Life after hip replacement surgery does involve a healing process. You will still be able to perform most activities that you did before your surgery, with just some minor alterations. Here are some suggestions for a safe recovery.
In the Hospital
Because hip replacement surgery is a major surgery, you will probably have to ease yourself back into normal activities slowly. Getting back to being active greatly helps the healing process, as long as you don’t over do it. You will receive specific instructions as to the activities that are allowed and the time frames for achieving them.
Initially, you will receive pain medicine intravenously (through your IV). At some point, you will be switched to oral pain medication. You will probably also take antibiotics and blood-thinning medication to help prevent blood clots. Also, stool softeners and laxatives are sometimes given to ease constipation. Pain medication and the aftereffects of anesthesia effect everyone differently. Some people experience nausea, while others only feel sleepy.
Your doctor will instruct you on the types of movements that are allowed in the first few days. Moving your feet in a circle (as if pedaling a bicycle) can help promote blood flow.
The length of time you stay in the hospital will depend on how well you are healing. Expect to stay in the hospital anywhere from 2 to 3 days.
Here are some tips to make you more comfortable at home:
- Place things at arm level so that you don’t have to reach up or bend down
- Make sure your furniture arrangement leaves plenty of room to maneuver around with your walker or crutches
- Avoid any stairs
- Make sure that you have a comfortable seat (preferably one that sits taller than usual and has padding)
- Make sure that all electrical cords are secure or put away. Tripping and falling can damage your new joint, not to mention cause additional pain
- Avoid moving around too much. Make sure things that you need frequently are near the area in which you will be recovering. These include things like Kleenex, the remote, the phone, your glasses, and reading materials.
- Don’t overdo normal activities. Discuss weight-bearing restrictions with your doctor. These restrictions vary for each individual, and will take into consideration your specific situation
- Driving is generally allowed after 6-8 weeks
- Sexual activity is also discouraged for the first 4-6 weeks
- Sleep on your back or on your side (with a pillow between your knees) for at least 6 weeks
- Sit only in chairs that have arms for the first 3 months
- Do not sit in reclining chairs or ones that sit too low
- Do not cross your legs
- Don’t sit for too long at one time — Moving around will help relieve stiffness
- Avoid climbing stairs. If unavoidable, step up using your unaffected leg, following with your injured leg, step by step. When going down stairs, step down using your injured leg first, following with your unaffected leg, step by step.
- Swimming is recommended only after your sutures have been removed and your wound has healed (approximately 6-8 weeks post-surgery)
- Avoid running or sports till you receive approval from your physician
- Do not lift more than 40 pounds
Till further notice, also:
- Don’t lift your knee higher than your hip
- Don’t lean forward while sitting (including picking something up from the floor)
- Don’t turn your feet inward or outward
- Don’t bend at the waist beyond 90 degrees
- Do use ice to reduce pain and swelling
- Do apply heat before exercising (for 15-20 minutes)
- Cut back on exercise if you experience pain
- Use a tall chair
*Don’t use pain as a guide of what you should or shouldn’t do!