Hip Replacement Surgery: Recovery

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Recovery after hip replacement surgery usually takes around four weeks. However, some people may have more extended recovery periods due to advanced age, activity level before surgery, or co-existing health conditions.

Rehabilitation is key to making the most progress as soon as possible and getting back on your feet.

Nurse helping a woman in a hospital
Jochen Sands / Getty Images

Surgery Follow-Up

You will need to follow up with your orthopedic surgeon several times during and after your recovery period. Your appointment schedule after your hip replacement surgery can vary.

Here is a typical schedule for when you can expect to see your surgeon for a follow-up:

  • Two weeks after surgery
  • Six weeks after surgery
  • One year after surgery
  • Every five years after surgery

During these visits, your surgeon will check on your healing and monitor for complications, like an infection. If you have non-absorbable stitches or sutures placed during surgery, these will be taken out during the two-week post-operative visit.

Physical Therapy

You should be able to safely get out of bed before you can participate in weight-bearing forms of exercise. Physical therapy (PT) begins while you are in the hospital. You will start with exercises like ankle pumps, leg lifts, and heel slides before you can get up and out of bed and into a chair.

While you are still in the hospital, your therapist will make sure that you are safe to return home. If you are not and don't have anyone to assist you, you may need extended inpatient rehabilitation where you can get more physical therapy and medical supervision until you are ready to go home.

You may also need to attend regular PT appointments after you are discharged home.

The main goals of physical therapy are to:

  • Help you regain the strength of the muscles surrounding your hip
  • Improve your gait (walking)

In addition to the work you put in at your PT appointments, it's likely that your therapist will prescribe exercises for you to do at home as well.

Recovery Timeline

After hip replacement surgery, you can expect to stay in the hospital for approximately one to three days. If you are having an outpatient hip replacement, you will go home on the day of your surgery.

As you recover in the hospital, you can expect to:

  • Ice your hip and incision site
  • Elevate your leg when laying down.
  • Work with an occupational therapist who will help you relearn how to do important self-care activities, like bathing and dressing

Most people can go home safely after their hospital stay with the assistance of a family member or friend. If you cannot safely return to your home after surgery, you will go to a rehabilitation center for about seven to 10 days after your hospital discharge.

Once at home, it's important to follow your discharge instructions, which will likely include:

  • Continue icing your hip as instructed
  • Take your pain medication as directed, which usually includes a combination of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids
  • Take any other medications as prescribed, such as a blood thinner, antibiotic, or stool softener
  • Resume your normal diet and drink lots of fluids
  • Attend all of your surgery and physical therapy appointments

Return to Physical Activity

Your surgeon will advise you about when you can return to various activities after your operation. It's important to follow instructions to optimize your healing and help prevent complications.

Activity Typical Point Resumed Post-Surgery*
Walking with a walker/crutches 1 to 2 days
Walking with a cane 4 weeks
Unassisted walking 6 to 8 weeks
Driving 1 to 6 weeks
Work (seated/limited activity) 3 weeks
Work (standing/active) 6 to 8 weeks
Exercise/Sporting Activities 6 weeks
Sex 6 weeks

*These are general timeframes for resuming physical activities safely. What's best for you may be different than what is listed here. Speak with your healthcare provider.

Walking

Most people take their first steps after surgery with the aid of a walker. Those with good balance and a strong upper body may opt to use crutches.

Transitioning to a cane, which takes about four weeks, depends on two main factors:

  • Restrictions from your surgeon to avoid putting full weight on your leg in the early weeks after surgery
  • Your ability to regain leg muscle strength

From a cane, the usual time to walking unassisted is about six to eight weeks after surgery.

Exercise and Sex

The usual time to return to various activities like biking, golfing, swimming, or having sex is around six weeks. This assumes that your wound has fully healed and that you feel comfortable and ready.

Driving

You can usually return to driving between one to six weeks after surgery, as long as you can safely and quickly operate the gas and brake pedals and are no longer taking any opioid pain medication.

Work

Your return to work depends on your occupation and the type of activity involved in your work.

If you work in a seated position with limited walking, you can plan on returning within about three weeks after your surgery. If you are physically active at work, you may need several additional weeks until you can return to your full duties.

Other

Your surgeon may advise you about taking precautions when sitting, bending, or sleeping in order to protect your newly implanted hip. These precautions prevent a hip dislocation (the ball of the hip joint coming out of the socket).

Coping With Recovery

Hip replacement surgery requires careful planning. In fact, probably the most important factor in coping with your recovery is being organized and psychologically prepared before actually having the surgery.

You can do this by:

  • Purchasing or renting all of your equipment and having it ready to use at your home. This includes walking aids, such as a walker and crutches, and also things like a shower chair and elevated toilet seat
  • Removing home hazards that increase your risk of falling, like loose rugs or electrical cords
  • Lining up some friends who can assist you with tasks like getting the mail and grocery shopping
  • Arranging for home services, like a visiting nurse or physical therapist
  • Talking with your surgeon in detail about what to expect from the surgery

Even though hip replacement surgery is a type of elective surgery, it's normal to feel a bit uneasy or nervous before and after the operation. If you are struggling with your emotions before your surgery or throughout your recovery process, please reach out to your surgeon or healthcare provider. They can provide you with a referral to a mental health professional.

Wound Care

To prevent infection, it's important to keep the wound site over your hip clean, dry, and covered with a dressing. While you can remove the dressing around seven to 10 days after surgery, you still should not submerge or soak the wound in water until it fully heals (about three to four weeks after surgery).

Call your surgeon immediately if you develop any symptoms or signs of an infection, such as:

  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, or warmth around the incision site
  • Fluid draining from the incision site
  • Increased hip pain

In addition, hip replacement surgery increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT, blood clots in your legs). Be sure to call your surgeon if you develop any pain, swelling, or redness in your leg or calf.

Seek emergency medical attention if you develop chest pain or trouble breathing, as this could be a sign of a pulmonary embolism (when the blood clot travels to your lungs).

A Word From Verywell

Recovering from hip replacement surgery requires a steadfast commitment on your part. To optimize your recovery, you may consider talking with your surgeon about engaging in a preoperative joint replacement education/exercise program. Research suggests these programs might help patients achieve successful and speedy recoveries.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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