This surgery helps to relieve pain and discomfort in your hip, restore mobility and improve your quality of life.
If you’re planning or recovering from hip surgery and you’re considering going on holiday abroad, you may be concerned about travelling and being in unfamiliar surroundings.
In this article, King Edward VII Hospital Orthopaedic Surgery Consultant, Mr Jeremy Latham, explains how long you should wait before travelling after hip surgery, and what precautions you may need to put into place ahead of your trip.
How long does it take to walk normally after hip surgery?
For most people, it takes around 6-8 weeks before they’re able to walk without crutches or a walking stick following hip surgery.
Therefore, it’s not advisable to travel abroad by road, sea or air for at least six weeks.
After six weeks, you may feel able to travel short haul (six or fewer hours by plane). For long haul travel (longer than six hours by plane), it’s best that you wait at least 12 weeks.
If you’re in any doubt about your recovery and rehabilitation, speak to your consultant, who can advise you on your fitness to travel.
How often should I rest my hip after hip surgery?
Your consultant and surgical team will give you all the advice you need in order to ensure a smooth recovery from hip surgery.
However, the general advice is to lie down and take a rest from walking and moderate exercise for at least an hour twice a day (separate from bedtime) for six weeks following your procedure.
It’s not advisable to sit upright in a chair for more than 30 minutes at a time during this six week period. For this reason, it isn’t a good idea to travel any significant (more than an hour or two) distance by car or aeroplane until this six week rest period is up.
Is it OK to take a long haul flight?
You should avoid travelling on a long haul flight for 12 weeks following hip surgery. This is because you may have an increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, a type of blood clot that starts in the legs and can be very dangerous if it travels to the lungs.
If you do have to fly, make sure it’s a short haul flight and wear flight stockings (also called compression stockings) for the duration of your flight. Also, stay well hydrated before, during and after the flight by drinking water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
You may also like to consider taking 75mg of aspirin each day, starting the day before your flight, during your stay, and finishing the day after arriving home. This will help to minimise your DVT risk. Check with your surgeon or GP for specific advice. If you plan to travel long haul, speak to your consultant for specific advice.
Should I take any other precautions whilst flying?
Your consultant may provide exercises that can be carried out in your aeroplane seat. If so, ensure that you carry these out as often as advised. Your airline may also recommend some exercises.
Aside from staying hydrated and wearing flight stockings, take a walk up and down the aisles every couple of hours during your flight if it’s safe to do so (and the seatbelt sign is switched off).
How should I care for my new hip on holiday?
The biggest hazards when on holiday are slips, trips and falls, particularly around the pool, on the beach and on uneven ground.
Being in an unfamiliar environment may make you feel a little nervous as you navigate your first holiday after hip surgery. But with some forward planning, you can still enjoy your trip.
Before you travel, take a look at websites detailing your destination, so that you can get a feel for getting around. When you’re there, ensure that you’re familiar with the route to the bathroom from your bed and keep a nightlight on.
Be aware of your surroundings, and always keep an eye out for trip hazards such as wet towels, sun beds, beach balls and glassware on the floor, especially if you’re travelling alone. If you have a travelling companion, ask them to help out by also being vigilant to any hazards or uneven ground. Be especially careful if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
Don’t neglect your incision either. Keep any surgical wounds clean and protected from the sun by covering them up or regularly applying a sun cream with an SPF of 50.
What exercises can I perform whilst on holiday?
You can perform all of the exercises that your physiotherapy team has recommended whilst on holiday. Arguably, you might get a lot more out of them to enhance your recovery whilst being relaxed on holiday by the sea!
Walking is the best exercise, particularly in the morning and early evening when it isn’t too hot. Aim to take a gentle walk each day, unless advised not to. If your medical team has given you the go ahead to swim, a few gentle lengths each day can also help. It’s best not to swim for 3 months after a hip replacement.
Are there any holiday activities I should avoid?
Holidays are to be enjoyed and it’s always tempting to try new things on holiday, especially as we tend to drop our guard a little when away.
But you must be careful following hip surgery not to put too much strain on your new joint. It’s best to refrain from watersports such as wakeboarding, canoeing and kayaking, as well as other active sports such as trekking and skiing, for at least six months after surgery. This is due to the risk of hip dislocation, which may require further surgery.
If your surgical wound has healed without any problems, then the use of hot tubs, jacuzzis and saunas is perfectly safe.
Always be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. It’s OK to enjoy alcoholic drinks, but do so in moderation to avoid dropping your guard a little too much and risking trips and falls.
If something doesn’t feel right or comfortable, walk away and save it for your next holiday.