Hip replacement recovery: timeline, tips and information

How quickly you recover from hip replacement surgery will depend on a variety of factors, including your general health, age and whether you develop any complications after surgery. In most cases, your care team will aim to get you up and out of bed on the same day as your surgery or the day after. 

With daily physiotherapy exercises, you should be able to return to most of your usual activities after 10 to 12 weeks. However, complete recovery for a total hip replacement takes six to 12 months. Your prosthetic hip joint can last for up to 20 years.

 

What to expect after hip replacement surgery

Complete recovery from a hip replacement surgery is a long process, taking several months to a year. It is important to pace yourself and keep up with exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your balance and blood circulation.

Immediately after your surgery, you will be lying on your back and may have a pillow between your legs to keep your hip aligned. You will be closely monitored by your care team and your surgical wound will be covered with a dressing. Your care team will encourage you to get out of bed, with the help of a physiotherapist, as soon as possible after your surgery — either that same day or the day after.

Hip replacement recovery week by week

On the day of your hip replacement surgery

You will need to admit yourself into hospital several hours before your surgery. The surgery will take two to three hours and you will then be taken to a recovery room to closely monitor your vital signs (eg heart rate and blood pressure) and assist you if you develop any side effects from the anaesthesia, such as vomiting. You will not be fully alert for a further two hours after surgery while the general anaesthesia wears off. 

Once the general anaesthesia wears off, you will be taken to your hospital room.

You will be given liquid meals for the rest of the day as well as several medications administered via a drip that is inserted into a vein in your arm. These medications will include pain relief, blood thinners and antibiotics to prevent infection. You may also be given compression stockings to wear on your legs — this helps reduce the chances of blood clots developing while you are less mobile.

Your care team will encourage you to sit up, get out of bed and try walking as soon as possible. You will be helped by a physiotherapist. The sooner you start moving, the better your recovery. During your stay in hospital, which will likely last one to three days, your care team will encourage you to move around more. 

1–2 days after surgery

You should now be able to get out of bed with some help and be able to move around with the use of a walking aid eg crutches or a walker. Try to stay moving for 20 to 30 minutes at a time but stick to a slow pace. This will gradually help strengthen your muscles and improve your blood circulation to reduce the chances of blood clots developing. Your physiotherapist will also show you specific exercises to practice daily that will improve the strength and range of motion of your hip.

3–4 days after surgery

By day three, you may be able to walk to the bathroom by yourself and any pain will be manageable. If there are no complications from your surgery and your care team is confident that you can complete essential tasks independently, you will be discharged to go home on day three or four. This will be determined by an occupational therapist, who will help you practice modified ways to perform daily tasks, such as: 

  • Bathing and showering
  • Bending down to put on your socks and shoes
  • Carrying items (eg food and drink) while using a cane or walker
  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Getting on and off the toilet
  • Getting in and out of a car

You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you for several days or weeks as you recover at home

You will also be given a programme of exercises to perform daily by your physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist will advise you on how much weight the leg operated on can bear. They may also give you guidance on how to sleep, sit and/or bend comfortably and safely for the next few months or for the foreseeable future. 

4–10 days after surgery

During this time there is a significant risk of infection if you don’t follow your care team’s instructions on how to take care of your wound. Stay alert for any signs of infection and inform your doctor if you notice any. Signs of infection include fever, redness or discharge from your wound. 

As you won’t be able to shower or bathe until the staples holding your wound together are removed, you will need to have sponge baths to keep your body and your wound clean. Make sure your wound stays clean and dry for three weeks after surgery and following the instructions of your care team, change the dressing when needed. 

10–14 days after surgery

A nurse will remove the staples from your wound and you can return to having baths or showers. You can also start walking without a walking aid.

3–6 weeks after hip replacement surgery

You may not need a walking aid anymore and can return to light activities. If you are no longer taking any pain medication, your doctor may clear you to drive again. If you find it difficult to get into your car, try easing yourself in backwards and then swinging your legs into the car. 

After around six weeks, following the advice of your doctor, you may be able to have sex again. However, you should avoid strenuous sex or positions that will strain your hip. If you still need a walking aid, or have strength or balance problems, you may not have recovered enough to have sex. 

After around six to 12 weeks, you may also be able to return to work depending on how physically demanding your work is. 

You should continue walking often every day and avoid sitting for long periods of time. This will help reduce your hip pain and stiffness. Your physiotherapist will advise you on which exercises you can now practice daily to strengthen and stretch your muscles.

10 weeks to one year after surgery

After around 10 to 12 weeks, you should be able to return to most of your normal activities. However, a complete recovery will take six to 12 months. In most cases, any pain will have gone away after a year, although some people continue to experience some mild pain or discomfort after a year. 

You will need to keep up with your daily physiotherapy exercises and regular walking. This will continue to strengthen your muscles and improve your range of motion, flexibility and balance. Your physiotherapist will advise you on which exercises to perform; these will likely focus on body mechanics, posture and weight-bearing. 

Planning ahead for recovery

Advance planning for your recovery will help things go more smoothly after your hip replacement surgery, particularly as there will be many activities that you won’t be able to do independently and/or easily for some time, such as bathing, cooking and cleaning. 

