While each person will recover from hip surgery at a different rate, many doctors will advise you to allow 10-12 weeks before returning to light duty work or office jobs. Returning to work time is longer if your job requires a lot of standing, walking or physical activity. Typically patients can return to “normal life activities” between three and six months post-surgery. The average long-term recovery time for total hip replacement patients is approximately six to twelve months.
Pain management is an important part of the recovery process. Pre-operative education regarding pain, discomfort, medication and other pain management techniques is important for a smooth recovery. Jo Fox, orthopedic nurse of over fifty years and Lead Administrator of the BoneSmart.org hip replacement forum writes, “we recommend patients follow a simple mantra when practicing pain management after total hip surgery: Rest, Ice, Elevate and take your pain meds by the clock! Many patients have phobias about getting addicted to pain meds and they can ruin their recovery by not taking the medication when they should. The impact of pain management during recovery cannot be emphasized enough.”
Hip replacement patients should know that they can reach out to their General Practitioner as well as their orthopedic surgeon for help in pain management. There are many options for pain management, and if you find that a particular drug isn’t working for you, you need to explain that to your doctor and perhaps try something else. A medication that works great on one person may be ineffective or cause side effects in another.
Many physicians in the United States stress the importance of physical therapy during the first six weeks after surgery as an aid to long-term recovery. Most of the post-operative exercises for hip replacement patients can be done at home, with simple walking leading the list. Walking on flat surfaces and gradually incorporating going up and down stairs will help strengthen and add stability to the muscles surrounding your new hip implant. Have patience, it may take eight to twelve months to regain normal range of movement in your new hip joint.
As with any surgical procedure, complications may occur following hip replacement. Surgeons will counsel their patients regarding these possible complications (and their probabilities) before consenting to any surgery. Complications include squeaky or noisy hip joints, blood clots, misalignment of implants, dislocation, leg length differential, infection, implant loosening, fracture and allergic reactions.
Despite its complexity, hip replacement surgery is a procedure with an extremely high success rate (98%). Although complications are relatively uncommon, any surgical procedure carries risks of complications. It is important for patients to understand these risks prior to consenting to surgery. You should discuss potential complications with your surgeon based upon your overall health and the degree of osteoporosis debilitating your hip.
Emotional Recovery and Support
One less physiological yet equally important aspect of recovery is the patient’s emotional health. A condition often known as “post op blues” is very common and often accompanied by despair that no progress is being made. However, it is usually short lived. A positive attitude and a solid support network (friends, family and/or patient groups) will do wonders to help a total hip replacement patient through the recovery process.
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