I'm planning to have at least one of my elbow joints replaced because of severe rheumatoid arthritis. Will I be able to get my normal strength and function back with the new implant?

Elbow replacements are done much less often than other joints such as the hip or knee. The number of studies with results are far fewer. Rehab programs afterward may vary from surgeon to surgeon. Sometimes there are differences from one part of the U.S. to another or one country to another.

In a recent report from Oxford, England, surgeons advised patients with elbow replacements to begin elbow motion the first day after surgery. The patient could progress the program as much as pain and discomfort would allow. A sling was used except during exercise.

For the first six weeks patients were told to avoid lifting or any motion that would apply resistance to elbow extension. Once they reached this milestone they could advance their activities. Everything was done according to their level of pain or discomfort.

Normal activities were allowed but strenuous manual labor was banned. The patients were advised not to lift or carry heavy loads with the treated arm. Anyone in construction or heavy labor was told not to go back to that work ever.

Check with the surgeon who is going to do your surgery for any rehab or post-operative guidelines. Some restrictions are based on the kind of implant you get.