Activity After Hip Replacement
After you have hip replacement surgery, it will take time to fully resume your normal activities. To ensure a successful and complete healing, you will need to work to regain your strength and follow your doctor’s advice.
In the hospital
Hip replacement is a major procedure. For the first few days, you will rest and recover. Your doctor may have you begin some activities immediately to help healing, minimize anesthetic effects and prevent blood clots.
Your doctor, physical and occupational therapists will give you specific instructions on exercise, diet, wound care and pain management. Some of these instructions may include:
- Your pain control options. You may be given an IV that allows you to control the amount of medication you receive.
- Taking antibiotics and blood-thinners to help prevent potentially fatal blood clots from forming in the veins of your thigh and calf.
- Coping with nausea, appetite loss and constipation in the days after surgery. You may be given stool softeners or laxatives to ease discomfort.
- Performing regular physical therapy exercises. A physical therapist will visit you soon after your surgery to show you how to use your new joint. Moving your new joint as soon as possible after surgery is important.
Preparing your home
Depending on your recovery, your hospital stay may last from three to 10 days. Some hip replacement patients go straight home, while others feel they need more recovery time and go to a rehabilitation center.
Before your surgery, it's recommended that you make changes to your home so the tasks of daily life are easier while you continue your recovery:
- Place items you use frequently within reach so you do not have to reach up or bend down. For example, toothbrushes, toothpaste, clothing on hangers, cookware and dinnerware.
- Move your furniture to accommodate a walker or crutches. If you have a room on the second story, you may need to make a first-story room a temporary bedroom.
- Get a good chair—one that is firm and has a high seat. This will make sitting and standing easier.
- Remove any tripping hazards, including cords, throw rugs and toys.
- Install a shower chair, grab bar, and raised toilet in the bathroom.
- Use things like grabbing tools and long-handled shoehorns to perform daily tasks easily and without pain.
Recovering at home
When you are sent home after hip replacement surgery, your recovery is not over. You will need to take certain steps to ensure that you heal completely:
- Keep the skin around the incision clean and dry. Change dressing as necessary.
- If you have stitches that need to be removed, your surgeon will give you specific instructions about the incision and when you can bathe.
- If your surgical incision doesn't improve, reddens or begins to drain, contact your doctor.
- Monitor your temperature daily, and call your doctor if it rises above 100.5°F
- Swelling is normal for the first three to six months after surgery. To reduce swelling, elevate your leg and apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes several times daily.
- Watch for signs of blood clots, which include pain in the calves or chest and shortness of breath. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
You will be sent home with several medications to take while you recover. Take all medication as directed.
Among the medications you may be given include:
- A blood thinner to prevent life-threatening clots from forming in your veins. When blood clots form and break free, they can travel to your lungs. This results in a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
- You may be given antibiotics when there is the possibility of a bacterial infection, such as during dental work. Be sure to get antibiotics from your doctor if you have a root canal, dental implant or tooth extraction.
Once you return home, you should be back to your regular diet. Your doctor may make some recommendations, including:
- Take vitamin supplements, including iron.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid too much vitamin K while you are taking blood thinners.
- Limit coffee and alcohol consumption.
- Watch your weight.
While you recover from your surgery, stay active without overdoing it. Some days will be better than others, but over time you should see an improvement.
Follow the guidelines given to you by your doctor and therapy team. Advice may include:
- Weight bearing. The type of implant you receive will determine when it's safe to place weight on the leg, ranging from four to eight weeks after surgery.
- Driving. Automatic transmission vehicles can be driven in four to eight weeks. If you have a stick-shift and your right hip was replaced, do not drive until cleared by your doctor.
Sleep on your stomach, your back with your legs slightly apart or on your side with an abduction pillow, a regular pillow between your knees, or a knee immobilizer.
- Sitting. In the months after your surgery, sit only in chairs with arms.
Avoid low or reclining chairs.
- Climbing stairs. Limit stair climbing as much as possible until you are healed. If you need to climb stairs, the "good" leg should step first, followed by the "bad" leg, followed by your crutches or can. To go down stairs, reverse the steps.
- Returning to work.
Depending on the physical demands of your job, it can be as long as three to six months before you are cleared to return to work.
- Other activities.
Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, golfing and bicycling are very beneficial to patients recovering from joint replacement surgery. Avoid activities that involve impact stress on the joint, such as jogging or jumping, and contact sports, such as football.
After surgery, your doctor and physical therapist may recommend a hip conditioning program for you. Hip conditioning has two purposes:
- Strengthening the muscles, which helps support your new joint, relieve pain and prevent more injuries
- Improving the flexibility of the muscles, which improves range of motion and prevents injury
A hip conditioning program should be followed for four to six weeks. Always consult your doctor before embarking on any exercise regimen and do not ignore pain.
Here are some effective hip conditioning exercises you can do at home ›
As you recover from a total hip replacement, you will begin moving the new joint soon after surgery. At first, your movements may be slow. As you become stronger and more flexible, you will be able to move more for longer periods of time.
Here are some exercises your physical therapist may recommend while you recover ›
Dos and don'ts
Your doctor and physical therapist will provide you with a list of dos and don'ts to remember with your new hip. These precautions will help to prevent the new joint from dislocating and to ensure proper healing. Some of the most common precautions are:
- Don't lean forward as you sit, or while sitting down.
- Don't cross your legs.
- Don't kneel on your good knee.
- Don't stand pigeon-toed.
- Don't do anything that requires bending at the waist more than 90°.
- Don't use pain as a guide for activities that you can pursue.
- Do keep the leg facing forward.
- Do keep the affected leg in front as you sit or stand.
- Do kneel on the bad knee.
- Do apply heat before exercising to assist with range of motion.
- Do use ice to reduce inflammation.
To learn more, call 714-456-7012 or schedule an appointment online ›