usually be better. Plus, if you have been exercising regularly, you'll have greater stamina to tackle the physical therapy that's required after your joint replacement surgery.
Once patients are done with crutches and casts, physical therapy is the next vital step to restore functionality. Physical therapy can restore your range of motion, prevent clots with improved circulation, and strengthen your muscles. If you aren't already accustomed to activity and/or have excess weight, then physical therapy may be incredibly difficult to get through.
Lastly, losing some weight before surgery can mean that you will prevent further surgeries since those who lose weight decrease their risk of osteoarthritis.
If you are looking to improve your quality of life and restore your knee's function, contact a doctor in your area. He or she can give you tips on how to shed some weight before surgery so that the operation is safer and so that you can continue you your journey of improved health.