Hip Replacement Recovery
June 07 2020
A Complete Guide to Hip Replacement Recovery
In almost any treatment plan, surgery is one of the most important and intense steps a person will go through. The same goes for orthopedic surgery, i.e., a hip replacement surgery. Overall, it a relatively safe procedure performed on more than 300,000 Americans annually.
But the ultimate success of the surgery depends on the recovery process. It involves many important steps, and every patient should be aware of what to expect. This guide describes in detail what hip replacement recovery looks like and gives you practical tips for making it as smooth as possible.
What to Expect in the Hospital
There are several common approaches that orthopedic surgeons use in modern hip replacement operations. Which method of hip replacement is the best? Generally, the approach doesn’t matter; as long as you’re dealing with a professional, the surgical time, hospital stay, speed of recovery, and rates of complications will be kept to a minimum. Plus, recent advancements in medicine make this procedure much safer and easier to recover from.
Over the last ten years, methods for hip replacement surgeries have made a step forward. For example, there are posterior and anterior approaches and some details will vary. Still, here is what you can expect from the hospital visit:
- You can arrive in the morning and undergo a medical evaluation.
- Meet with your surgeon and anesthesiologist.
- For the procedure itself, patients go under sedation with regional anesthesia.
- Through a small incision, the joint is replaced by a ceramic, plastic, or metal component.
How long does hip replacement surgery take? It usually takes around 1 to 2 hours to complete, and then there is a lengthy recovery period.
Timeline for Hip Replacement Recovery
Now let’s see what happens when you go home. The numbers and descriptions below are general estimates, and not every patient will go through the exact same journey. We’ll talk more about the factors affecting recovery later on.
1 to 2 Days After Surgery
A vital period in your hip replacement recovery time is the first few days. Patients might need help getting out of bed or walking around the room. It doesn’t mean laying still – it’s important to keep moving every half an hour to promote blood circulation and strengthen the muscles. But every move should be made carefully.
3 to 4 Days After Surgery
At this point, it will be easier to walk around, and you might already leave the hospital (provided there are no complications). Make sure you have someone to drive you home and help you settle in. It still might be painful to do some things, so a caregiver is essential.
As for the diet, you’ll probably switch to your normal meals after the hospital discharge and switch to oral medication prescribed by your doctor. Stick to all doctor’s recommendations – for your meds, allowed movements, exercise, etc.
4 to 10 Days After Surgery
Take care of the incision to prevent infecting it. This includes not showering or taking baths for some time to keep it dry. Taking sponge baths is the best solution in this case. And once again, remember to move from to time to time and do your exercises.
At All American Home Care, we provide expert caregivers to support you at this critical time. Our workers can help with a variety of daily house tasks so you can keep your incision clean. Get in touch to choose the aide program designed specifically for each client.
10 to 14 Days After Surgery
Your doctor will tell you when to have your stitches or staples removed, but it’s usually around two weeks. Afterwards, you can start showering and bathing again, and it’ll be much easier to walk and sit. But some people might still require another person’s help.
3 to 6 Weeks After Surgery
At this point, you’re likely to stop taking pain medication and resume your usual activities. Remember that it’s still not a total hip replacement recovery, and you might struggle with strength or balance problems.
10 Weeks to 1 Year After Surgery
Around three months after your hip operation, most things will go back to normal, and the pain goes away for most people. You need to look out for signs of complications and continue being careful with how you move your hip. After 6 to 12 months, the recovery is considered complete.
Pain After Hip Surgery
Needless to say, pain after hip replacement surgery will vary depending on every patient’s pain tolerance. 1 in 4 patients experiences back pain after a hip replacement but to various degrees. For some, it’ll be a two on the pain scale; others might be in more discomfort. Always stay in contact with your healthcare provider to keep them updated on your condition.
Most times, over-the-counter medication, like Tylenol, is enough to manage the pain. The FDA considers 2,000-3,000 milligrams a day to be safe. Still, even with over-the-counter medication, you’ll need to inform your doctor. They will make sure that nothing causes drug interactions and that you have the right dosage. For the elderly and people with other health conditions, medication dosage is especially important.
Sometimes, over-the-counter medication won’t be enough. In these cases, the doctor will prescribe stronger pain killers. Also, they will create a personalized schedule for taking the medication.
Plan Ahead for Recovery
The process of quick hip replacement surgery recovery starts by preparing your house in advance. There are several adjustments you can make that will make the period easier and safer for you:
- Remove rugs and other pieces of decoration that are easy to slip on or trip over. If you have slippery floors, invest in rubber backed rugs.
- Remove absolutely everything that doesn’t belong in the hallway and walking areas in general. You may need to use a walker or crutches for a while, so you need to have enough room to move around.
- Remember about bathroom safety. Throughout the bathroom, and especially near the tub or shower, make sure all slippery surfaces have non-slip mats. You can also install a grab bar on the tub rim or adjacent wall.
- Reorganize your wardrobe, so that is easy to reach and take clothes out of. You won’t be able to bend over or reach high shelves post-surgery. So, prepare clothes and shoes that you can grab and put on without anyone or with minimal assistance, like a bathrobe and slippers.
Think of what you can and can’t do during life after hip replacement. Even if you have a professional or a family member to help you, you should still be prepared in case you’ll be alone. It includes making the house safer and, possibly, stocking up on some groceries that you can easily reach.
