It’s been nearly six decades since the first hip replacement surgery was performed. And while today’s replacements last longer than ever, the road to recovery can be just as challenging as it ever was. That’s why it’s important to understand what you can expect while recovering from hip surgery, as well as what you can do to make sure recovery goes as smoothly as possible.
Hospital Discharge: The First Step to Recovery
Hospitals will generally discharge hip replacement patients once they’re capable of getting in and out of bed independently, can walk with the help of an assistive device, and once they understand the precautions they need to take to ensure healing. Even though you can move and walk on your leg almost immediately after your surgery, it’s important to restrict your movement. Crossing your legs, bending your hip at a 90 degree angle, or straining the joint can cause serious injuries. On average, discharge takes only four days, but leaving the hospital is just the first step of recovery.
Short Term Recovery vs. Complete Recovery
How long does it take to recover from hip surgery? In answering that question, it’s useful to distinguish between short term and long term recovery. A patient has achieved short term recovery once they no longer need to use painkillers, can sleep comfortably at night, and can walk without pain. And most patients will reach short term recovery in as little as 4-6 weeks!
On the other hand, complete recovery means a comprehensive healing of the surgical wounds and affected internal tissues. When you can return to the normal activities of daily life, and you’ve improved from your pre-operation levels of pain and dysfunction, you’ve achieved complete recovery. This takes an average of six months, though the speed of recovery often depends how seriously a patient applies themselves to their physical therapy.
Preparing for Recovery
A speedy recovery won’t be possible if you make a habit of agitating the joint, which is why living environments need to be prepared for the coming weeks of healing. Preparation is mostly about making things accessible and comfortable. For instance, you can place a chair in your kitchen, bathroom, or any other room where daily tasks are done. You can ensure that that telephones, eyeglasses, and similar items of importance are all in reachable spots. As a general rule of thumb, if you have to bend low or stretch high in order to reach something, your home is not prepared for recovery.
You’ll also want to take care of any tripping hazards. Wires, loose rugs, and poor lighting are all conducive to falling, and a fall during recovery can cause fractures or other serious complications. Pets are also a common tripping hazard, so it may be prudent to have a friend babysit your furry friends for a week or so after the procedure. In the bathroom, many people find it helpful to install bath handlebars, or to use an elevated seat cover for your toilet seat to prevent unnecessary pressure on recovering joints.
For the weeks and months of healing before achieving complete recovery, you may need help with errands, cooking, personal hygiene, exercise, or with a number of other common daily activities. If you don’t have someone who can lend a helping hand during that time, it’s worth considering a professionally trained caregiver. Caregivers are the best guarantee you can get that the coming weeks of recovery will go off without a hitch, helping you to get back your independence as quickly as possible.
Have you undergone hip surgery? What advice would you offer for someone facing hip surgery and any tips for recovery? We’d love for you to share your thoughts with readers in the comments below!