Hip Replacement Recovery

Hip Replacement Recovery happens in one of two ways:

By default, where you get hip surgery and go home and take it easy like your doctor told you to, or where you get surgery and then go home and do effective self care to recover better and faster.

You'll probably do just fine if you take it easy and then do some physical therapy.  It's amazing how people recover from getting their hip structure replaced.

It's won't be very pretty for a while there.  It's going to hurt. A lot.  

But you will recover.  The question is how much will you recover, and how quickly?

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Stages Of
Hip Replacement Recovery

There are four main stages of hip replacement recovery.

  • acute post-surgery stage
  • sub-acute 'recovery' stage
  • chronic recovery plateau stage
  • as good as you're going to get stage

Presuming that there aren't any surgical complications, most people go though these normal recovery stages.

Acute Post-Surgery Stage

They roll you out of surgery.  You wake up.  You'll be drugged up.  

Stay ahead of the pain with the painkillers.  It's going to hurt if you don't.  It's probably going to hurt even if you do.

You have major soft tissue damage.  Bone Bruise, cut flesh, all sorts of trauma in there your body has to deal with.

All the Tendonitis factors you had in play that caused the Hip Tendonitis (that caused your need for hip replacement surgery) in the first place.

See:  What Is Tendonitis?

Surgery makes all that worse.

Surgery causes damage.  It's going to hurt.

I'm usually not a fan of Rest.  But seriously, your body just got traumatized, injured.  Your body needs to heal.  Lay down a while.  Let things heal up.

Healing Is Different Than Recovery

Healing is different than recovery.

Healing is:

  • cut bone healing
  • cut flesh sealing up
  • bone and joint adapting to the new metal and glue and such
  • ligaments and muscle/tendon having been wrenched out of the way as was necessary for the procedure
  • pain enhancing chemical being dumped from the Inflammation Process
  • nutrition getting used up (so you need to replace it)

You need to heal.  From the surgery. The acute stage will pass. Figure a couple weeks.  

Having said that, you'll need to be up and around from day one. It is vital that you get up and around multiple times day, even if it hurts.

Movement is life.  You will heal.

Sub-Acute 'Recovery' Stage

Now you're past the acute stage.  

The 'fresh' pain from the surgery has passed. Now it's time to really get to work.

The cuts in the flesh have sealed up.  Connective tissue has formed and pulled everything together. Damaged bone has healed up.

Your body is still VERY unhappy.  There are some things that need to happen in the body if you want more strength, more mobility, and less pain.

  • inflammation process needs to settle down
  • the panicked brain needs to dial down the protective/defense mechanism so 'guarding' muscle will relax
  • the brain needs to relearn the new scenario after all the change that's been forced upon it
  • bone needs to continue to heal and stabilize with the new metal

That all will happen.  You can certainly help it happen, better and faster.

But it will happen, sooner or later.

Acute pain goes away, then 'regular' pain is there.  And as you heal and strengthen, that regular pain will decrease too.

This is where the work happens.  The PT, the exercises, the nutritional supplementation, the icing, etc.

This stage can takes weeks, months, or years, depending on you and your scenario.

Chronic Recovery Plateau Stage

This is the stage where...you've come a long way.  You've gone through the acute post-surgery stage where there was a lot of pain and limitation

You made your way through the main recovery stage, where you battled through and/or waited out the pain so now you can get up and down with at least relative ease, you can walk around solidly again.

You still have some amount of pain and limitation, but overall, you've recovered from the surgery and figured out how to live life with new hips.

Now you're at the 'plateau'.  You've gotten A LOT better since surgery.  Life is finding a new normal again.  Back to work or hobbies, back to some level of exercise/activity.  The worst of it is over and the worst is behind you.

All in all you're feeling better.

That's the 'plateau'.  There was a lot of recovery, that has now leveled out.

More recovery from this point will take more effort and potentially more time.

You will either do that treatment and/or self care to continue getting better, or you'll mostly stay at this plateau level of pain/limitation as your new 'normal'.

As Good As You're Going To Get Stage

The plateau may be the point you'll get to that's as good as you're going to get.

MOST people stop there.  They accept that's as good as it's going to get, they figure out how they can live with it and make adjustments. 

Most things don't hurt, but activities/positions that do hurt are avoided. And life goes on.

On its own it's probably just not going to get better from there, no matter what, no matter how much time passes.

MAYBE you can do some other and/or better treatment to progress your recovery and get it to feel/function even better.  Most people don't.

We all CAN recover more, but the vast majority of people that get their hips replaced just aren't going to.  That's the facts, ma'am.

