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Total Hip Replacement Tips For A Faster And Easier Recovery

Total Hip Replacement: Tips for a Faster and Easier Recovery

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.

Total hip replacements are increasing in popularity in both the United States and worldwide.

It’s estimated that over 300,000 surgeries are performed here in the US and that could increase to over 500,000 within the next 5 years. Even though the surgeries and the recovery period after are getting faster and easier with modern medicine, it is still a long road to recovery.

The first 6 weeks after a total hip replacement are still very painful and challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally. The brand new hip is stiff and swollen for quite a while after the surgery. Here are some of the best tips for a faster and easier recovery after surgery.

In addition to our list to help you progress, check out our exercises to avoid after a total hip replacement to help you progress faster.

What Are the Main Ways to Speed Up Recovery After a Hip Replacement

Total Hip Replacement Tips For A Faster And Easier RecoveryThere are few things to consider when recovering from a hip replacement. The first is that it can take up to a year for you to feel normal after surgery. 

With that in mind there are a few tips that help you progress a little faster after surgery:

  • Asking for Physical Therapy
  • Use exercise equipment such as a recumbent elliptical
  • Get off Pain Meds When you can
  • Get a Set of steps for strengthening
  • Emphasis hip abduction strengthening
  • Work diligently on Single-leg balance

Continue reading as we dive deeper into each category and review the recovery process for a total hip replacement.

Ask for Physical Therapy After a Hip Replacement

Despite this being a major surgery, there is still a chance that you will NOT be given a script for physical therapy.

You may need to ASK TO GO TO PHYSICAL THERAPY.

This seems crazy right?! You just had this expensive life-altering surgery and you may not get to see the experts in recovery afterward?

Some surgeons think that walking only is all that you will need to get back to normal. If you have any goals of getting back to fun activities go to physical therapy. This will include stretching, strengthening, gait education, and potential even aquatic physical therapy.

A physical therapist will help guide you through the unknown and keep you on track. You only want to do this surgery once, so why wouldn’t you do it right to make sure everything comes out as good as it can.

Use a Recumbent Elliptical After Hip Surgery

HCI Fitness Recumbent EllipticalMotion is lotion. Exercise  is one of the best ways to control pain.

This is one of the best and easiest ways to improve range of motion, decrease pain, and improve strength.

The recumbent elliptical is great after a total hip replacement because it allows you to exercises in a non-weight bearing position while maintaining hip precautions and you can control the resistance.

We like this model because it is easy to get on and off without hurting your hip. Start slow and easy at 10 minutes at mild to moderate resistance and work your way up as your hip pain decreases.

The HCI Fitness Physiostep because it’s one of the most affordable options and keeps your hips at or below 90 degrees of flexion, keeping you within your precautions.

Get off the Pain Meds After a HIp Replacement... But Not Too Early

Muscle MassagerGetting off the pain meds should be a high priority for everyone as they can be addictive, cause constipation, and make you feel just plain nasty.

There are other ways to help pain control including an ice and compression pack, analgesic pain relief cream, and personal muscle massagers to help manage the pain.

However, the best pain reliever of all is activity including walking, bicycling, or as mentioned about the elliptical. Combine these with lighter over-the-counter pain meds like Tylenol or Ibuprofen and you will be on your way off the drugs faster.

However, the drugs are prescribed for a reason so it’s always best to take them as prescribed to stay ahead of the pain instead of playing catch up.

Use a Set of Steps to Strengthen the Hips After Sugery

A set of steps, especially if you don’t have access to a good set of stairs with a railing, is extremely helpful.

The steps help with concentric, isometric, and eccentric strengthening of the hip. They are low-cost, easy to move, and hit all major muscle groups associated with the hip muscles, most importantly the ones that stabilize the hip.

set of stairs for strengthening after a hip replacementYou’ll notice right after surgery that stairs are really difficult and are something that everyone has to work on. After some practice, you will be able to go up the stairs but not down.

Finally, going down the stairs at the 3-6 month mark will be much easier if you build up the strength. To practice, we love the set of stairs on Amazon.

Emphasize Hip Abduction Strengthening After a Total Hip Replacement

The outside of the hip is where our hip abductors reside. They are extremely important muscles that help us stay upright when walking, and help us control the position of our hip and pelvis.

They suffer major trauma during the surgery that causes them to be weak and inhibited after surgery. The lateral hip muscles should be an emphasis in any rehab program following a hip replacement.

You can strengthen them in many different ways such as lying on your side (tough to do initially after surgery) or standing with a resistance band around the ankles.

This is a standard exercise across the country for hip strengthening and rehab programs as well as we use it in strengthening and performance of our athletes. Simply put, it’s just a great exercise to do for overall health.

