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Walking unaided after hip replacement surgery: tips

If you’ve recently undergone a hip replacement, you’re probably wondering what your recovery timeline looks like. How long before you can get back to everyday activities? And, what can you do to speed up recovery? It’s likely that these are all burning questions that you want the answers to, so, as part of National Walking Month, join us as we investigate the recovery process and tips for walking unaided after hip replacement surgery.

Two men walking up a hill after hip surgery

Key preparations tips for hip replacement surgery

Before we look at life after your hip surgery, it’s important to highlight the different things you can do to prepare for the surgery. Thorough preparation before your operation can make your recovery much easier, while potentially speeding up the process.

Lifestyle changes

If you’re preparing for or have just had hip surgery, this is a great time to make some lifestyle changes. Maintaining a healthy weight won’t just be good for your overall health, but it will help speed up your recovery by reducing the amount of stress placed on your new joint. Staying with the health theme, undergoing surgery provides a good opportunity to ditch some bad habits. For example, if you’re a smoker, this is a great time to stop. Smoking can delay your recovery, as well as generally being bad for your health.

You’ll also need to adopt new exercise routines. These will be provided by your physiotherapist and aim to strengthen the muscles around the affected hip.

Changes in your home

As with changes to your lifestyle, there are a number of things you can do to prepare your home to accommodate you after the procedure. Be sure to remove any loose fitting carpets or rugs as these can represent potential trip hazards. Following the operation, your mobility will likely be limited, so it might be a good idea to consider moving your bed downstairs – at least for the first few weeks.

Investing in a reacher/grabber device can eliminate the need for unnecessary movement and helps to keep everyday items such as mobile phones within reach. You should also enlist the help of friends or family. Ask them to run errands for you and ensure you have enough food and medicine in the weeks following your surgery.

The post-operative recovery process after hip replacement procedures

So, your surgery’s been completed and you’re on the road to recovery. But what does that process look like, and how long is it going to take? The following will give you an idea of what to expect.

Timeline for hip replacement recovery

It’s important to remember every patient recovers at different rates. Some people will be able to walk unaided much sooner than others, while some patients may need a longer stay in hospital to get them moving again. However, generally you should expect to be up and moving around (with the help of walking aids) within a few hours of your surgery. Everyday tasks and activities can usually be resumed after around two weeks.

You may be able to get back behind the wheel around six weeks post-operation. Likewise, returning to work will depend on the type of work you do. For example, if your work is desk-based, you might be able to return as soon as six weeks after your operation. More physical roles could take up to three months. Full recovery can take up to a year.

Physical therapy for hip replacement surgery

Following your surgery, it’s crucial you follow the exercise plan provided by your physiotherapist. This is designed to strengthen the muscles and areas around the affected hip while giving you the best chance at making a full and speedy recovery. The exercises given to you are specific to your needs. Ask your doctor or physio for more information.

In general, doctors recommend exercise as a vital part of your recovery. This should however, be kept to a gentle level to avoid injury. Swimming, golf and walking are all good exercises to do once you’ve been given the go ahead by your doctor.

Hospital stay and rehabilitation

During your stay in hospital, you’ll be encouraged by your physio and attending nurses to move around. They will provide walking aides and assistance while you attempt to do this. Movement after your operation is crucial to reducing the stiffness and swelling around the affected joint. It also helps lessen the risk of developing DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis).

Following medical advice

Following your surgery, it’s crucial you follow the exercise plan and medical advice set out by your physiotherapist and doctor. You will likely be prescribed medication to manage the discomfort, while physiotherapy is designed to give you the best chance at making a full and speedy recovery. The exercises given to you are specific to your needs. Ask your doctor or physio for more information.

Tips for walking unaided post hip replacement surgery

We’ve covered preparation and the days following your surgery, now it’s time to look at some guidance around walking without assistance.

Range of motion and strength exercises for hip replacement surgery

Following hip replacement surgery, the aim is to regain about 90% of normal range of motion. You’ll be advised to avoid certain extreme movements that may increase the risk of dislocation.

Using canes and walkers correctly

Crutches, canes and walking aids can all prove crucial in the days and weeks following your surgery. Proper usage is key to making a full recovery. For example, if you’re using a single cane, it should be on the opposite side to your affected hip. Your doctor will be able to give you more information about the use of walking aids.

All walking aids are provided by Practice Plus Group following your procedure.

Importance of proper footwear

While there isn’t a specific type of shoe to wear, there are some things you can do to make life easier for yourself. Following your operation, shoelaces are very difficult to tie, so investing in a pair of shoes with a Velcro strap is a good idea. You should also avoid wearing high heels in the weeks following your surgery. These will put stress on your affected joint and increase your risk of falling over.

Common challenges and solutions after hip replacement surgery

When the operation is finished and you’re on the other side, the recovery process can begin. But – spoiler alert – this won’t be without its challenges. The information below will give you an idea about what’s to come, and how to overcome it.

Pain management techniques

It’s important to manage any immediate post-op pain with regular painkillers. These are available from your doctor and will help ensure you can continue to exercise and move around. Over time, the pain will subside, eliminating the need for painkillers.

Dealing with swelling

As with pain, swelling can be managed through painkillers and prescribed medication. Regaining motion as soon as possible following your operation is also crucial. It may take some time (sometimes up to six months), but post-op swelling will settle down.

Coping with muscle weakness

It is crucial to strengthen muscles before and after surgery. Following your physiotherapy plan and undertaking gentle exercise will encourage the strengthening of your muscles.

Words of encouragement for patients

It’s worth remembering that hip replacements are one of the most common surgical procedures in the UK. Over 100,000 are performed every year and they boast a success rate of more than 95%.

Headshot of Nurul Ahad

Acknowledgements

This article was completed with the help of Mr Nurul Ahad, Medical Director and Orthopaedic Surgeon at Practice Plus Group. With over 15 years of experience in orthopaedic surgery, he is a meticulous, patient-focused surgeon with a proven track record for delivering an excellent quality of service.
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