8 Tips for Staying Mobile After a Hip Replacement

March 23rd, 2014

The goal of a hip replacement is to restore lost mobility and comfort due to a deteriorated hip joint. Harvard Medical School advises patience: “[You] may need three to six months to achieve a full return of strength, energy, motion, and comfort.” We’ll explore tips to help you ease into your normal routine without further injury after the surgery:

1. Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

Some people are tempted to stop medication prematurely or slack off on in-home rehabilitation exercises, but doing so begs for complications. If you experience extreme pain during rehab, report it to your physical therapist and doctor so they can make adjustments.

2. Get a Medical Alert Device

Since most patients return home after a few days in the hospital, it’s important to have a means to summon help immediately. The rest of the tips focus on how to prevent accidents, but should you fall or need assistance, a medical alert device is priceless.

3. Prepare Your Home Before Surgery

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others offer a number of suggestions to make your home safe before your hip replacement:

  • Remove area rugs and secure electrical cords with duct tape along the perimeter of rooms to prevent trips and falls.
  • Place a stable chair with a high seat and sturdy arms (to assist you in getting up) in your favorite spot. Position a table next to the chair to hold your phone, tissues, remote controls, plastic water cup and pitcher, medication, etc., along with a nearby waste can.
  • Rearrange furniture to allow room for a walker.
  • Program emergency phone numbers into your phones.
  • Fix loose banisters, cracks in sidewalks, etc.
  • In the kitchen and bathroom, group items you frequently use in a location where you won’t have to bend to reach them.
  • Get a supply of “assistance” tools such as long-handled grips for reaching, long-handled sponges or brushes for the shower, etc.
  • Stock up on groceries. Pre-cook and freeze some meals.
  • Set up an area to corral your pets.
  • Get a supply of clothing (aprons are perfect) with large pockets to hold things while you walk.
  • Get whatever assistance devices (walker, shower seat, high toilet seat, etc.) your doctor recommends.

4. Sleeping Arrangements

If your bedroom is on the second floor, move to the first floor temporarily. Experts are divided; some say it’s fine to climb stairs, but if you live alone, why take the chance?

5. Resuming Weight-Bearing Activities and Driving

Consult your doctor and physical therapist, because according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), different types of hip-replacement surgeries have different rehab requirements.

6. Climbing Stairs

When you are cleared to climb stairs after your hip replacement, the AAOS says, “The unaffected leg should step up first. Then bring the affected leg up to the same step. Then bring your crutches or canes up. To go down stairs, reverse the process.”

7. Avoid High-Impact Activities

Walking is fine; jogging, tennis, and other high-impact forms of exercise are not.

8. Arrange Help

Ask friends, family, or others to help you around the home and drive you places after your surgery.

By planning in advance of your hip replacement and taking precautions when you return home, you’ll speed your rehabilitation, prevent falls, and resume your normal lifestyle as quickly as possible. Once you’re back into your normal routine, you might even say, “I wish I had done this years ago.”