Joint Replacement Tips for Dancers

Jay Aland has had both hips and knees replaced. Although there is much information available from the usual sources concerning these surgeries, there are a few things overlooked. Here are my personal observations (not checked or audited by any qualified medical persons).

  1. WHEN to replace the joint? At the conjunction of your Orthopedist, your insurer, your pain, and how much dancing you’re missing.  If it’s going in the direction of replacing it sometime, then once you’re losing dancing time, do it.  You won’t regret doing it. 
  2. COST is expensive; you need good insurance. You’re starting on a long path.
  3. SURGEONS all cost you the same; get the best.
  4. HOSPITAL selection . . . Use the best one for preventing infection. Do it as an outpatient, if there is a choice; go home to be safe from infection.
  5. PAIN is manageable; you have to manage to keep it below the level of interfering with your Physical Therapy. If you do the PT, you will get back to dancing.  If you don’t, your joint may be permanently stiff.  Start on it right away – and stay active. But do not overdo it; if the pain stops you from sleeping, take a day off on exercises.
  6. ICE is the other pain treatment. Apply bags of ice, or frozen ice-packs, for 20 minutes max. (for danger of frost bite).  Stockpile ice in advance.  I use a Breg Polar Care Cube which you can buy on Amazon for $300 and use constantly (since it limits temperature to 39); if you’re not doing the ice, you’re not saving yourself anything.
  7. DRUGS strong enough may also make you crazy. You need someone close at hand, whom you trust, to tell you when it’s time to take drugs, make any necessary decisions, and do any required driving.
  8. CONSTIPATION is the other side effect of pain medications. I start on Milk of Magnesia right away. This is what works for me; you may do it a different way.
  9. SCHEDULE a week of getting around with a walker, and maybe more. My second week I kept a reacher/grabber handy which I could use as a cane if I needed it. The worst pain should be done in 2 weeks.
  10. SAFETY is whatever is required to DON’T FALL DOWN. Do whatever you have to do. Go as slow as necessary. Suction cup grab-bars can help a lot in the shower, like Safe-Er-Grip Bath and Shower Handle for $13 at Amazon.
  11. Dancers have more lower body flexibility and strength, and can heal faster, but they don’t want any long term joint stiffness. Work it many times a day, to extend your range of motion, and then ice it. Don’t stress it so much that you’re left in pain.
  12. PTs (Physical Therapists) are highly skilled and well trained. In the first week, your PT can help you the most, answer your questions, etc. Trust your PT.  And engender your PT’s trust in you.  I did my latest PT online, and it worked well for me, but I knew the stuff and could motivate myself.
  13. The muscles and tendons around your joints go to great lengths to protect the joints and bones; you may have noticed that when you fall the biggest pains might be in muscles which were trying to save you from hitting too hard. As your joints deteriorate, the muscles, tendons and ligaments nearby bond together into protective shells around them, and sometimes you can’t tell whether the joint is hurting, or if it’s just the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments. Before putting your Orthopedist to work on the failing joint, you might want to get your massage therapist to release all the surrounding tissue, so you can focus on the right problem.
  14. You may feel pain in spots on the outside of your leg; and if you do, they may be caused by a tight IT Band. Your IT Band runs from your pelvis, down the outside of your leg, to the Tibia, in your lower leg. It is flexible but will not stretch – it’s like a steel cable. A new joint may make your leg slightly longer, stretching your IT Band so that it presses on the muscles under it.  To learn more about hip and knee joints, their tendons, the IT Band, etc. watch “DON’T Foam-Roll Your IT Band!” on YouTube by Eric Lichtfuss, especially if you don’t know the function of the T F L.
  15. That is one way to relieve IT Band tension; another way is to lie on your side, on the edge of a solid surface. With the new joint on top, then drape your leg across and down over the edge so that its weight stretches your IT Band. Let it hang for 20 min.
  16. Once you’re back on your feet, if you find yourself unbalanced or wobbly, Try reading “Falling is Not an Option – A Way to Lifelong Balance” by George Locker. It is by far the best method of improving balance that I have ever tried.