Tips for Traveling after a Joint Replacement

The surgery is done and now is the time to get back to your life.  A joint replacement of any kind is not an easy surgery from which to recover. It takes time!  When the time comes to travel again via car or plane, here are some tips to help make the trip more enjoyable.

4-6 weeks post-surgery:  The majority of surgeons will recommend that you wait a minimum of 6 weeks post-surgery before traveling, however some say you can travel as soon as you are comfortable sitting down, but a minimum of 4 weeks.  This decision depends largely on the length of time you will be traveling, and what mode of transportation you will be utilizing.

Pick your Seat: If you are traveling by air, it is best to select what seat you have on the airplane.  Upgrading to first class is the best solution, but many times not financially possible.  The row of seats behind the partition (between first class and economy) tend to have a little more leg room.  Emergency exit rows also have a little more leg room but since you are traveling after a major operation you might not have the ability to move fast enough to perform the duties required in those rows in case of an actual emergency.  It would also be best to obtain an aisle seat if the other options listed are not possible.

Frequent Breaks: Sitting for long periods of time is very common when traveling. The affected extremity tends to grow tight and stiffen up.  If possible, while on the plane, attempt to get up every 15-20 minutes.  If your travels by plane take you across the country, try to split the trip up and make a stop along the way (at least one layover) to give yourself the opportunity to get off the plane and walk around until your next flight is called.

Security Woes: Going through security at the airport is challenging for anyone. Getting through security after a joint replacement may require a little more preparation. Some physician’s offices may give you a letter stating you have had a joint replacement surgery.  You should also inform the TSA agent upon your arrival at the security checkpoint, that you have received a joint replacement very recently.  You should be prepared to go through extra screening.  Wear loose fitting clothing in the case that you are asked to show your surgical incision.  The more prepared you are, the smoother the process.

Car travel does not have security component, but you still want to plan your trip with frequent stops to give yourself time to get up and walk around. This will help avoid stiffness and tightness at the surgical location and surrounding extremity.  Some knee replacement patients prefer to sit in the back seat to keep their leg elevated across the seat, while others prefer the passenger seat pushed back all the way leaving as much leg room under the dash as possible.

Traveling after a joint replacement is possible, it just takes a little more planning.  It is always a good idea to consult your surgeon or physical therapist prior to your trip for additional recommendations specific to your state of recovery.

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