If you are one of the millions of people who have been diagnosed with arthritis, you may be considering a total hip replacement. This is a big decision, and it’s important that you do everything possible to prepare for it.
The more prepared that you go into the surgery, the faster you’ll recover. We want you to get back to the things that you love to do as fast as you can and with the least amount of pain.
As is the case with anything in life, being prepared for something makes all the difference in the world.
In this blog post, we will go over five tips that will help make your surgery and recovery as smooth as possible!
When is the Best Time for a Hip Replacement?
The best time for a total hip replacement is when your pain becomes intolerable and significantly impacts your quality of life. When you can no longer do the things that you enjoy because you are fearful of pain then it’s time to consider a hip replacement.
There are other factors to consider including:
- Time of year
- Insurance limitations
- Schedule for work or care duties
- Weather implications for travel to appointments
For more in-depth information on the best time of the year for a joint replacement see our article here.
How To Best Prepare for a Hip Replacement
Preparation for a total hip replacement surgery is key to having a successful outcome. This includes both physically and mentally preparing yourself for the big day.
Physically, you will want to go into the surgery in the best possible physical condition that you can have. This will help strengthen your muscles and get you ready for surgery.
Mentally, it’s important to be positive and confident about your surgery. This will help reduce any anxiety you may have leading up to the procedure.
In addition, there are other things you can do to prepare for a hip replacement.
Go to Physical Therapy for THA Pre-hab
Pre-habilitation is one of the most important steps you can take to prepare for total hip replacement and yet hardly anyone does it.
A total hip pre-hab program will help strengthen your muscles and improve your mobility in preparation for surgery, which leads to better outcomes in terms of both the speed of recovery, quicker reduction in pain, and achieving a maximum outcome.
The stronger you get before surgery, the faster the muscles recover. You’ll be given hip ROM exercises to stretch important muscles, tendons, and ligaments that often get tight after surgery.
You’ll also focus on strengthening the glutes and hip stabilizer muscles to make it less painful to work and easier to do your normal activities of daily lifting after surgery.
Doing Pre-hab also helps reduce anxiety leading up to the procedure by showing patients what they can expect during recovery.
You get to know the Physical Therapist and determine if you like and trust their expertise in the recovery as well as ask them important questions to realistically align your expectations.
Even if it is only for a few visits, the information you obtain is absolutely valuable.
Have All the Necessary Post-Op Accessories Ready
One of the most stressful things about surgery is not knowing what you will need and when you will need it.
Make a list of everything you will need after surgery and get it all ready before your surgery date. This includes:
- Ice packs or ice machine
- Hip Precaution pillows for posterior approach hips
- Shower bench and/or stool
- A toilet riser
- Elastic bandages or ace wraps
- Non-skid socks
- Blood pressure cuff and monitor
- Extra Compression stockings (your given one pair but that is not nearly enough)
The big ones from this list are the ice machines, the reacher to pick things up from the floor, and the extra compression stockings.
The ice machines given to you by the hospital after surgery aren’t often good enough to get the job done.
The reacher is to help you pick up things from the floor without breaking your surgical precautions.
Finally, the compression stockings are a must because the ones you get from the hospital get dirty fast and you don’t want to wash them daily. Get some that are comfortable to wear and easy to put on, but still do the job.
Scheduling Any Additional Help for After Surgery
Most people are not prepared for the amount of help they will need after surgery.
It is important to have a game plan in place before your surgery date. This includes scheduling time off from work, making arrangements for pet care, and getting family or friends lined up to help with meals, transportation, and general assistance.
The sooner you get these plans in place, the better.
Check Local Resources for Help
If you are unable to secure enough help for yourself check for local resources or call the surgeon’s office to ask what other patients have done in the past.
Some local resources might include free transportation to and from your medical appointments, including physical therapy. These rides are often free after surgery.
Plan Ahead with Family Members for Help
Before your surgery, talk to your family about what you would like them to do for you in the short term.