Most people, they'll rest and do PT and whatever else their doctor tells them to do (which won't be much more than rest and PT), and they'll get to  spot that's as good as they're going to get. And they'll stop the PT (insurance usually runs out by then anyway) and just go on with life

At this point you will be anywhere on any combination of these ranges/variables:

  • A lot of pain to no pain
  • Very reduced mobility to optimal mobility
  • Worse than before surgery, better off than before surgery

Ideally, we're back to a pain free state, and as mobile as we want to be.

Most people being 'elderly', one doesn't have to be too mobile, just able to get up, move around, maybe play some golf.   The most important variable here is being pain free or close enough to it to be able to have a comfortable life doing normal and necessary activities of daily living.

But I know a 42 year old that has had both hips replaced.  He's now pain free, does circuit workouts at the gym with no problem, but there are certain activities he avoids, and is very aware of what he maybe should avoid.

That's how it goes.  It gets as good as it's going to get, and then you live with it as best you can.

So it would behoove you to help it get GOOD.  They more effective work you put into it the better you'll end up, and the faster you'll end up there.

Complications To Hip Replacement Recovery

There are things that can complicate your hip replacement recovery after hip replacement surgery.

Post-Surgery Complications:

  • Dislocating hip joint
  • Blood clots
  • Changed hip alignment
  • Bone fracture
  • Infection
  • Hip Bursitis

Dislocating Hip Joint

Ligaments have to get wrenched and the joint capsule has to be cut/damaged/removed/weakened.

So now there's a metal hip joint.  There is no solid connection between the 'ball' and the 'socket'.

So if the ligaments are stretched and/or for any other reason the joint isn't being held firmly, the ball and socket can separate (as you're moving around) and dislocate.

This can be painful.  This can cause a fall (which can cause injury).  This can require another surgery to tighten some attachments.

Increased pain, a fall and injury, can be a great setback to hip replacement recovery.

Blood Clots

Anytime there is a surgery there is a risk of blood clots.  Medications are almost always used with surgery to prevent blood clots.

But every person, and every person's scenario (age, overall health, etc) is different.   And lack of motion helps blood clots form..and surgery generally results in lack of motion (which is why nowadays hospitals are getting you up as soon as possible after surgery).

Blood clots can cause all sorts of problem, including pain, swelling, or worse things like stroke or embolism.

And unfortunately, a stroke can end ALL of your hip replacement recovery.

Changed Hip Alignment

In a perfect world we'd all have perfectly aligned hips.  But it's not a perfect world.

And chances are your pelvis (two parts) were aligned before you had surgery, from all the hip tightness, limping, adaptation, etc.

Bone Fracture

Were I you I would not watch the video of a hip replacement surgery.  There is a certain amount of trauma to the bone.  Metal is hammered down into the bone.

And that can result in fractures during the hip replacement procedure.

Or, it can result in fractures post-procedure at any point.

Osteoporosis increases all risk factors involved in the surgery and hip replacement recovery process.


Infection is a constant risk.  There are lots of germs, and powerful germs, at the hospital.  

You will be given antibiotics after the surgery, and quite likely before the surgery.

And it's a REAL problem if infection takes place deep in the joint, or the bone.  Bad enough if it's at skin level.

Infection can cause illness, pain, poorly healing incision sites, etc.

Infection can result in more surgery, 'failed surgery', the need for excision or a new hip replacement procedure.

Infection is a BIG impediment to any hip replacement recovery.

Hip Bursitis

Hip Bursitis can result from hip replacement surgery.

It is a detriment to hip replacement recovery because bursitis HURTS when you move, so you move less.  And movement is very important to a good recovery.

Less movement equals less recovery.

The bursa can be irritated during the surgery, or after.  Or it could already have been irritated and inflammed before surgery.

See:  Hip Bursitis

Improving Hip Replacement Recovery

Doing as little as possible will result in less beneficial results....slower recovery, less recovery, poor recovery.

Your doctors will prescribe you the bare minimum, if anything at all, of advice and/or exercises and/or treatment for your hip replacement recovery.

So that's not great.

You'll mostly want to do as little as possible, because most everything you do, for the first few/several months, is going to hurt.

Even though MOST people do minimal self care, YOU can help yourself get better better and get better faster.

1.  Keep moving

Even if it's just wiggling your leg/hip around for 30 seconds a few times every waking hour and if/when you wake up at night.

2.  Magnesium

See:  Magnesium For Tendonitis

3.  Understand the Pain Causing Dynamic

See:  Pain Causing Dynamic

4.  Anti-inflammtory

Turmeric is a great anti-inflammtory.

So is icing.  Plus it's great to increase circulation (old stuff out, new stuff in).

See:  How To Reduce Inflammation

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