Managing your recovery from hip replacement surgery

Hip replacement surgery is a common procedure — in fact, you may already know someone who has had a successful operation. According to the 2019 statistics of the National Joint Registry, over 100,000 hip surgeries were carried out in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. This will only increase with our ageing population.

Hip replacement surgery can be performed on patients of all ages and for a variety of reasons but is mainly carried out on people between the ages of 60-80.

Recovery is something you need to be considering even before surgery. Remaining active and mobile before your operation will strengthen the muscles around your hip joint, helping speed up the healing process. 

After surgery, you may be a little surprised at how keen the physiotherapist is to get you moving. Keeping mobile is a critical part of your recovery — that being said, stay active but don’t push yourself.

You should be able to leave the hospital after three to five days. Your healthcare team will provide you with advice on how to manage your recovery after surgery. Once home, you’ll need a walking aid for about a week to support you. 

Things that you previously took for granted might now feel like a challenge, such as walking up the stairs or making a cup of tea. However, like all types of surgery, there are some tips to help you with all aspects of your recovery.     

How long will you be in pain for after surgery?

As with any major surgery, it is likely that you will feel some discomfort or post-operative pain. The muscle and tissue surrounding your hip joints will need time to heal. This can continue for several weeks with some minor discomfort around your incision point. 

After surgery, you will be given pain relief options to manage any soreness. But the good news is, you should no longer be experiencing the chronic (long-term) pain you had before the hip replacement.

Don’t be surprised if at first you are experiencing a lot of fatigue. Ensure that you are getting plenty of rest and factor in a rest period of at least one hour twice a day.

About six weeks after your surgery, you will most likely find that getting around the house becomes easier. If you feel comfortable, you may be able to start driving again.

Recovery will not be the same for everyone, so if the pain increases or stays the same for an extended period, you may need to contact your doctor to discuss it.

Get your home ready

There are some things you can do around the house to prepare for your recovery and life after surgery:

Keeping things in easy reach 

Some of the small tasks you have previously taken for granted may now be more difficult to do. Things like getting dressed or bending down to tie your shoes. Think about the tools you may need to make life easier and safer during this period eg using a handy grabber should you drop something or a long shoehorn. 

Trips and falls

For the first few weeks, you may be shuffling your legs so it is important to make sure there are no hazards around such as loose cables and slippery rugs. Prepare your home by ensuring you have a clear pathway throughout. Consider using non-slip patches under rugs and binding loose cables together. Trips and falls are a common reason for readmission. 

Upgrade your bathroom

Using the bathroom can be especially challenging, however, there are some handy apparatus that you can consider using during this period. Showers can be a slippery hazard, but using a specially designed bath chair could offer you the stability you need. 

You could also look at a long-term investment by installing a comfort height toilet. These toilets are two to three inches higher than standard toilets, which can assist you in relieving the pressure on your joints.

Managing pain at home

You will have been prescribed painkillers and it’s really important that you take them regularly at the intervals indicated.

Many people find that applying ice to the healing joint can be very soothing. A bag of frozen vegetables placed on top of a piece of cotton is perfect. You can easily mould the bag around your joint and keep it in place for a maximum of 20 minutes — unless your surgeon has recommended otherwise. Once you have finished, simply place the bag of vegetables back in the freezer until the next time you need them.

Deep breathing exercises are a perfect way to give your body the oxygen it needs to help with healing. It’s great for pain management and also reduces the risk of respiratory infection.

Exercising to help your recovery after surgery

At a time where you may feel out of control, there are some things you can do to take it back and help speed up your recovery.

For instance, your surgeon may have discussed your diet with you, as a healthy diet that is low in sugar and refined foods helps to reduce inflammation. Make sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as foods containing high-quality proteins and healthy fats, such as avocados and nuts.

In terms of exercise, your physiotherapist will give you a regime. Walking would be the best exercise and as you recover you will be able to take part in some other low impact activities, so long as your personal health is good. 

Swimming is an ideal low impact form of exercise, but talk to your physiotherapist first as some advise against performing certain swimming styles such as the breaststroke.

If you feel ready for more cardiovascular exercise, you can start by using a cross trainer or exercise bike at the gym.

Things to avoid when recovering from hip replacement surgery

Getting the right balance between remaining active and resting is key, and it will change over time as you recover. 

Surgery can often make you feel tired, so it’s best not to schedule in too many activities for the first six weeks after your operation. You may be tempted to do too much, but the aim is to ensure you don’t risk injuring yourself or dislocating your hip joint.

The first series of exercises are for the days after your surgery, when the main aims will be to reduce swelling, control pain and increase your mobility. 

A few points that are worth remembering are:

  • Avoid anything that involves violent twisting such as tennis
  • Don’t lean forward as you sit down in a chair
  • Don’t try and cross your legs or ankles for at least eight weeks
  • Don’t try and lift your knee higher than your hip

Usually, it is recommended that after surgery, you do not travel as a passenger in a vehicle for the first three weeks, as this could prove very uncomfortable. 

If you feel that your joint is not healing as well as it should be, don’t hesitate to contact your surgeon for reassurance. They need to know promptly if you experience swelling, a discharge from the incision or you develop a fever. Complications after surgery are rare and can usually be treated and resolved quickly.

How long will I be off work after hip replacement surgery?

Everybody is different and how quickly or slowly someone recovers from this operation can vary greatly.  Depending on the type of job that you have, you may well be able to return to work after six to eight weeks eg if you have a desk job. However, if your job involves heavy lifting, you may need a few more weeks of recovery — your surgeon will advise you.

Many people may feel mobile enough to get back to normal activities in 12 weeks. However, full recovery from hip replacement surgery will take six to 18 months. The good news is that once you do recover, you will have more mobility than you’ve enjoyed for a long time.

How will the physiotherapist help my hip replacement recovery?

Physiotherapy will be a vital part of your recovery process and your healthcare team will be on hand to support you in making sure your new hip replacement is working at its best. Your physiotherapist will design a bespoke exercise regime and guide you through exercises until you are comfortable doing them yourself.

You should carry out your exercises every day for three months and then endeavour to build this into your lifestyle going forward, performing them three times a week.

Recovering from hip replacement surgery can pose some challenges, but by following the advice from your surgeon and performing your physiotherapy exercises consistently, you can improve the speed at which you recover. 

It is important to remember that everyone’s recovery time is different. This can be based on variables such as age and fitness. Don’t be hard on yourself. Try to remain positive and allow your body the time it needs to heal.


We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

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