A hip replacement is a surprisingly common and highly successful operation that can relieve the pain of hip arthritis and help you get back to the activities you enjoy.
The recovery is usually less intense than a knee replacement, but it’s still major surgery.
Everyone’s experience is different, but we share some learnings from those who’ve been there before.
1. You’re on your feet quickly
A hip replacement may not be a walk in the park, but you’re back on your feet very quickly after surgery.
You definitely won’t be doing hill sprints, but most physios want you out of bed and putting some weight on your new hip as soon as the anaesthetic has worn off.
Getting straight into physiotherapy after surgery is believed to speed up recovery and give you the best possible results.
From that moment onwards your physio will give you a series of exercises which need to be done multiple times a day for the next few months.
2. Recovery takes time
You might be on your feet quickly, but recovery takes time and it’s different for everyone.
Some people might be doing well after a few weeks, but it usually takes about three months for the initial tissue healing. During that time, you’re not to bend more than 90 degrees.
While most people are feeling pretty mobile and moving around with a lot less pain by three months, it can take up to two years for some to feel the full benefit.
3. Exercise is key
It’s so important to keep moving not just in the recovery phase, but also during everyday life with your new and improved hip. But you also don’t want to overdo it and wind up injured.
Make sure you follow the advice of your physio and stick to the specific exercises to keep your new hip safe.
High-impact activities might be too much for an artificial joint, but you can enjoy low impact exercise like swimming (once your surgeon is happy with your wound healing), golf and cycling—although you might need to make some modifications, at least early on.
Some cyclists opt for an electric bike to help ease them back into exercise without putting excessive pressure on the hip.
4. You need support
If you’re a ‘she’ll be right’ type, you might have to make an exception in this case.
A hip replacement is major surgery, so you’ll need some daily help, at least for the first week.
Make sure you have someone to pick you up and help you settle into your house after surgery. Getting in and out of a car can be tricky at first!
If you live alone, ask a friend or family member to stay or pop in daily to help out.
Getting around the house will be tricky initially, you’ll likely be tired and need to rest, and the medication for pain relief might affect your ability to get around safely.
If you normally care for other family members or pets, you’ll need to organise someone to help with that. Having some ready to go meals in the freezer, or better still, from friends or family, will be very welcome during this time.
Think about organising some help with other jobs like watering the garden, putting the bins out and shopping.
5. Prepare your home
There are plenty of minor adjustments that can make a big difference at home. Ensure you have plenty of space to manoeuvre around with a walker or crutches and make sure there’s nothing you could trip over (power cords or rugs).
Remember you can’t bend more than 90 degrees in those early days, so ensure everyday items are stored at waist height. It’s also worth thinking about hiring a raised toilet seat and a shower chair.
Setting up a recovery station is a great way to avoid unnecessarily getting up and down when you’re trying to recover. Find a basket and add your phone, medication, tissues, the TV remote and books in the one place so you have everything you need on hand. Ask around for some book or show recommendations—it’s the ideal time for a binge session!
Going up and down stairs is a no go at first, so if you normally sleep upstairs, think about setting up downstairs or staying with a friend or relative.
Handy hack: a long-handled shoehorn and a grabber can be a great way to avoid bending down for putting shoes on and picking things up from the floor.
6. Prehab pays
Don’t wait for your hip replacement surgery to start your strengthening work.
It’s well worth booking in to see a physio for a pre-surgery strengthening program, known as prehab.
Prehab is all about strengthening the muscles before surgery so you can speed up your recovery.
The idea is that if you go into surgery with weak and tight muscles, it’s harder to do the strengthening work once you’ve had the surgery.
As well as improving strength and range of motion, it may also help you prepare mentally and physically for the op.
And thanks to muscle memory, working on the right exercises before surgery may make it easier to do your rehab.
7. I wish I’d done it sooner
While hip replacements are a last resort surgery, many people put it off until they’re in a lot of pain and their quality of life is significantly compromised.
It’s not because the surgery is as risky as it might have been in the 60s and 70s, it’s because the artificial joints may wear out over time and eventually need to be replaced.
When every step is painful and you’re missing out on doing the things you love, a hip replacement may give you a new lease on life.
Many say they wish they did it sooner, regretting the lost years spent struggling with the pain.
It’s a very personal decision that needs to be made under the guidance of a trusted treating team. But your quality of life matters and should be a big factor in determining if a hip replacement is right for you.
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