Hip replacement surgery is becoming increasingly common. Approximately 300,000 of these surgeries occur each year in the United States—a number anticipated to nearly double by 2030.
Despite the ubiquity of hip replacements today, it is always helpful to know what to expect once the surgery is over.
While your physician will provide specific instructions to fit your individual needs, there are several general guidelines to keep in mind following your operation.
Also, keep in mind that your recovery instructions and time frames may be different if you choose an alternative approach to hip replacement that involves smaller incisions or less muscle damage, such as anterior or minimally invasive hip replacement surgery.
Exercises to help you recover from hip replacement surgery
Early activity is important following hip replacement surgery. In fact, some patients are walking short distances the same day as the procedure.
Physical therapy usually starts the day after surgery and continues for about two months after the operation. Typically, a physical therapist will show you exercises to do at home while you are still in the hospital.
You may go to a rehabilitation facility for a period of time after you are discharged from the hospital; otherwise, you will go home. Either way, it’s important to stay active: walking and doing the exercises prescribed by your therapist or physician. Anticipate doing about 20 to 30 minutes’ worth of exercises several times each day, every day.
The benefits of early activity include:
- Aiding in your recovery process
- Providing circulation to your legs and feet, helping to reduce the chance of developing a blood clot
- Increasing muscle strength and enhancing hip movement
Exercises will be mild at first and can include gentle movements, such as knee bends, ankle rotations, and leg raises.
Longer term, you will be able to resume an active lifestyle. Low-impact sports make great exercise choices: swimming, golfing, walking, and cycling, among others. But some activities may need to be modified or eliminated to prevent excessive wear and tear on your hip, like basketball and running.
Driving after hip replacement surgery
The time it takes to return to driving after hip replacement varies, generally from 2 to 8 weeks.
This time frame is dependent on several factors:
- You will need to have stopped taking narcotics for pain.
- You will need to have the stamina to drive and have your reflexes back to normal.
- If you have surgery on your right hip, you may be advised to wait about one month before driving. This precaution is to make sure you have developed enough strength in your right leg to operate the car’s pedals. You may be able to drive in about two weeks if you have surgery on your left hip and have a car with automatic transmission.
Above all, it is best to listen to your body and doctor’s advice.
Heel slide Exercises such as heel slides can help you regain strength and recover more quickly after a hip replacement. Learn more: Hip Replacement Surgery Rehabilitation Exercises
Preventing a blood clot after hip replacement surgery
Patients undergoing hip replacement surgery are at risk of developing a blood clot from deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Given this risk, your physician may advise you to:
- Take blood thinning medication
- Perform early movement and ankle exercises
- Wear compression stockings
- Elevate your feet
Two to ten days after orthopedic surgery is your highest risk of developing a blood clot, but you are still at risk for approximately three months following surgery.
Additionally, your physician may advise you to wait 3 to 6 weeks after surgery before flying. This is because certain factors associated with flying—dehydration and prolonged sitting—can contribute to blood clots.
More broadly, whether you’re flying, driving, or taking the train, it is important to:
- Get up periodically and walk around
- Stay hydrated with fluids that will not dehydrate you, like alcohol and caffeinated coffee
Blood clots are potentially life-threatening: a blood clot in the leg could travel to the lung. A blood clot in the leg is typically characterized by swelling and pain. That said, you should seek medical help if a blood clot is suspected.
Going back to work after hip replacement surgery
Returning to work is dependent on your recovery rate. People with an office job usually return to work within 6 weeks; jobs requiring a lot of standing and manual labor take longer.5
Any surgery poses some risks and takes time to recover. But a hip replacement is one of the more successful orthopedic surgeries,6 so if you follow you doctor’s directions you stand a good chance for a successful recovery and a return to a more active life.