Hip replacement surgery is one of the most common orthopedic procedures with over 300,000 surgeries done each year. The best piece of advice we can give you before your surgery is to be prepared. If you know what to do and what to not do, you can speed up your healing time and will soon be lacing up your running shoes once again.
Hip Replacement Surgery Dos and Don’ts
Learn more about what you need to do to have a successful recovery from your hip replacement surgery:
DON’T: Do It Alone
It is common to be discharged home or to a rehabilitation facility within two to four days after your hip replacement. Dr. William J. Hozack, an orthopedic surgeon at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, who was quoted in an article in the New York Times, stated that patients tended to be happier when they are able to recover in their own homes. Being at home also reduces your chance of blood clots, falls and infections.
Though you will be up and walking within two to three days after your surgery, there will be many tasks you can’t do right away. You will need a family member, friend or professional caregiver to assist you with:
- 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 your incision is healed)
Hiring an in-home caregiver can relieve the stress placed on your family and loved ones. A home care aide is trained to offer comfort, meals, support and transportation. Home care agencies can offer services 24 hours a day or as needed.
DO: Eat for Healing
Your nutrition both before and after surgery is a key part of your healing process. The fuel that you are putting into your body can help you heal faster, maintain your strength and prevent infections.
Whole foods are your best option for providing optimal nutrition. Preload your fridge or ask your family and friends to bring by:
- Berries and fruits
- Dark leafy greens
- Healthy fats like avocado, nuts and seeds
- High sources of iron and protein like beans and nuts, meat, poultry and seafood
- Probiotic rich foods like kefir, sauerkraut and yogurt
- Whole grains
A delicious pot of slow-cooked stew or soup packed full of beans, leafy greens, meats and veggies makes an ideal lunch. Serve with a bowl of berries and yogurt. These nutrition packed meals will have you back on your feet sooner.
Also consider looking into food delivery services that can provide you with wholesome meals in your home. Two well known services are Meals on Wheels and Personal Chef to Go, both can help your recovery at home go more smoothly.
DO: Know What is Normal and Have Realistic Expectations
When you know what to expect you can prepare yourself for the healing process. Typically, you will be up and on your feet one to two days after your surgery and three days after surgery you will most likely be at home and able to walk with crutches or a walker.
Within 14 days, the staples from your incision will be removed and you can start showering. After three to six weeks you may resume light activities and may be driving and walking without crutches or a walker.
Then, 10-12 weeks after your hip replacement surgery is when you can expect to return to most of your normal activities. But now you can enjoy those activities without the pain and stiffness of your old hip.
DO: Manage Your Pain
Did you know surgery hurts? Your body will view the surgery as a trauma and respond with pain and swelling. This is to remind you to give your body time to heal. Reducing the swelling will allow you to move more easily.
Have a plan in place for the first three days after your surgery to be taking an anti-inflammatory medication prescribed by your doctor. Also ask your doctor about using ice for the first week. The cold reduces the swelling and allows the new joint to move easier.
Gentle exercises will also decrease your pain as it helps with blood circulation and decreases the swelling.
DO: Plan to Move
Lying in bed or sitting for most of the day will cause your new joint to stiffen. Your hip replacement was meant to give you more flexibility and less pain. Get moving to make the best use of your new joint! The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that you stay active but not do too much, too soon.
Don’t push yourself beyond what you can handle, but plan to be up and moving for 20-30 minutes at a time. When you are moving you help the blood flow increase to your feet and legs and can prevent blood clots. You will also keep your muscle strength intact.
Always keep your operated leg facing the front and your hip higher than your knees. Use a heating pad for 15-20 minutes to warm up your muscles. Your physical therapist will give you a list of exercises to do each day. Do them!
The exercises are simple but are meant to keep your new joint in place and flexible. Usually, exercises will include:
- Bending and straightening your knee
- Lying down and raising your operated leg up to 12 inches off the bed
- Pointing your toes up and down
- Sliding your hip out to the side and back to the middle
- Tightening your quads while keeping your leg straight
Don’t exercise to the point of pain. Aim for about 10 repetitions of each exercise three times a day. If you find this too uncomfortable, aim for fewer repetitions more often.
Have you experienced a recent hip replacement surgery? What other dos and don’ts should we add to our list? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
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