Hip replacement surgery can be considered similar to an organ transplantation. The body needs time to adjust to the artificial hip joint, which functions a little differently than the original. A person also needs to be aware that, even if the joint is metallic and has a strength several times that of a normal joint, the connection between the joint and human bone is not. So it is very prudent to consider having an artificial joint as a potential weakness and not increased  strength. This along with the added stress of surgery, substantially increases the overall recovery time required to resume normal daily activities. Another hurdle which greatly modifies the lifestyle of a post-replacement patient are the physical restrictions. Recent advances in the equipment and surgery have imparted greater mobility and longevity to the artificial joints as well as the people using them.

Hip Replacement Recovery Time

Recovering from a hip replacement is a meticulous process having several loopholes, which can lead to complete failure of treatment, if not properly dealt with. The approximate time needed for complete recovery is around 6 weeks. Each week can be considered as a stepping stone, which completes one phase and allows more mobility to the person.

  • Week 1: Surgical Recovery with Bed rest
  • Week 2: In bed Physical Therapy
  • Week 3: Walking with a Crutches
  • Week 4: Walking with a Cane
  • Week 5: Walking without support
  • Week 6: Gradual resumption of daily activities

This six week charted recovery program has to be rigorously followed. Any hurry or delay in the program can lead to disastrous consequences. For example, walking without support early in the course can lead to a dislocation as the soft-tissues around the joint have not yet healed. Even delay in the program, like not walking with support till 6 weeks can lead to soft tissue shortening, which leads to a stiff joint with very less mobility. Leaving aside the first couple of weeks, a person is always encouraged to keep using the hip joint, and continue with an active lifestyle. The gradual resumption of activities from the 6th week onwards, allows a person to get adjusted to the strengths and weaknesses of the artificial joint. Unlike a normal hip joint, an artificial joint does not tell the body if it is under stress with painful messages. So one has to get used to this type of feeling and a careful approach towards new types of complex movements.

Hip Replacment Restrictions

An artificial hip joint cannot be bent to the extremes of its range. In every such instance, there is a chance that the surface may slip off and dislocate. So there are certain restrictions imposed on the type of activities that should not be done after hip replacement surgery. This restriction is very subjective depending on the type of artificial joint used, as well as the fine execution of the surgery. Some people are highly prone to have a dislocation, who should follow these instructions rigorously, some others can choose to not follow them. But to be safe its always better to avoid them.

Excessive bending of the hip joint like while squatting, or putting on shoes, can cause severe problems. The back part of the hip joint is opened to put the artificial joint and is stitched back during the surgery. So this is the weakest part of the artificial joint. Excessive bending can put stress on this part and causes the stitches to come off. The best way to ensure this is by making sure your knees are always below your hips.

Crossing of legs is a complex movement, which puts the hip joint under a lot of stress. Such movements are better avoided to prevent early wear and tear in the joint as well as dislocation. This can occur inadvertently, many times even without a person realizing it. So one has to be very careful with this one and meticulously get trained to avoid it under all circumstances.

Generally, sitting on a surface lower than a normal chair, like sitting on ground, gardening, and so on, always poses a problem for persons with hip replacement, because it requires some form of crossing of legs or excessive bending at the hips.

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Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on March 2, 2010