What to Expect After Hip Surgery
03 May 2022
Hip Surgery Recovery: From Post-Op to Up-and-About
If you’re preparing for hip surgery, chances are, you’re feeling a mix of emotions – perhaps some hope and eagerness for the future as you look forward to living with less pain and enjoying greater mobility again, but likely some anxiety about the surgery and recovery process, too. It’s completely normal to feel nervous before surgery. Luckily, there are things you can start doing today to help make your recovery time is as short and smooth as possible.
Hip Surgery Recovery
Hip surgery recovery time is a little different for everyone. Expect to stay in the hospital for one to two days after the operation. Before you’re discharged, you’ll meet with a physical therapist who will teach you how to move about safely and use a walker during your recovery process.
You will need a walker or crutches to get around for the first week or so until you’re able to comfortably stand on your affected leg. However, walking will get a little easier every day as your hip muscles strengthen. Once you’re ready, typically by week two or three, you’ll transition to a cane and soon after should be walking with minimal to no use of a walking aid at all.
You may hear your healthcare team refer to both your short-term and long-term hip surgery recovery:
- Short-term recovery is defined as walking with minimal or no support and discontinuing the use of prescription pain relievers. These short-term recovery goals can usually be achieved within 10-12 weeks after your operation.
- Long-term recovery refers to the complete healing of surgical wounds and internal soft tissues, and a return to your normal activities of daily living.
7 Steps for a Successful Hip Surgery Recovery
There are multiple variables that help shape your hip surgery recovery time, including your age, fitness level, nutrition status, preexisting health conditions and other lifestyle factors. The good news is there are also many steps you can proactively take to help make sure you’re as prepared as possible for a smooth and speedy hip surgery recovery.
- Prepare your home ahead of time. Make your home a sanctuary for healing. Set up an area in your home where you’ll spend most of your time recovering and be sure everything you need is within easy reach. Make meals in advance and talk to your healthcare team about other devices or equipment you should have ready and waiting for you after surgery.
- Make time for “pre-hab.” Physical rehabilitation, or “rehab,” will certainly be a big part of your post-op experience, but seeing a physical therapist several weeks before your surgery will help you strengthen the muscles in your hips and legs ahead of time.
- Get ready for your walking aid. Ask your healthcare team if you’re able to borrow your walking aid and take it for a test drive at home. Building your upper body strength prior to surgery will make it easier to get around on crutches or a walker, too.
- Work toward, or maintain, a healthy body weight. If you’re currently overweight, losing some extra pounds now can help minimize risk of complications after surgery. Be sure to ask your surgeon if there is adequate time to work on weight loss prior to your surgery. On the other hand, if you’re underweight, it’s important to focusing on increasing your protein and calorie intake so that you’re as strong and resilient as possible for the recovery phase.
- Strike a balance between rest and recovery. Although you’ll need to go slow, it’s important to get moving shortly after hip surgery. Follow through with your prescribed rehab routine carefully and consistently. Gentle exercise, like short walks around your home, can be beneficial in the weeks following surgery, too. Consult your physical therapist about activities to try and those to avoid.
- Protect your hip while you’re awake and asleep. Avoid leaning forward, bending over or pivoting on your affected leg. Instead, rely on assistive devices – and the help of family, friends, or caregivers – to help grab things out of reach. While in bed, do not lie on your affected side. Finding a comfortable position with a pillow between your knees can minimize twisting, allowing you to get safe and restorative sleep.
- Make good nutrition a priority. Nourishing your body with the right nutrition can have a big impact on your resilience afterward. Arginine, an amino acid, supports immune function and the healing process during recovery. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, help minimize inflammation and reduce post-op stress on your body. And dietary nucleotides, natural compounds in foods, help rebuild immune cells and fight infection. However, diet alone may not provide enough of these key nutrients, and your health care team may advise an oral immunonutrition supplement to help fill these gaps. One study showed that incorporating such a supplement for five days before and after surgery was associated with a shorter length of stay in the hospital.
You are stronger than you know and much of your recovery process is in your hands. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about lifestyle changes you can make now to help reduce your hip surgery recovery time.