This might include help with meals, transportation, and just checking in on you regularly. It is important that they know what you need so there are no surprises after surgery.
You might schedule help with walking the dog, cleaning the house, and doing laundry so that you can focus on safety and recovery after surgery.
Grocery Shopping and Meal Prep
One of the best things you can do for yourself before surgery is to stock up on healthy foods and prepare some meals.
This will help reduce stress in the post-operative period and make it easier for you to have meals at the ready after surgery. This is especially important if your partner at can’t cook or is “allergic” to cooking.
If cooking isn’t your thing, ask a friend or family member to do it for you.
For grocery shopping, a lot stores now offer shopping online and being able to pick up at the store. Even if this costs extra money, it is worth it for the first few weeks after surgery so that you don’t have to lug around the walker or use the special and incredibly noisy seated cart in the grocer store.
Avoid Any Unnecessary Procedures Before Surgery
It is important to be completely honest with your surgeon about any procedures you have had in the past.
This includes dental work, joint injections, and even minor surgeries.
Some of these procedures can increase your risk for infection or other complications after surgery. Even mild dental work such as cleaning can have huge implications.
Watch out for any new cuts or open wounds as these act as an easy location for infections to get into the body and past the skin.
Once an infection gets into the body it will go to where the majority of the blood is going…. straight to the healing hip replacement.
This can be a disaster and something that surgeons are thankfully over-cautious about. Avoid the dentist, dermatologist, or using sharp tools for at least 6 weeks prior to surgery.
Be Mentally Prepared For Surgery
While total hip replacement surgery is very common and often considered routine, it can still be a scary prospect for many people.
Many patients are worried about the pain after total hip replacement or even worse, having complications that could lead to more surgeries or increased recovery time.
It is important to remember that your surgeon has done this type of procedure many times and the vast majority of people have a positive outcome.
However, this does not mean that you should expect that recovery will be easy.
You have to be mentally ready to put in the work to gain your range of motion, work on your gait mechanics, and improve your strength even on the days where pain levels are high.
Ask to go to Physical Therapy After Your THA
There is a growing trend amongst surgeons that patients are being prescribed physical therapy after a THA. These patients are only being told to walk multiple times a day.
These patients will eventually get to where they want but trust me when I say this, the journey is easier with a guide.
A physical therapist can help manage expectations, look out for infections, increase your range of motion and improve your overall strength much easier than “just walking.” Physical therapy also helps management pain levels.
Even if you go to physical therapy at a minimum of 1x a week the peace of mind is completely worth it.
Talk to People who have Already had a Hip Replacement to Gain Realistic Expectations
If you know people who have had total hip replacement surgery before, talk to them about what their recovery was like.
Question you might ask include:
- How long did the pain last?
- What was the most difficult part of the first week?
- What pieces of equipment helps the most?
They can also help you manage your expectations for total recovery time.
Most people do not realize how long it takes to recover. It’s not uncommon to have pain 6 months after a hip replacement and for it to take a year to make a full recovery and feel normal.
A total hip replacement should be thought of as a marathon and not a sprint.
Join Local Surgery Support Groups or on Facebook
Learn what to expect before, during and after total hip replacement surgery.
The more mentally prepared you are the easier it will be for you to have a smooth total hip replacement recovery.
There are groups on Facebook and online hip replacement forums of people who are going through the same thing that you are so it’s nice to have support and talk to people in the same situation.
Just be cautious to not compare yourself to others online, as each person has a different amount of joint damage before the surgery, different surgeons, and different support groups. Don’t be discouraged if others are bragging about their speedy recovery.
There are many ways to prepare for total hip replacement surgery. The key is to remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint.
You should expect the total recovery time to be at least six months but more realistically closer to one year after total hip replacement surgery.
The first few weeks can be extremely difficult but if you follow some of these tips you can get through a total hip replacement with a minimum amount of difficulty.
If you have had a total hip replacement and want to share your best tips for someone preparing for their surgery, leave us a comment below for your best advice.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.