Healing From Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip replacement surgery is considered a routine operation these days. Minimally invasive surgical techniques have hastened healing and recovery time. 

Rehab actually starts before the surgery. Your board-certified orthopedic surgeon at San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center may give you specific muscle-strengthening exercises to do if needed in the weeks before your operation. Strong muscles enable you to perform basic tasks such as getting in and out of bed and a chair after the surgery. Following is a general timeline for recovery after the surgery.

The day after surgery

There’s no waiting around after hip replacement surgery. You’ll meet with a physical therapist in the hospital within 24 hours of your surgery. The therapist helps you learn how to move so that you can sit up and get out of bed. If you’re not a high-risk patient, you’ll leave the hospital the day after surgery. 

You’ll practice walking by getting up to go to the bathroom and walking short distances in the hall. The movement helps prevent blood clots. Research shows that getting up and moving soon after a hip replacement improves the outcome

Before leaving the hospital, you’ll receive written instructions on what to do and what not to do. For example, keep your leg above your heart when reclining. If you’re typically a leg crosser, you’ll need to remind yourself that you can’t cross your legs or bend over more than 90 degrees to put on your socks and shoes for a few weeks. Certain movements could damage the surgical outcome. 

The first weeks at home

Be sure to prepare your home ahead of time for post-surgery recuperation. Remove all small area rugs and other tripping hazards. Your surgeon will advise what type of assistive device — likely a walker or cane — you’ll need at home for the first couple of weeks. 

Your doctor and nurse explain before the surgery that you’ll need help with daily activities like bathing and cooking for the first couple of weeks. If you live alone, you’ll need to arrange for a series of friends or a home health service to help you during that time. 

You must keep your incision dry until your doctor tells you otherwise, so you won’t be able to get in a bathtub. It’s safe to shower with an antimicrobial dressing on the surgical site.

Since you can’t bend down beyond your waist to pick up pots and pans, you’ll need help with food preparation. Stock up on frozen foods that friends can microwave for you. Let them do the dishes. Don’t plan on doing laundry or chores the first couple of weeks. That’s what family, friends, and significant others are for when you need help.

You may receive physical therapy at home if needed since you won’t be able to drive at first and if visiting a therapy office is too difficult. If someone can drive you to appointments, you’ll go to physical therapy one to three times a week for the first six to eight weeks after your operation. The therapy progresses from practicing getting up from a chair to more advanced exercises like going up and down stairs and getting in and out of a car. 

You’ll practice the physical therapy exercises every day at home. These exercises, along with walking a short distance periodically during the day, help you heal. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever before the therapy appointment and icing the joint afterward help relieve discomfort.  

One to two months after surgery: driving and returning to work

Your doctor tells you when it’s safe to drive. Depending on which leg received the replacement, you could be driving in as little as two weeks, or you may have to wait until four to six weeks after your surgery. You should not be taking pain medication when driving. 

If most of your day is spent on the computer or in meetings, you’ll likely be cleared to return to work in one month or less. If your job involves standing and moving, you may need to wait two or three months before safely returning to the job. 

Three to six months after surgery

After the three-month mark, most people can fully engage in a normal daily routine. Your doctor advises you on which sports it’s safe for you to play. It’s very important to continue physical therapy exercises as well as take regular walks three to four days a week. Full recovery may take from three months to a year. 

Call or book an appointment online today with San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center for a consultation about your hip pain and other orthopaedic needs.

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