Is Formal Physical Therapy Necessary After a Hip Replacement?
Many establishments have a total hip replacement rehab protocol that provides a guideline for rehabilitation progression. Depending on the hospital and the surgeon you go to, you’ll be given different recommendations for formal physical therapy.
For example, some doctors urge patients to attend physical therapy two to three times a week for the first six weeks. Others claim that there is no need to have these sessions for such a long time. The benefit of going to physical therapy at least a few times is that you learn instructions for your exercises. First and foremost, you should take advice from your personal healthcare provider as they know the specifics of your case.
Physical therapy is included All American Home Care programs. It’s not easy to find caregivers that have the needed qualifications for such a wide range of procedures. We’re happy to provide these services for post-op patients with compassion and emotional support. Find out more about our programs on our website or by contacting us directly.
Signs of Post-Operative Complications
Complications aren’t common for this type of procedure. Even bilateral hip replacement surgeries are considered relatively safe, and the recovery is successful for the vast majority of people. However, surgery is an invasive procedure and patient should look out for the following signs of complications:
- Incision drainage with a foul odor;
- Post-operative shivering;
- Body temperature noticeably above the normal temperature (over 100.4 degrees);
- Pain gradually getting worse;
- Signs of a blood clot – Swelling, cramps, reddish or bluish skin discoloration, and leg that is warm to touch;
- Chest pain or shortness of breath.
But you shouldn’t feel anxious about the possibility of complications. According to research, complications have been noted only in 2% of procedures. The majority of them occurred in the hospital, where the issue could be addressed by a professional.
Factors That Affect Recovery
Different circumstances can affect patients’ quality of post-operative recovery and satisfaction with recovery. These factors should be addressed by doctors and caregivers:
- Age – Aging negatively affects the recovery process and leads to a slower repair and adaptation response. Elderly patients may be more susceptible to complications, so it’s especially important to take the recovery period very seriously.
- Type of surgery and surgical difficulty – How long does a hip replacement take to perform? If it’s on the lower end (within an hour), it’ll take less time to recover. If the surgery is more complicated and takes much longer, so will the recovery.
- Reasons for a hip replacement – It can be arthritis, a disease that affects the bone in joints, injuries or fractures, or bone tumors. Each of these conditions is associated with different recovery times, as they might include supplementary treatments.
- Health status – Over time, a hip replacement can fail for a variety of reasons. When this occurs, your doctor may recommend that you have a second operation. The second hip replacement recovery time is more intense.
- Health literacy skills – It’s important for a patient to understand basic health information to make appropriate health decisions. For example, post-operation incision care is essential. If you don’t have such skills, you should seek out professional help.
- Diet and lifestyle – Surgery causes a stress reaction in the body, and you need to fuel it with the right food. Healthy choices will make a positive impact not only on the recovery time but its quality as well.
Your body does the recovering process by itself, but some things can make it easier. Here are hip replacement recovery tips that every health specialist will agree on:
- Plan for some time off work and other responsibilities;
- Find a balance between rest and gentle exercise;
- Have a family member, friend, or professional caregiver assist you (although friends a family won’t be able to do this for long);
- Eat a nutritionally balanced diet and avoid drinking alcohol;
- When it comes to pain, ask a doctor about changing or increasing medication and don’t tough it out;
- Be mindful of your hip when lying down;
- Think through upcoming holidays and traveling;
- Have a positive mindset and realistic expectations.
What to Avoid
The success of your recovery depends not only on the actions you do but also on the actions you don’t do. Avoid or at least minimize doing the following activities:
- Crossing your legs (for six to eight weeks);
- Twisting your hips;
- Raising your knees high when sitting;
- Leaning forward when sitting or standing, especially when you want to pick something up off the floor;
- Turning your feet in or out when bending down;
- Bending your waist beyond 90 degrees.
Getting Back to Normal
Finally, let’s look at how much time it will take to return to specific activities after hip replacement. It’s understandable that any patient is eager to get back into normalcy.
How long does it take to walk normally after hip surgery? When you transition to outpatient care, you can start walking more freely. In 2-3 weeks, most of the pain will subside, and patients don’t feel too much discomfort when walking.
If your job doesn’t involve physical activity and minimal walking, you can return in about six weeks. If it requires walking around, it will take at least three months to get back on track. But even then, you should be careful. If the job involves physical labor, consider changing your line of work as it can do serious damage to your hip.
The safest time to have sex after hip replacement is in six to eight weeks. At first, patients are recommended to lie on their backs. Don’t feel awkward asking your doctor for suitable positions and what you should avoid doing.
Driving after hip surgery is allowed in about six weeks. Make sure you know how to get in and out of a car properly. It means not lifting your legs one by one and instead, sitting sideways first and swinging both your legs together.
You should check in with your doctor as pain medication can limit your ability to operate machinery. Additionally, consult with your insurance company on their policies about driving post-op.
Even though it can be difficult in the beginning, an improvement in your quality of life will be worth it. Not to mention the feelings of gratitude and relief after you fully recover.
Take plenty of time to adjust, and the All American Home Care team will make sure that your recovery goes smoothly. We approach every client with the same care that we would with our own family. Our caregivers provide not only medical but also social and psychological assistance to meet all our client’s needs. Whether you need 24/7 home care, palliative care, or a range of other services, contact us today and help your own or your family member’s recovery.