7 practical tips for successful hip replacement recovery

A hip replacement is a common operation, yet it can be life-changing. It can significantly improve your quality of life, helping you get back to the things you enjoyed before hip pain got in the way.

If you are considering hip surgery, it’s important to understand how you can support yourself during the recovery period following the operation.

Remember, you should always consult your GP first if you are experiencing hip pain, or thinking about any kind of surgery.

Here are practical tips from the specialists at our dedicated Orthopaedic Centre, to help your successful recovery from hip surgery

1. Prepare your home in advance

Before your surgery, ask friends and family to help you rearrange your home so that you have easy access to everything you will need.

Reorganise your kitchen and bathroom so that important things are at waist-level and within easy reach — including your daily essentials like tea and coffee, and your soap and face flannel.

When you arrive home after your surgery, for some weeks you’re also going to need help with household chores like cleaning, cooking and shopping.

Make arrangements with friends and family in advance, so they can pitch in where you need help.

You can also use aids like a perching stool or chair, to help with moving around and completing tasks. This type of stool has a seat that slopes and can come with armrests. It can make daily tasks far less strenuous, such as food preparation in the kitchen.

2. Plan for some time off work

How long this will be depends largely on how you feel, as it’s most important to allow yourself enough time to recover fully before returning to your regular duties.

Up to three months is expected for rehabilitation following your operation. If you have a physically demanding job though, your return to work may take longer.

How you travel to work is also a factor to consider. It might be possible to explore a different way of working to aid your recovery and a smoother return to work.

And, this planning can be carried out before your operation, to give you added peace of mind and help you make the most of your recovery time.

3. Balance rest and recovery with gentle exercise

Orthopaedic Consultant, Mr Angus Lewis, says that it’s often tempting after surgery, to stay still — whether in bed or in a chair.

While it’s important to rest to allow yourself time to recover, it’s also important to get moving too. This is because if you stay still for too long, you can become stiff which could hinder your recovery (and it could take longer).

Gentle exercise is beneficial, such as short, gentle walks around your home and outside. Supervised physiotherapy, like rehabilitation programmes and hydrotherapy, can also help improve recovery in the weeks following surgery.

Your Orthopaedic Care team will be able to support you with this, as it’s important to not overdo it. If you overdo things, you could experience more pain and lose confidence. So, it’s important to get the balance right.

4. Think about your nutrition to help speed up recovery

Orthopaedic Clinical Nurse Specialist, Desmond Runganga, says a healthy, balanced diet is key to recovery.

Healthy eating & drinking is important to your overall health, but after any surgery the body has to heal.

A varied diet plays a vital role in this healing process. One that contains all important nutrients, including protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Desmond also advises not to attempt weight loss during your recovery.

5. Be mindful of your hip when in bed

Good sleep habits and a comfortable bed will help support your recovery.

Having sex is also not advised during the first six weeks of your recovery. After this time, and when you feel ready, take things slowly.

Remember to consider the position of your hip to avoid muscle strain, injury or dislocation of the hip.

6. Think about your holidays and travel plans

Flying

You should refrain from flying for the first six weeks after surgery.

You can fly short-haul after this time, but should not fly long-haul (or travel for very long distances) for three months.

Sitting still for too long can increase your risk of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in your legs.

Driving

If you drive, you can check with your insurance company about whether your policy covers you to drive following a surgical procedure. You may find that you are not insured to drive for a certain number of weeks.

Your surgical team will advise about your after-surgery pain medication, as it’s important to remember you should not drive at all on strong painkillers.

You can usually return to driving after six weeks — though if your hip surgery is to your left-hand side and you drive an automatic car in the UK, you may be able to begin driving within a week.

You should avoid driving for six to eight weeks if your surgery is to your right hip.

Either way, be aware that your reflexes may not be as quick just after surgery. Make sure you’re comfortable in the driving seat, and able to perform an emergency stop.

7. Return to your hobbies steadily

After a hip replacement, you may be keen to get on with life as normal and as fast as you can. Including taking part in the more active hobbies you enjoy, like getting back in the gym.

Different sports can put different kinds of strain on the body. It’s important to follow the advice from your Orthopaedic Care team.

Golf

Refrain from all golf including the driving range for the first six weeks. This is because twisting the hip joint at this early stage could cause you pain and hinder recovery.

Swimming

Avoid public swimming pools for the first six weeks while your surgical wound is still healing and to reduce the risk of infection.

Your Orthopaedic Care team will be able to advise on the swim techniques and swim strokes you can use to aid your rehabilitation, and which ones to avoid completely.

Hiking

While it’s important to walk gently after surgery, hiking on uneven ground isn’t recommended for at least three months. If you do start hiking or rambling after this time, use a walking or Nordic pole.

Running

Once you’re fully recovered, it’s fine to run short distances — no more than 5 km at a time, and only if it feels comfortable. Any distance longer than this, should be avoided completely. This is because running is a high-impact sport that puts a lot of pressure on the joints of the body, including the hip joint.

More information

  • If you are experiencing persistent hip pain, you may wish to consider a hip replacement but you should always consult your GP first (Don’t have a GP?)
  • Consult your GP before beginning any exercise or rehabilitation programme
  • More about the total hip replacement procedure