Life After Hip Surgery: Hip Surgery Recovery 101

Hip surgery is a significant procedure with a significant recovery timeline. Fortunately, with the proper planning and precautions, you can soon enjoy many of the activities you used to (without the pain and discomfort you likely experienced before surgery). Hip surgery recovery takes time, but it is usually a positive experience with excellent results.

At Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, we offer our patients as much information and guidance as possible so they can go into surgery worry-free. We want your experience and recovery to be smooth rather than stressful. Here’s what you can expect from life after hip surgery.

Right After Your Hip Surgery

If you need hip surgery, you’re in good company. An estimated 450,000 people annually undergo total hip replacement surgery, and even more have other surgical procedures on the hip. While the hip is one of the most important joints in the body, hip surgery can greatly improve discomfort and increase mobility.

Before your hip surgery, we’ll ensure you know exactly what to expect. We offer plenty of hip surgery guidance and instruction so that you feel fully prepared for your experience from start to finish.

On the day of your surgery, you’ll arrive in the morning and receive a medical evaluation from our nursing staff, ensuring that you are well enough for surgery that day. Pre-surgery, you will meet with your medical team, and they’ll answer any questions that you may have. Your family member or friend can stay with you until you go into surgery.

During the procedure, you’ll be under anesthesia. Most hip surgery is done through a very small incision, and doctors are minimally invasive. The surgery itself usually takes between 1 and 3 hours to complete, depending on the procedure. Although the recovery time and plan may look a little different for each patient, your recovery begins the moment your surgery ends.

When you wake up after hip surgery, nurses will closely monitor all your vital signs and check them throughout the first night. They will check the circulation in your legs as well as your surgical dressings, pain levels, and comfort. We take every precaution to ensure you have a pleasant stay while in our care.

Following surgery, we will make sure you’re tolerating foods and that you’re feeling well enough for discharge. A physical therapist will work with you to ensure you know the right movements to help you get back on the road to recovery.

For most patients, post-surgical recovery involves a few days in the hospital. The average hospital stay is about two days, but some patients are candidates for our more rapid recovery program, which typically means returning home after one night in the hospital. Your physician can review your health and surgical plan to assess if you are a potential candidate for rapid recovery.

When You’re Ready to Go Home After Hip Surgery

On the day of your discharge, staff will check all your vitals, run bloodwork, and check circulation to ensure you are ready to return home. In addition, nurses will inspect the incision site and review all items you should monitor at home.

We will review pain medications and a nutrition plan with you and your family or friend, who will accompany you on your journey home. We’ll explain any equipment you might need, such as compression socks or devices, special pillows, and cold therapy packs. You will receive any medication that you might need for your post-operative recovery. Finally, your physician or therapist will review the hip exercises and physical therapy plan that you will need to perform to return to mobility.

During your early recovery, our focus is often on circulation and movement. It may seem difficult or challenging to move following the surgery of such a major joint, but it’s important to follow the instructions as closely as possible. Following your medical team’s instructions will ensure that you’re prepared to care for your hip at home.

Arriving Home After Hip Surgery

At MOSH, we have patients designate a friend or family “coach” to help them with their hip surgery recovery whenever possible. Following hip surgery, you’ll often need assistance with basic activities for a while. Although we make every effort to minimize your discomfort, some pain is still likely as you heal from this major surgery.

When you return home, you might notice that your sleep and appetite take some time to return to normal. It can be challenging to find a comfortable sleeping position but aim for a good night’s sleep if possible. You may also find that your energy levels are low. Keep in mind that healing from surgery can take a toll on your body. It’s essential to rest and give yourself time to recover from hip surgery.

You will likely need to use assistive devices such as a walker or a cane. These tools will protect you from injury and will help you support your body weight while your joint heals and recovers. Even though it’s tempting to push yourself, follow the guidelines of your surgery and therapy team.

To keep your recovery from hip surgery on track, follow the exercises that your therapist gives you. Therapists recommend exercises that specifically target the areas where you need to increase strength. These movements will help you recover and build muscle to support your new joint.

Your surgical team will give you specific instructions to help you recognize the signs of blood clots and infections. Both are rare but potentially dangerous complications. It’s imperative that you pay attention to the signs from your body during this time. Keep in mind that you will recover, and within a few weeks following surgery, you’ll see positive gains in mobility.

How Long Does It Take to Recover from Hip Surgery?

Hip surgery recovery takes time, and you are likely to feel better in stages. Somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks following surgery, most patients will be able to discontinue pain medication and resume most of their pre-surgical activities, although you likely won’t feel back to “normal” for some time. For athletes, this may not mean you’ll be ready to return to sport, but you’ll see improvement in your movements and recovery. You will need time to build back strength and balance.

So, what does life after hip surgery look like? When does it get back to normal? Complete hip surgery recovery is usually between 6 and 12 months, but every patient is on their own timeline, and there are many factors to consider. You may still need adaptive equipment during the early months of your recovery. Some patients may need more time before they feel they’ve returned to pre-surgical health.

There are several activities that people often worry about during their hip surgery recovery. Here’s how long it can take to get back to prior levels after hip surgery.

  • Walking: Getting back on your feet can take a few weeks. Most patients find that after about a month, they can return to walking without discomfort. Some may still need an adaptive device like a cane or walker to support their movement and ensure balance after hip surgery.
  • Driving: Driving is another important activity that allows you to enjoy your freedom and movement. Some post-surgical pain medications can impair your driving ability, so it’s important not to operate a car or truck until you’ve received the all-clear from your medical team. Often patients can drive around six weeks following hip surgery.
  • Sport & Exercise: Your return to exercise and pre-surgical fitness activities will likely depend on your surgery type and individual situation. While athletes are often healthy and quick to recover, there are many factors to consider. You’ll probably be able to return to some less-strenuous activities within 6-8 weeks.
  • Working: When can you return to work after hip surgery? That largely depends on the type of work that you do. For example, if you work at a computer for most of the day, you may be ready to resume some work activities within just a few weeks following your surgery. On the other hand, if you have a more active job, it can take some time before you’re ready to return to work. Your physician will help you determine your timeline for hip surgery recovery.

Is there anything you can do to speed up hip surgery recovery? While you can’t force your body to heal faster, you can support your body in healthy ways to create optimal conditions for recovery. That means getting balanced nutrition, hydration, and sleep. It also means following physical therapy and rehabilitation recommendations to ensure that you build supportive surrounding musculature and keep other joints healthy to avoid compensation.

Longer-term complications from hip surgery are rare. Your physician can help you explore any concerns before your surgery to ensure you proceed confidently without worry. Many factors can play a role in recovery, from age to health status to the reasons for hip replacement. For example, a patient needing hip surgery due to arthritis may face a different recovery timeline than a patient requiring hip surgery because of an injury or accident.

Life after hip surgery can look full, bright, and exciting. Moving without pain and less discomfort will greatly improve your quality of life. You can trust that your surgical support team will work carefully with you to ensure that you have the best instructions tailored to your needs and health. We’ll work alongside you every step of the way to get you back on your feet after hip surgery.

If you’re considering hip surgery, our skilled team at MOSH can help you assess your health and plan for undergoing the procedure. Reach out today to let us guide you through the hip surgery recovery process. Hip surgery recovery is nothing to fear.