A Positive Attitude May Improve Your Chances of Success After Joint Surgery

Health Professional

Before you have surgery, you might need an attitude adjustment. Your beliefs, feelings and values can greatly affect the surgical outcome. If your mind is set on certain expectations, if you have certain thought patterns or if you have a particular way that you tackle obstacles each one of these attitudes can greatly influence what happens after surgery. Examine your attitude before having surgery to make sure that you're in the right frame of mind.

As your surgery date approaches, what do you expect will happen? If you think your pain will get worse, then it probably will. If you think that your recovery will be slow, then it probably will. Although it's important to be realistic, it is equally important not to be pessimistic. Studies have shown that those with poor attitudes before surgery really don't do as well post-surgery compared to those with good attitudes. Prior to surgery, you should plan to be in less pain and be able to do things after surgery better than before. Improving your expectations can improve your chances for surgical success.1

Surgical success oftentimes is measured by whether pain is relieved after surgery. Can you relieve post-surgical pain just by changing your attitude? You bet. Scientists have shown that temporarily inducing an optimistic thought pattern can reduce pain sensitivity. Just by_  thinking_  about being at your best and  doing  your best, you can reduce the amount of pain you feel. Not everyone is born with an optimistic disposition, but that doesn't mean that optimism cannot be learned. Isn't time to think about your surgery with a positive attitude? All positive thoughts will help to relieve pain.2

In addition to optimism, a willing "can do" attitude will help you during your recovery. If a physical therapist asks you to get out of bed and you say, "I can't," you will not get home faster. If your doctor asks you to do your home exercise program and you say, "I can't," you will not return to your normal activities quickly. Removing your fear and moving forward with an attitude that says "I can" will greatly enhance your ability to recover quickly from surgery.3

When it comes to surgery, attitude is certainly not everything; but, attitude is extremely influential and it is something that you can control. You have a choice about what your expectations will be prior to surgery. You can choose to interrupt your negative thought pattern with positive thoughts.  And, you can choose to have an "I can" attitude. Your beliefs, your feelings and your values can sow seeds of greatness for your future.


  1. Pain. 2011 Oct;152(10):2287-93
  2. Pain. 2013 Jan;154(1):53-8
  3. Pain. 2012 Mar;153(3):518-25