Returning to normal activities is a process
When recovering from a major operation like hip replacement surgery, you should see a gradual improvement over days, weeks and even months until you feel fully back to normal.
It is useful to understand that you may get a few bad days, but this doesn’t mean you are not progressing.
Returning to normal activities is probable, as most hip replacement procedures these days are highly successful. There is a process to follow though, and taking things step by step is the best approach.
Catch up on the first 3 parts of our series on hip replacement:
Part 1 article – Approaches to hip replacement
Part 2 article – Posterior v Direct Anterior approach including a free download comparison table.
Part 3 article – What to expect after hip replacement
Continue reading as we look in more detail at returning safely to normal activities following hip replacement in our Bonus Part 4 of our hip replacement series.
Important factors about returning to normal activities
Weight bearing activities
Depending on the type of hip replacement approach used will depend on how quickly you should be putting weight on your new joint. Typically mobilisation with the Direct Anterior approach will be the the same day as the surgery. Other approaches may be the next day and some delayed further. Your doctor will instruct you on using a cane, walker or crutches to assist the process of weight bearing activities.
When your reflexes have returned as well as your strength, driving can be resumed. Also, once you are not using narcotic pain relief medication. Returning to driving varies between patients and your doctor will advise.
It is likely you will need to wait a few weeks with regards to returning to sexual activity. Speak to your doctor about when is safe for your condition and your surgery.
Depending on which hip replacement approach was used will depend on if you are given specific sleeping instructions. With the Posterior approach it is recommended you sleep on your back for approximately 6 weeks.
With the Direct Anterior approach there are no restrictions and other approaches vary. Your doctor will advice on what is most appropriate for you and it is best practice to follow their guidance to avoid discomfort and damage to the new hip joint.
Swelling may occur as a result of changes in air pressure, such as when travelling in a plane. Speak to your doctor before making any trips that involve air travel.
In addition, your new hip joint may cause the metal detectors in the airport to alarm. Carrying a medical alert card or bracelet may help get you through the security checks quicker.
Returning to work
Returning to work varies depending on:
- The type of work you do
- The type of hip replacement approach your doctor used
For example, returning to sedentary work will be much quicker than if you have a physical job, and it can be the difference between weeks for sedentary work and months for physical work.
Another example, if your doctor used the Direct Anterior approach (DAA), it may be possible for you to return to sedentary work within 1-2 weeks, compared to the Posterior approach which may take 2-6 weeks before it is safe to return.
Each person is different though, and not everyone is suitable for DAA. The decision will be discussed with you in advance, by your doctor.
Depending on any specific requirement to return promptly to work may also have a part to play in your doctor’s decision on which approach is most suitable. Although, safety and success of treatment will be the primary focus
Returning to exercise and sport
Following surgery you will be given some physical therapy exercises to help with your recovery. Continue doing these for 2 months after your hip replacement, or longer if advised by your medical team.
Improving muscles tone and strength whilst keeping your hip flexible will be the primary aims of your therapy.
It is likely to take 3 months or more for you to return back to vigorous sports. This is typical for any type of hip replacement approach used. Although depending on your own personal health, approach to your recovery and other variable factors unique to your case, it could be sooner – with the go-ahead from your doctor.
It is usual to be able to return to light sports after 1 month to 6 weeks. Some points to note:
- Swimming is an excellent low-impact activity following hip replacement. The wound needs to heal before you can participate in swimming activities though.
- Walking is also good for general well-being following hip replacement
- Other low impact exercise include golf, cycling and gentle tennis
- High impact exercises include jogging, running and skiing
For a free copy of our Dos and Don’ts of things to do following hip replacement, email our helpful team.