Our hips are pivotal (no pun intended) to many forms of movement that people take for granted, such as sitting, standing, and walking, just for starters. When we experience pain in the hip joint due to conditions like arthritis, it can have a major impact on our lives, limiting our ability to perform even simple daily activities.
When it comes to coping with arthritis pain, there are several non-surgical options to consider before hip replacement surgery. Doctors will likely prescribe targeted exercise regimens meant to strengthen the hip and increase range of motion, along with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) to reduce pain and inflammation.
However, these treatments may not work, or they may only work to a degree or for a certain period of time. If the pain and swelling of arthritis persist to the point where you’re no longer able to function and lead a normal life, it may be time to consider hip replacement surgery, whereby the hip joint is removed and replaced with an artificial one.
Following hip replacement recovery, this new joint should allow for easy and pain-free movement, provided you follow instructions and heal properly. What can you expect during and after a hip replacement surgery? Here’s what you need to know.
In most cases, you will be given general anesthesia during a hip replacement surgery, which means you will sleep through the whole thing. In some cases, where other risk factors exist, a spinal anesthetic may be used as an alternative to general anesthesia.
During the procedure, an incision will expose the hip bone so that the top of the thigh bone (the ball portion of this ball-and-socket joint) can be surgically removed. It will then be replaced with an artificial joint made of metal and plastic components that are bonded to the thigh bone with cement or other bonding materials. When this is complete, the pelvic socket will be shaped and the new ball joint will be attached to the socket, after which the incision will be closed. A drain will probably be inserted to funnel away excess fluid buildup following the surgery.
It’s important to understand that there are two main ways to complete a hip replacement surgery. The traditional method requires a large incision, while a newer, minimally-invasive procedure uses smaller incisions. The latter could reduce pain and healing time, but only if performed by a skilled and experienced doctor, so speak to your doctor beforehand to ensure that you’re comfortable proceeding with the type of surgery recommended.
The First Week
You will probably have to remain in the hospital for several days following this major surgery. During this time you will mostly remain in bed with a special pillow between the legs to keep your new hip from moving. You will begin to move around with the help of a physical therapist as soon as the day after your surgery. You will not be able to walk or place weight on your leg immediately, but within a few days you should be able to start walking with the aid of crutches, a walker, or a cane.
When you leave the hospital and return home, there are certain activities you will have to limit or avoid in the weeks and months following hip surgery. Ascending and descending stairs can be particularly problematic and dangerous. If at all possible, it should be avoided for at least the first few weeks after surgery, and limited until you are fully recovered. If at all possible, confine your movements to one floor of a multi-level home.
In order to avoid slips or trips, remove area rugs that could slide out from under you or that might catch on your foot and cause you to stumble, and clear away clutter to create unobstructed pathways. Use an elevated toilet seat to make sitting and standing easier and make sure to sit only in straight-back chairs, as opposed to overstuffed couches or recliners.
Healing from hip replacement surgery could take 6-12 months, and during this time you need to be careful how you move. You will work with a physical therapist to strengthen the hip and ensure full range of motion as you heal, and this professional will teach you how to adapt everyday activities and movements for safety.
Movements that include bending past 90 degrees at the waist, squatting, twisting, pivoting, or crossing the legs should be avoided until you’re fully recovered. By following the advice of your doctor and physical therapist, you have the best chance to recover fully following hip replacement surgery and resume normal activities, free of pain.