Dr. Michael Bates, MD
One primary reason patients undergo a hip replacement is to return to the lifestyle they enjoyed prior to needing surgery. The number of joint replacements, or arthroplasties, performed nationally continues to increase each year because state-of-the-art technology enables people to once again do what they love without pain.
After a hip replacement, you will likely be able to do most of your favorite activities, though you may need to make some modifications. Keep in mind that a full recovery is necessary to achieve these goals, and doing your part to aid the healing process will get you there more quickly and efficiently.
Depending on the type of hip surgery your surgeon performs, your recovery timeframe and needs may vary, depending on your incision, muscle healing and other factors. Your doctor will go over specific instructions for your post-operative care.
The Big Picture, in My Perspective
It’s important to understand that post-operative restrictions, or posterior precautions, vary from surgeon to surgeon. Most surgeons base our care plan for you on a combination of our experience, training and general consensus recommendations.
Many factors influence each surgeon’s decision making about which post-operative restrictions to recommend. Some of the various factors that determine our limitations for you during the post-op period include:
- The size and type of implant, which may impact stability. Any restrictions we give you are put in place to prevent hip dislocation.
- The surgical approach. The surgical approach to the hip can affect the risk of dislocation. There are multiple surgical approaches to the hip. I specialize in both the anterior approach and the posterior approach to the hip.
- Physical therapy programs vary from surgeon to surgeon but are usually abbreviated. Generally, I conduct an at-home PT check with patients to ensure they are using their walker and assistive devices correctly.
Our recommendations for your care come from personal experience and personal practice, with the goal of having you back to enjoying daily life quickly and safely. Overall, my protocol is to minimize restrictions after replacement, keep you happy and healthy and get you back to activity as soon as possible.
So, When Can You Actually Be Active?
It can be difficult to get an exact answer from a surgeon as to when you can return to sports, play and other daily activities. Usually, I advise patients to wait six weeks before resuming most sports. Most people find that length of recovery adequate and doable.
As far as long-term activity restrictions going forward, think carefully about the sports you want to participate in. Most activities are completely fine as there are huge benefits to staying active. But you should consider that participating in certain high-impact activities may wear out your hip implant faster than following a more sedentary lifestyle. It’s a balance, and it’s a personal choice.
Most orthopedic surgeons will tell you that long-distance running is not the best sport after a hip replacement. That’s not to say you cannot run, but you need to carefully consider your activity level and the particular sport. My favorite sports for my post-operative hip patients are low-impact aerobic activities such as the elliptical, cycling and swimming.
This article was originally published on October 5, 2017, and has been updated on June 1, 2020.