The Hip Replacement Recovery Timeline

Posted on Dec 10, 2018, by

Even with new surgical techniques and improved hip implants, hip replacement recovery can feel like a long process.  A successful rehabilitation requires patience, gentle exercises and ‘listening to your doctor’s orders.’  But after a few months of taking it easy and rehabbing your hip, you’ll be back to your normal activities, without the pain you experienced before your surgery.

Exact recovery time is different for everyone, so it is hard to predict exactly what your experience will be like. Recovery time also depends on many factors, including age, physical condition before surgery and your general health.  In addition, an anterior hip replacement recovery time generally has fewer restrictions in the weeks after surgery than a traditional hip replacement.  But both types of hip replacement have the same total healing time from start to finish.

While one recovery experience may not match another, we know it’s helpful to have an idea of what to expect before you undergo surgery. This hip replacement recovery timeline gives you a general outline of the average recovery. As always, if you have any questions, contact us at The Kennedy Center.

How long will I stay in the hospital?

After your procedure, you can expect to be in the hospital for one to two days. During your stay, you’ll meet with physical therapists to learn how to move safely and learn how to walk with crutches or a walker. The day after your surgery, you will be able to return to your normal diet.

What will my first few days at home be like?

Believe it or not, walking will be a little bit easier each day as the muscles that support your hip get stronger with exercise.  You will need a walker at home to get around the first week or so – until you’re comfortable putting weight and balancing on the surgical leg.  Most people transition from a walker to a cane 2-3 weeks into their recovery, but there is no rush. Safety is the guide.

In addition, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions on how to take care of your incision. This means not getting it wet!  You’ll be able to take a full shower once the incision is clean and dry with no drainage for 48 hours – which will be about 7-10 days post op.

It’s important these first few days at home to establish your exercise routine with the exercises your doctor recommended.  Completing them at set times daily will help you remember to do them. Also, make it a point to get up and walk a few times every hour to help prevent blood clots.

To see what sorts of physical therapy exercises to expect, check out our guide to hip replacement recovery exercises.

When can I use stairs?

If you need to use stairs in your home, you may be wondering how soon you’ll be able to walk up them again. Your physical therapist will show you how to safely climb stairs. In addition, it may be helpful that you plan on staying on the first level of your home, including sleep, for the first week after hip replacement recovery.

When can I drive again?

It doesn’t matter if you’ve had an anterior hip replacement or a traditional replacement, when you’re able to drive again depends on which side your replacement was on. If you had your left hip replaced, you can typically get behind the wheel three weeks post-surgery. If it was your right hip, you’ll be able to drive four- five  weeks post-surgery. However, if you are still taking narcotic pain medications at these times, it is recommended that you wait to drive until you stop taking these pain medications.

When planning for your surgery, it’s important to arrange the driving help you’ll need during your recovery time. Not only will you be unable to drive yourself home from the hospital, you will also need rides to and from doctor’s appointments until you’re ready to drive again.

When can I resume sexual activities?

This is a very common question among those planning a hip replacement—and one that can be uncomfortable to talk about with your doctor. When having sex for the first time after your replacement, it is most important to listen to your body and take it slow. Generally, it takes three to four weeks to resume sexual activity.

For more information on sex after a hip replacement, check out our blog post that provides more detailed information.

When can I return to work?

Depending upon the type of job, you will be able to return to work in 6-12 weeks. If your job is mostly sedentary, you may be able to return to work around the six-week mark. If your job requires manual labor, it may take three months to return to work. In addition, talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about returning to demanding physical jobs after your recovery

When can I start exercising?

Immediately after surgery, your physical therapist will recommend simple exercises and stretches to help strengthen the muscles that support your hip and increase blood circulation. Your PT may recommend that you complete theses exercises for up to two months.

When you do resume exercise, be cautious when starting again and always listen to your body.   If you experience pain, it’s a signal to stop. Overworking your hip before it’s completely healed could have serious consequences.

After a couple weeks, you will be encouraged to walk as much as you can without pain. Swimming is also a great exercise to get back into shape after a hip replacement, and is something you can begin 12 weeks after surgery. With approval from your doctor, you may be able to return to low-impact exercises, such as golf or bowling, in six weeks.

If you would like to return to high-impact activities, like tennis or skiing, talk to your doctor about when it’s safe to begin them.  Some activities such as running may be discouraged after a hip replacement .

When can I travel on an airplane?

The pressure changes and immobility on an airplane may cause a healing hip to swell. So, it is recommended that you wait at least six weeks before flying on an airplane.

Fun fact: Your brand new hip may set off sensitive metal detectors. Before going through one, tell the screener about your hip replacement.

Slow and steady wins the hip replacement recovery race.

Recovery from a hip replacement takes longer than many people expect.  Even after a few weeks, when you start to feel good again, your new hip isn’t done with the healing process.  At this point, even though the pain may be gone, healing is still taking place and recovery still needs to be nurtured and not pushed.  By following your doctor’s orders and listening to your body, you’ll be thrilled with the outcome. Plus, once you’re fully recovered, you’ll understand why those who have gone through this hip replacement recovery timeline call it life-changing.  And you’ll wonder why you didn’t choose to have your hip repaired sooner.

To learn more about the hip replacement procedures offered at The Kennedy Center, click here.

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