Work on Single-Leg Balance After Hip Surgery

Working on a single-leg stance does more than improving balance, it is one of the most important functional activities you can work on.

By working on a single leg stance, you are strengthening and improving the endurance in the muscles of the hip and pelvis.

The very same muscles that you just had cut during your surgery.

The other benefit is that it makes the muscles all work together. The muscles on the front, back, and side all have to work as one to keep you upright, a skill that gets altered after surgery.

Finally, this helps the nervous system. The longer you can hold the single-leg balance the more signal you have to recruit through the nervous system. This results in better communication between the nerve and the muscles and decreases pain signals to the brain.

To make a single-leg balance harder try using a foam pad or a balance disc to increase the challenge.foam balance pad to improve balance after a total hip replacement

Walk as Much as you can After a Hip Replacement

This is the first and last recommendation that the surgeon will tell you when they see you, you must create a walking program.

This is beneficial because it loads the hip joint, stretches out the muscles that were just cut, and improves strength as you increase distance.

Try to start at 10 minutes that first week and then progress as pain tolerate.

One of the best rehab exercises for a total hip is to WALK BACKWARD.

This stretches out the front of the hip, promotes glute activation and helps decrease the habit of limping which has likely been there since way before surgery.

How Long Does it Take to Heal From a Hip Replacement?

The length of hip replacement recovery varies from person to person. You can expect your hip replacement physical therapy process to take 4-8 weeks depending on how quickly you recover after surgery.

By week 3 after surgery, you are starting to see improvement on a regular basis and will begin to start to do activities that you used to before surgery.

At 3 months post-surgery, you are going to feel 60-70% of normal depending on how back your hip was prior to the surgery.

By 6 months you’ll be nearly back to normal with the only major deficit being a weakness in some motions but pain levels should be low.

Finally, at 1-year post total hip replacement you should feel nearly back to normal or even better than normal for some people.

When Can you Walk After a Hip Replacement?

You’ll be able to put weight on the hip and walk the same day as surgery with using a walker. Walking will feel different and not normal but you are up walking.

You’ll continue to walk with a limp for the first 1-2 weeks. However by the end of week 3, typically timelines should be able to walk without a limp at this time.

It is important to start moving as soon as possible after hip replacement surgery because it can help decrease pain and inflammation, increase blood flow around the joint, and improve how well the new hip heals.

How Long will you Need to Use a Walker After a Hip Replacement?

You’ll be using a standard walker immediately after surgery to help take the pressure off your hip.

If you don’t have a walker you can read our reviews on the best walkers after a joint replacement here.

Typically hip replacement patients can transition to a cane by week three. But this is highly dependent on the progress of your hip strength, pain levels, and how your body responds after surgery.

At six weeks, most hip replacement patients are able to walk without assistance but still may need some limitations in terms of what they do with their hip or use of stairs etc.

You’ll continue to walk with a limp for the first 1-2 weeks. However by the end of week 3, typically timelines should be able to walk without a limp at this time.

It is important to start moving as soon as possible after hip replacement surgery because it can help decrease pain and inflammation, increase blood flow around the joint, and improve how well the new hip heals.

When Can you Drive After a Hip Replacement?

This completely depends on what hip you have replaced.

If you had your left hip replaced, you can drive as soon as you have the range of motion to get it into the car and you are no longer taking pain medication.

This is key because you can get in a lot trouble for driving under the influence of pain medication.

If you have your right hip replaced then it will take a little bit longer to achieve the amount range of motion and strength needed to switch between the gas and the brake pedals without pain. Plan on 3-4 weeks before you are driving after a right hip replacement.

Conclusion

A total hip replacement is a life-changing event. On one hand, you are excited and ready to get back to the things that you used to love doing and on the other hand, it is a long and painful recovery process.

By seeing our tips you now have the information and the confidence to progress to your goals. It is also a good idea to see our exercises to avoid during total hip replacement to further help you feel better.

Works Referenced

  1. Rapid Rehabilitation and Recovery with Minimally Invasive Total Hip Arthroplasty. – https://journals.lww.com/corr/Abstract/2004/12000/Rapid_Rehabilitation_and_Recovery_with_Minimally.37.aspx 
  2. Enhanced recovery program for hip and knee replacement reduces death rate – A study of 4,500 consecutive primary hip and knee replacements – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/17453674.2011.618911?scroll=top&needAccess=true
  3. Enhanced recovery in total hip replacement: A clinical review – https://online.boneandjoint.org.uk/doi/full/10.1302/0301-620x.95b12.31303 
  4. Pain Management and Accelerated Rehabilitation for Total Hip and Total Knee Arthroplasty – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0883540307003208

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