Activities After Hip Replacement

Orthopedic Article by Dr. Darren Keiser MD

After having a hip replacement, you may expect your lifestyle to be a lot like how it was before surgery—but without the pain. In many ways, you are right, but returning to your everyday activities will take time. Being an active participant in the healing process can help you get there sooner and ensure a more successful outcome.

Even though you will be able to resume most activities, you may have to change the way you do them. For example, you may have to learn new ways of bending down that keep your new hip safe. The suggestions you find here will help you enjoy your new hip while you safely resume your daily routines.

Hospital Discharge

Your hospital stay will typically last from 1 to 4 days, depending on the speed of your recovery. Before you are discharged from the hospital, you will need to accomplish several goals, such as: Getting in and out of bed by yourself. Having acceptable pain control. Being able to eat, drink, and use the bathroom. Walking with an assistive device (a cane, walker, or crutches) on a level surface and being able to climb up and down two or three stairs. Being able to perform the prescribed home exercises. Understanding any hip precautions you may have been given to prevent injury and ensure proper healing.

If you are not yet able to accomplish these goals, it may be unsafe for you to go directly home after discharge. If this is the case, you may be temporarily transferred to a rehabilitation or skilled nursing center.

When you are discharged, your healthcare team will provide you with information to support your recovery at home. Although the complication rate after total hip replacement is low, when complications occur they can prolong or limit full recovery. Hospital staff will discuss possible complications, and review with you the warning signs of an infection or a blood clot.

Warning Signs of Infection

> Persistent fever (higher than 100 degrees)

> Shaking chills

> Increasing redness, tenderness or swelling of your wound

> Drainage from your wound

> Increasing pain with both activity and rest

Warning Signs of a Blood Clot

> Pain in your leg or calf unrelated to your incision

> Tenderness or redness above or below your knee

> Severe swelling of your thigh, calf, ankle or foot

In very rare cases, a blood clot may travel to your lungs and become life-threatening. Signs that a blood clot has traveled to your lungs include:

> Shortness of breath

> Sudden onset of chest pain

> Localized chest pain with coughing

> Notify your doctor immediately if you develop any of the above signs.

Recovery at Home

You will need some help at home for anywhere from several days to several weeks after discharge. Before your surgery, arrange for a friend, family member or caregiver to provide help at home.

after hip replacement

Resuming Normal Activities

Once you get home, you should stay active. The key is to not do too much, too soon. While you can expect some good days and some bad days, you should notice a gradual improvement over time.

Do’s and Don’ts To Protect Your New Hip

Do’s and don’ts (precautions) vary depending on your doctor’s surgical technique. 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 ensure proper healing.

The Don’ts

Don’t cross your legs at the knees for at least 6 to 8 weeks.

Don’t bring your knee up higher than your hip.

Don’t lean forward while sitting or as you sit down.

Don’t try to pick up something on the floor while you are sitting.

Don’t turn your feet excessively inward or outward when you bend down.

Don’t reach down to pull up blankets when lying in bed.

Don’t bend at the waist beyond 90 degrees.

The Do’s

Do keep the leg facing forward.

Do keep the affected leg in front as you sit or stand.

Do use a high kitchen or barstool in the kitchen.

Do kneel on the knee on the operated leg (the bad side).

Do use ice to reduce pain and swelling, but remember that ice will diminish sensation. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin; use an ice pack or wrap it in a damp towel.

Do apply heat before exercising to assist with range of motion. Use a heating pad or hot, damp towel for 15 to 20 minutes.

Do cut back on your exercises if your muscles begin to ache, but don’t stop doing them!

**Call the office of Dr. Darren Keiser to set up an appointment

Article URL: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00356&webid=2FDDE053