If you've elected to have a hip replacement, chances are you're already no stranger to pain and difficulty with getting around. Hip replacement recovery will most likely involve both. However, many patients experience immediate relief from the kind of pain that prompted the surgery, as well as an increase in mobility. Approaching the difficult days of hip replacement recovery with compliance and diligence will ensure you get the most out your new hip for the next 10 to 15 years.
Immediately Following Surgery
A one- to four-day hospital stay will probably follow your hip replacement, but while there, you won't just be catching up on your favorite TV shows and slurping Jell-O. Your doctor may expect you to be up and walking, with assistance, the same day as your hip replacement or at least the day after. The Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends you accomplish certain hip replacement recovery goals before being discharged from the hospital, so you will be visited routinely by physical therapists and nurses to work on the following:
- Getting in and out of bed by yourself
- Eating and drinking, passing food and liquids effectively
- Walking with an assistive device such as a cane, walker, or crutches
- Climbing two to three stairs
- Performing the recommended home exercises
- Understanding the appropriate modifications needed for preventing injury and ensuring recovery
Ideally, your home will have been prepped for your hip replacement recovery prior to surgery:
- furniture has been arranged to accommodate a walker or crutches
- electrical cords have been taped down so they do not cause tripping
- elevated toilet seats and grip rails have been installed to ensure safety
You will need some degree of help for several days and perhaps weeks following your hip replacement. A few tools can help you accomplish tasks independently, such as putting on your shoes or grabbing an out-of-reach blanket. As a result, your caregiver will have more time to focus on bigger needs, such as meal preparation and errands. These helpful instruments include:
- a gripper tool for reaching
- a long-handled shoe horn
- a long-handled sponge
When traveling throughout the home, a small tote bag affixed to your walker or crutches will allow you to carry small items while continuing to use your mobile assistance device properly and safely. Additionally, a station placed near the bed and stocked with essentials such as a lamp, remote controls, device chargers, daily mail, wastebasket, medications, and bottled water will allow you to reach your most needed items even when alone.
You will continue taking medications for pain management and blood clot prevention as well as any other medications prescribed or suggested by your doctor. You will want to continue wearing compression hose, as they help reduce swelling and prevent clots from forming in your lower legs. You will want to respect doctor-recommended dietary restrictions set in place for the duration of your hip replacement recovery to avoid unwanted interactions with your medications. In the hospital, pain medication may have caused you to doze off a few times while your nurse or physical therapist gave important post-op instructions, so re-reading your discharge instructions is a good idea.
Your rest in the hospital may have been limited due to the constant interruptions that a hospital stay entails. You may feel exhausted as you return home and want to do nothing but sleep. Rest is definitely contributive to a solid recovery and is highly recommended, but giving up mobility and exercise is not an option when it comes to hip replacement recovery. Your physician will want you to remain active and maintain your exercise regimen. You will want to continue icing regularly to prevent swelling and maintain good wound hygiene to prevent infection.
Overdoing it and bearing full weight on your hip replacement too soon is discouraged. You may return home expectant, hopeful, and motivated to begin your new and improved life with your new hip, but doing too much too quickly can cause inflammation, pain, and other setbacks. Following your doctor’s instructions and timing is the best policy for continued improvement and healing after hip replacement surgery.
With the exception of high-impact activities such as jogging, skiing, or basketball, most patients recovering from hip replacement surgery are able to resume normal activities within three to six months. Your first follow-up appointment will happen somewhere between six and twelve weeks after surgery, and this is a time when many eager patients ask about returning to sports, sexual activity, and other physically intensive work-related movements.