What to Expect After Hip Replacement: The Honest Truth, from a Surgeon
Part of the reason you have a hip replacement is to get back to the lifestyle you enjoyed before you needed surgery. The number of joint replacements nationwide, or arthroplasties, 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 time frame and needs may vary, depending on your incision, muscle healing and other factors. Your doctor will go over your specific instructions for post-operative care.
The Big Picture, in My Perspective
It’s important to realize that there is variation in post-operative restrictions, or as we call them “posterior precautions”, from surgeon to surgeon. Most of us base our care plan for you on a combination of our experience, training, and general consensus recommendations. Many factors play a role in each surgeon’s comfort letting a person have more or less restriction after surgery. Some of the various factors that determine our limitations for you during the post-op period include:
- The size and type of the implant, which may impact stability. Any restrictions we give you are put into 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 have a PT check on patients once or twice at home to see if they are using their walker and assistive devices correctly, and that’s typically the extent.
Our recommendations for your care come from personal experience and personal practice, with the goal of having you back to activities as soon as possible. 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?
Sometimes 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, but 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 certain high impact activities may wear out the implant faster than if you follow 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 can’t run, but you need to carefully consider your activity level and the particular sport. My favorite sports for my post-operative hip patients are aerobic activity such as the elliptical, cycling and swimming.
Michael Bates, MD is a fellowship-trained hip and knee surgeon with OrthoCarolina University.