Hip replacement surgery can become a patient’s best option to reduce pain related to osteoarthritis and other age-related conditions if pain is seriously disrupting quality of life and conservative treatments are no longer effective. It’s really important to understand that successful joint replacements require commitment on the part of the patient, and hip replacement recovery is an essential part of this. An orthopedic surgeon can successfully replace the damaged joint with an artificial joint, but once the incision is closed, so much is up to the patient.
The OJRCA team is passionate about delivering patient-centered care, and we believe that patient education is a critical part of that mission. We’ve created the following guide to help patients considering hip replacement procedures understand the recovery journey and make the plans that can help them achieve a positive outcome.
The Day of Your Minimally Invasive Hip Replacement Procedure
By using muscle and tendon-sparing techniques, our experienced and highly skilled orthopedic surgeons are able to perform hip replacement surgery on an outpatient basis. One of the biggest advantages to this approach for hip replacement recovery is a smaller incision and limited disruption of surrounding soft tissue. This means the incision can heal quicker and patients can get up and on their feet much sooner, which is essential for recovery and rehabilitation after joint replacements.
Patients at OJRCA will be given detailed pre- and post-operative instructions to prepare them for the day of the hip replacement procedure and the immediate recovery period. After the procedure is performed, patients will be brought to the recovery area.
After vitals have been taken and clearance given by medical professionals, patients will typically get up with physical therapy and then be able to return home the day of the procedure. Physical therapy should begin as soon as possible, typically the next day. The sooner the better. Patients will be given pain medication and instructions for proper usage. It is critical to follow the dosage guidelines. While patients should never take more than the minimum effective dosage, it is still important to stay on top of pain while in recovery.
Hip Replacement Recovery — Days One to Two
You will be given instructions for safely resuming basic activities as well as how to stay safe in your home during the recovery period. Examples of how to stay safe during hip replacement recovery include:
- Using handrails on steps and any other location
- Wearing flat shoes with slip-proof soles
- Avoiding slippery surfaces, such as wet or waxed floors.
- Keeping floors free of items that obstruct movement
- Removing throw rugs or small objects, or making them slip proof
- Be cautious of pets or other animals that could get in your way.
- Avoiding ice or snow, if necessary
Another important element to watch for in the first several days after surgery is blood clots. Always follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions carefully to limit your risk of blood clots, which can occur during the early period of your recovery. Indicators of blood clots as a result of hip replacement surgery include:
- Increased pain in the lower leg and calf.
- Tenderness and visible redness in the leg or thigh.
- Increased inflammation of the calf, ankle and foot.
It is also possible for post-surgical blood-clots to travel into the lungs and disrupt respiration. Indicators that this has occurred include, shortness of breath, onset of chest pain. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to immediately get in touch with your surgical provider or your primary care physician.
The First Week After Hip Replacement and Infection Prevention
Yet another key safety concern in the hip replacement recovery period is infection of the surgical site or implant. While implant infection is a very low risk factor, it can occur in an extremely small percentage of cases and every patient should watch for them. The most important actions that can help to lower the risk of infection after total joint replacement include:
- Follow guidelines for skin washing with antiseptic soap the days preceding surgery as instructed
- Leaving the dressing in place as it is placed in the operating room under sterile conditions and is a special dressing with a silver compound that helps prevent infection.
Patients should continue physical therapy and follow guidelines for resuming regular activities. During this time or slightly after, you can expect a post-operative appointment to check on the incision site and remove material from the wound, such as staples, if necessary.
Hip Replacement Recovery — the first week
You may be able to resume activities and can begin to transition from a walker to a cane after the first day or so. Your doctor may also clear you to start driving again, so long as you are not taking any pain medication.
Do not resume any vigorous activities without the express consent of your physician. In general, if you still require a walker or cane, there are still likely mobility problems that would make these activities overly risky.
The Importance of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is absolutely critical to ensure a successful hip replacement recovery. Not only do the hips need rehabilitation after surgery to regain range of motion and function, but chronic hip pain sufferers typically deal with years of muscle atrophy and immobility. Working with a physical therapist helps to overcome these obstacles as well as learn how to properly function with your new artificial joint.
Typical physical therapy methods include:
- Therapeutic exercises to strengthen the hip and improve range of motion
- Manual therapy to activate the hip joints and improve blood flow
- Therapeutic massage to relieve tense muscles
While it is important to start physical therapy early in the recovery process, patients should expect to commit to therapy during the duration of hip replacement recovery to promote the highest degree of hip health and function.
Resuming Activities and Committing to a Healthy Lifestyle
Most people are usually able to return to normal activities within 2 weeks, but full recovery may take longer. Long-term relief very often relies on living a healthy lifestyle that reduces the risk of hip inflammation and the stress we place on the hip every day. Common steps include:
- Eating a nutritious diet with anti-inflammatory foods
- Managing your weight to reduce pressure on the hip joints
- Getting regular exercise to strengthen the body and improve cardiovascular health
- Avoiding tobacco products and excessive alcohol consumption
- Practicing good sleep hygiene and getting a good night’s sleep
Reach out to OJRCA to Learn About Your Treatment Options and the Hip Replacement Recovery Journey
Have you been living with the highly disrupting symptoms of arthritis of the hip and other degenerative conditions? While conservative treatment options help many people on their recovery journey, many others find themselves dealing with pain and limited mobility after fully exploring nonsurgical treatment. To learn more about the benefits of outpatient total hip replacement surgery by our expert surgical team, contact us today.