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Hip Replacement: Tips for a Safe Recovery

Crystal Jo
By Crystal JoJuly 11, 2020

Hip replacement surgery is a common and highly successful procedure. More than 450,000 total hip replacement surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

For people with debilitating hip pain that is not relieved with other treatments, hip replacement surgery is an effective treatment option. However, hip replacement recovery may take several weeks or months.

If your aging parent is having this procedure, you may be wondering what hip replacement recovery will be like and how long it will take to heal. Read on for tips on how to recover from hip surgery as quickly and safely as possible.

Hip replacement recovery: What to expect

Most people who have hip replacement surgery experience dramatic pain relief and see significant improvement in their ability to perform activities of daily living, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. But it’s important to understand that hip surgery recovery can be lengthy. A successful hip replacement recovery will depend on your parent’s overall health before the procedure — and how well they follow the doctor’s instructions and rehab program after the surgery.

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Your loved one will likely need help while healing. Some people may be able to recover from hip replacement surgery at home. Others may need to go to a rehab facility or may choose to recover at an assisted living community, where they can receive rehab services while getting 24-hour assistance and support with daily tasks such as bathing, walking, and cooking.

Hip replacement recovery in the hospital

Your loved one will likely stay at the hospital for two to three days after hip surgery. They’ll receive pain medication and an antibiotic to prevent infection. Most people also receive a blood thinner and wear compression boots while in the hospital to help prevent blood clots.

Your parent will be encouraged to stand and walk with assistance within 24 hours of the surgery. Being active soon after surgery builds muscle strength and helps improve circulation and prevent blood clots.  

Physical therapy will start while your loved one is still at the hospital. A physical therapist will also develop a rehabilitation plan that your relative can continue to follow after they leave the hospital.

Hip replacement recovery at home

If your loved one is able to go home after surgery, it’s important to continue to follow a rehab program. Rehab will include a plan to help your parent gradually increase mobility by stretching and strengthening the muscles surrounding the hip joint. A physical therapy program will also help your parent gradually regain the ability to perform daily activities such as sitting, standing, bending, and climbing stairs.

However, in the first few weeks after hip replacement surgery, there will still be many tasks your parent won’t be able to do right away. They’ll need help from a family member, friend, or professional caregiver with activities such as:

  • Driving to appointments
  • Grocery shopping and meal preparation
  • Household chores like laundry, mopping, sweeping, and vacuuming
  • Managing medications
  • Personal hygiene (bathing, showering, and toileting once the incision is healed)

A typical rehab program for hip replacement surgery recovery consists of 20 to 30 minutes of exercise two to three times each week for several weeks. The plan may include weight-bearing exercises and the use of assistive devices, such as a walker, until your loved one’s strength and balance improve.

Your relative will need to continue to follow their physical therapy program until they can perform normal activities of daily living independently. Most people are able to gradually return to normal activities in several weeks, but it may take months before they’re fully healed.

Hip replacement recovery time

When you know what to expect, you can prepare. Although your parent will likely be able to stand and walk with assistance soon after the surgery, they’ll need help in the weeks after their procedure.

Within 14 days of the procedure, your loved one will likely have the staples from their incision removed and they’ll be able to start showering.

After three to six weeks, they may be able to resume light activities, such as driving a car and walking without crutches or a walker.

Many people can return to normal activity 12 weeks after their procedure. It’s important to avoid overdoing it — and to expect some good days along with some bad ones. Sometimes, full recovery from hip replacement surgery takes six months and up to a year.

5 hip replacement recovery tips for safe healing

  1. Prepare your home
    Your parent may need to use a walker or a cane for a few weeks after surgery. If they’re recovering at home, you may need to rearrange furniture or remove rugs to accommodate the use of these devices.

    If your parent needs to climb stairs to get to their room, you may want to temporarily move them to a different room on the ground floor. You will also want to make frequently used items — such as phones, remote controls, books, and medication — easily accessible.

    While recovering, your loved one may need a raised toilet seat, shower chair, and grip bars.
  2. Manage medications
    Encourage your loved one to take medications as prescribed by the doctor, including pain medications. Discuss any medications your parent takes for other health conditions with their doctor — including over-the-counter drugs and supplements — to prevent drug interactions and keep them safe.
  1. Eat for healing
    Nutrition both before and after surgery is a key part of the healing process. Before the surgery, stock the fridge with healthy options such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean sources of protein like beans, nuts, and poultry. Ask the doctor if your loved one needs an iron supplement or other vitamins.

    Plan and make meals ahead for easy and quick reheating or assembly. Soups, stews, salads, and sandwiches, or a simple of bowl of yogurt and berries are quick and easy options. Or consider meal service delivery options.
    It’s important to tell your loved one to watch their weight. Excessive weight may put stress on their new joint.
  1. Stay active
    Exercise is essential for a successful hip surgery recovery, especially during the first few weeks after the procedure. Encourage your loved one to move, but not to do too much too soon. Your parent should follow the physical therapy program as prescribed.
  2. Get support
    If your loved one needs more support than you can provide after a hip replacement surgery, there are rehab options to help them get better safely. Skilled nursing facilities offer short-term stays for seniors who need rehabilitation after surgery. Rehab services may also be offered at assisted living communities or at home in combination with home care.

Sources:

Erens G.A. “Total hip arthrosplasty.” https://www.uptodate.com/contents/total-hip-arthroplasty.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Total hip replacement.” https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/treatment/total-hip-replacement/.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Activities after hip replacement.” https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/recovery/activities-after-hip-replacement/.

Crystal Jo
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Crystal Jo
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