I was a few months short of 52 when I was told I needed a knee replacement following an accident.
Unsurprisingly it was a bit of a shock, and I had to lean heavily on Yoga to help me through.
Modern techniques have improved surgeries like joint replacement tremendously, however they are still quite an assault on the body and emotions.
Let us look at how Yoga Therapy can help.
Before surgery, the idea of “prehabilitation” – prehab – is a good one; getting yourself ready physically and psychologically for surgery. Certainly, being as physically fit as you can be will help your recovery, but often the dilemma exists that you may have limitations with exercise and movement – Yoga can help here as it can provide options for gentle non aggravating exercise. For myself, a combination of Yoga and cycling was my preparation.
It’s also important to be emotionally fit before surgery – there is evidence that pre surgical stress can make your recovery more difficult.1,2 Again this is something Yoga is well placed to help with, through relaxation practices. Coherent Breathing was my go-to practice, as it both calms the Nervous System and helps foster physiological and psychological resilience.
Immediately after surgery you will need bed rest for a few days, and you may find yourself a bit stiff from being in bed – a little bit of upper body Yoga and some seated twists can easily be done in bed, as can some simple Yoga breathing practices, e.g., Coherent Breathing. I found the second night post-surgery to be the most painful, even with medication, and breathing plus some Kiritan music – yoga chants – helped me through a night of very disturbed sleep.
Post-surgical pain and insomnia can be helped with Yoga based breathing practices – when things are flared up a practice like gentle Ujjai breathing with an extended exhale will help stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System which will be downrated in such situations and provide an element of “Yoga First Aid”. Longer term Coherent Breathing will help balance the Nervous System and improve Heart Rate Variability, which can be compromised in the immediate post-surgical period.2
As recovery progresses there are a host of areas where Yoga can help.
Physically, your Physiotherapist will lead, but Yoga can support their work with you. Your body will be adapting physically to a slight difference in the joint, which will create various tensions and imbalances, which Yoga can help correct. Yoga also offers opportunities for gentle strengthening and release of muscles and tissues disturbed during surgery, and opportunities for gentle mobilisation to move synovial fluid around and lubricate the joint.
Where Yoga can also help post joint replacement surgery is addressing some of the emotional issues. Some people, and by no means all, can experience an element of disassociation from the new joint, and Yoga offers opportunities to, quite literally, welcome the new joint into the body. There may be new limitations or adaptations to movement patterns to adjust to, and this can present as many psychological challenges as physical ones – again this is an area where Yoga provides support in developing a more reasoned outlook. For some people there may be ongoing pain or unusual sensations, and Yoga provides tools for helping to assimilate these.
In short, pre surgery, immediately after surgery, and during rehabilitation, Yoga can support joint replacement and, for that matter, other surgeries. However not all Yoga is created equally – you need to work with an experienced Yoga Therapist or Yoga Teacher – as the wrong choice of practices could set you back.
You can learn more about my practice as a Yoga Therapist, and book appointments, at www.yinspire.co.uk/yoga-therapy
Jessica – Minded Yoga Therapist
1 – Effect of pre-surgical stress on recovery of patients undergoing hip replacement procedure https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27120945/
2 – Dynamics of Vagal Activity Due to Surgery and Subsequent Rehabilitation