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Preventing Constipation After Joint Replacement

After joint replacement surgery, we naturally focus on the knee or hip that has been replaced. But our body is made up of many parts that work together in an incredible way. One of those parts that is commonly overlooked after surgery is our digestive system.

Constipation is a common problem after surgery for several reasons. Many times your body’s regular eating and drinking pattern has been interrupted for surgery. When you couple that with the anesthesia you receive, pain medications, and inactivity after surgery, is it any wonder that your body may take some time to return to normal function?

There are three key areas that can affect your digestive health while recovering from joint replacement surgery.

Nutrition: I am a firm believer in nutrition and the role that it plays in surgical outcomes. Proper nutrition helps to prevent constipation after surgery. Eat fibrous food such as whole grains, apples, pears, prunes, sweet potatoes, and green leafy vegetables. If your appetite hasn’t fully returned, try making a smoothie with fruits and vegetables. Lastly, drink plenty of water. Hydration is crucial for digestion.

Activity: As soon as you are able, get moving. Thanks to minimally invasive and robotic surgical procedures, patients can return to activity much sooner. Even if it is a short walk down the hall, getting up and moving will help your digestive system to move as well.

Medication: Opioid medications are a contributing factor to constipation. For that reason, take your medication as needed, but do not exceed what is prescribed. As you begin to feel better, wean yourself off of the pain medication.

Our body may be made up of many parts, but they all work together in an fascinating way. As you recover from joint replacement surgery, pay attention to your nutrition, activity, and medications. Your digestive system will thank you.

Dr. Paul Jacob is a hip and knee surgeon in Oklahoma City, and a pioneer of robotic joint replacement surgery. Dr. Jacob has been published in The Journal of Knee Surgery, Journal of Orthopedics, Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, Arthritis & Rheumatology, and The Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

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