Most patients come to the hospital on the day of the surgery and are expected to go home two days later. Some patients go home the next day after the surgery and, very rarely, some patients may go home even on the same day.
Recovery time varies and depends on the patient. However, there are a few general ‘milestones’ that inform the recovery process.
Pain after surgery: what is ‘normal’?
“The first day or two can be quite difficult,” says Dr. Sandhu, and pain in these first two days is common. However, the hospital will provide you with painkillers. These painkillers should help you feel ‘moderately comfortable’ and help you return home.
For one or two weeks after the surgery, you will need crutches. By two weeks, you may need only one walking stick, and from three to four weeks onwards, patients will hopefully not need to use a walking stick at all.
“By six weeks, hopefully, you will be walking [unaided] really well,” says Dr. Sandhu.
How long before you can bend down to tie your shoelaces?
"Patients are normally able to bend down and tie their shoelaces at six weeks after the operation", says Dr. Sandhu.
“Some patients are a bit stiff and some may need some rehab or physiotherapy to help them attain that movement. But generally, six weeks is a good figure [for the patient] to be reaching their to their feet.”
“Six weeks is a reasonable timeframe for driving as well,” adds Dr. Sandhu.
Returning to exercise after hip replacement
Six weeks is also a good timeframe for returning to mild-to-moderate activity. By this point you can be “working on an exercise bike, getting back to a good degree of activity, doing walks, slowly doing a moderate amount of exercise,” Dr. Sandhu says.
At 12 weeks, generally speaking, patients should be able to engage in more significant, or ‘hard,’ physical activity.
The guidance on when it is okay to return to physical activities after hip replacement is changing. “Patients are now increasingly allowed to do more activity than they were previously,” Dr. Sandhu say. Skiing, playing tennis, or swimming are activities he now recommends without hesitation.
“The boundaries of what we want patients to do and when we want them to return to these activities are significantly improving because we're finding the outcome for hip replacements is better now [compared to a few decades ago]. People are able to do more and they're able to do things quicker.”
He also gives the example of returning to swimming after hip replacement. “One of the things [...] we get asked about all the time is, ‘can I return to doing breaststroke after a hip replacement? And traditionally, we always said no. But now I say, ‘Fine!’ because in my experience, I've never heard of anybody ever dislocating a hip after doing breaststroke.”
Bathing and sleeping after hip replacement
Many people wonder if they should take a bath or a shower after hip replacement.
Taking a bath may require lowering yourself in the bathtub to get in and then getting back up — these can be difficult movements to do after hip replacement surgery.
So, patients should take showers rather than baths, “at least for the first couple of months” after the surgery, says Dr Sandhu.
Regarding sleep, experts still recommend that patients sleep on their backs for the first six weeks after hip replacement.