It is important to arrange for someone to stay with you for at least the first few days after surgery and ideally for several weeks. If you are unable to arrange this, you can speak to your care team about arranging visiting home care, or in some cases, you may be discharged to a rehabilitation centre. 

Preparing your home

You will, perhaps, be spending more time at home than you are used to during your recovery. You will also be less mobile, so making modifications to your home before your surgery can help you get around afterwards. Consider: 

  • Attaching safety bars to your shower and placing a chair in your shower
  • Buying self-help aids — this includes: 
    • Devices to help pick up items that are far away
    • Leg lifters to help you get in and out of bed
    • Long-handled shoe horns to help put on your shoes
  • Clearing any wires, loose rugs or other obstructions from walkways
  • Installing a raised toilet seat
  • Setting up the downstairs with a bedroom and any other items you need to avoid trips up and down the stairs

Medications

Speak to your doctor before your surgery about what medications you will need to take after your surgery eg antibiotics, blood thinners and painkillers. If you are already taking other medications, make sure your doctor is aware of these in case they will affect any medications you will be given after surgery. Take any medications recommended by your doctor exactly as instructed.

If you have any dental surgery planned for after your hip replacement surgery, your doctor may recommend taking antibiotics before your dental surgery.

Exercise and energy levels

Be mentally prepared to feel tired for several weeks after your surgery as your body heals. Although you will feel tired, it is still important to practice the daily exercises given by your physiotherapist. However, be prepared for the improvements in your muscle strength, range of motion, flexibility and balance to take time. Complete recovery from hip replacement surgery takes six to 12 months.

A man doing his post operation exercise

Complications to watch out for after hip replacement surgery

Every surgery comes with a risk of complications. Although the risk of complications with hip replacement surgery is very low, you should stay alert to any signs of complications. Notify your care team immediately if you notice any of the following signs: 

  • A bad smell or discharge from your wound
  • Fever, chills and/or shaking
  • Pain, redness, swelling and/or tenderness in your calf — this could be a sign of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a potentially life-threatening blood clot
  • Worsening hip pain
  • Worsening redness or swelling around your wound

Complications after hip replacement surgery include: 

  • A difference in the length between your legs 
  • Blood clots
  • Dislocation of the hip joint
  • Joint infection 
  • Wear and tear of your prosthetic hip joint over time

Pain after hip replacement surgery

Hip pain is a leading reason for having hip replacement surgery, which has proven to significantly reduce hip pain after recovery from surgery. The type of pain you experienced before your hip replacement surgery should go away immediately after your surgery but will temporarily be replaced with a different type of hip pain that will ease off as your body heals. During the first one to three days after surgery, you can take over-the-counter painkillers regularly to manage the pain. 

In some cases, hip pain persists for several months or even after a year after surgery. This may be due to problems with the prosthetic hip joint, changes in your hip or thigh bones, or damage to surrounding soft tissue or nerves. 

Worsening pain after hip replacement surgery is usually a sign of a serious complication, as is worsening redness and swelling around the wound. You should therefore inform your care team as soon as possible. In very rare cases, chronic (long-term) hip pain after surgery may need further surgery. 

When will I feel back to normal?

The time it takes to feel normal again after hip replacement surgery will vary according to your age, general health and fitness, the condition of your joints and muscles, and the work, hobbies or other physical activities that are part of your routine. Your doctor and/or physiotherapist can give you more advice about your particular recovery timeline. 

In most cases, you can return to light activities or office-based work after around six weeks. If your work is physically demanding it may take up to 12 weeks before you can return. You should avoid extreme movements or sports with a risk of falls (eg skiing and horse riding) after having a hip replacement. 

Looking after your new hip after hip replacement surgery

Prosthetic hip replacements can last up to 20 years with good care. Your care team will advise you on how to look after your prosthetic hip. 

They may advise you not to: 

  • Cross your legs
  • Force your hip into uncomfortable positions
  • Lie on your side or apply pressure to your wound when it is still healing
  • Swivel on the ball of your foot

They may also suggest that you: 

  • Avoid bending your hip more than 90 degrees
  • Avoid low chairs and toilet seats — you can buy a raised toilet seat
  • Avoid twisting your hip
  • Take more care in areas where slips are more common eg in the bathroom, kitchen and garden
  • Take small steps when turning around
  • Use a walking aid (eg crutches or a walker) until you are strong and stable enough to walk without one — your physiotherapist will advise you on when you can stop using a walking aid 

Hip replacement recovery FAQs

How long does it take to walk normally after hip surgery?

This depends on your general health and fitness, as well as the condition of your joints and muscles. However, in most cases, you will be able to walk without a walking aid after 10 to 14 days.

How long are you on bed rest after a hip replacement?

It is important to get up and out of bed as soon as possible after hip replacement surgery. Your care team will therefore help you do this on the same day as your surgery or the day after. 

Can you overdo walking after hip replacement?

Yes, it is possible to walk too much after a hip replacement. It takes up to 12 months for a complete recovery and while it is important to walk regularly during this time, you should gradually increase the amount you walk. In the first few days of your recovery, it’s best to walk for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.


The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences.Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing.He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.