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Hip and Knee Replacement Recovery: What to Expect After Surgery

Total knee or hip replacement surgery recovery is a gradual process, but the benefits of the procedure can improve the quality of your life in many ways. You’ll experience less pain, greater mobility, and a more independent lifestyle than you did before joint replacement surgery.

The amount of time you will need to take off from something like work depends largely on how quickly you heal and the physical demands your job places on your new joint. You may be able to go back to work within a couple of weeks if you have a desk job that involves minimal activity, for example, but you may have to take six or more weeks off if your job requires heavy lifting.

When To Contact Your Surgeon after the Operation

You will follow up with your orthopedic surgeon a few weeks after the procedure. In most cases, patients do very well recovering at home. However, you should contact your doctor’s office or surgeon if you experience any of the following:

  • Increased pain at the surgical site on your knee or hip
  • New or increased warmth or redness at the operative site
  • New or increased drainage from the incision
  • Increased swelling at the surgical site
  • Swelling, tenderness, warmth, or redness of your calf
  • A temperature over 101 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 24 hours
  • The ability to bend your knee has remained the same or decreased since surgery

Preparing for Knee or Hip Surgery Recovery

The comfort and success of recovery from hip replacement often depend on what you do before surgery. Setting up your home and creating a “recovery zone” before the procedure can make your recovery more comfortable and easier.

Tips for setting up your recovery zone after knee or hip replacement surgery include:

  • Limiting stair climbing to once a day.
  • Setting up a bed on the first floor of your home. It does not have to be a hospital bed, but the mattress should be firm.
  • Arranging for a bedside commode if there is not a bathroom on the first floor.
  • Making sure your bed is low enough for your feet to touch the floor when you sit on the side of the bed.
  • Stocking up on canned and frozen foods, personal hygiene products, and other personal items.
  • Purchasing canned and frozen foods. You should also make or buy single meals that you can freeze and reheat.
  • Putting food and personal items in a cupboard, shelf, or table that is between your waist and shoulder level so that you can reach everything you need without having to bend down low or stand on your tiptoes.
  • Placing plates, drinking glasses, teapots, and other frequently used food-related items on the kitchen counter.
  • Putting a straight-backed chair in the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and any other rooms you will be using so that you will have a place to sit while doing daily tasks.
  • Attaching a small bag, fanny pack, or basket to a walker (if you need one) that you can put items in like your phone or book.
  • Making sure you can always easily get to a phone.

Showering, brushing your teeth, and using the toilet may be challenging after hip or knee replacement surgery. To make bathroom time easier:

  • Raise the toilet seat so that you don’t have to bend your legs too much. Add a seat cover, elevated toilet seat, or use a commode chair.
  • Consider installing safety bars horizontally or vertically, never diagonally.
  • Place non-slip silicone decals or suction mats in the tub and a non-skid bath mat outside the tub to prevent falls.
  • Put your shampoo, soap, and other hygiene products where you do not have to twist, stand, bend, or reach for them.
  • Sit on a bath or shower chair when taking a shower. Make sure the chair has rubber tips on the bottom.

Avoid falls around the house by:

  • Removing wires or cords in the walkways.
  • Removing or tape down throw rugs.
  • Fixing uneven flooring.
  • Using bright lighting and installing night lights in dark areas.

Ask your doctor or physical therapist for more suggestions to get your home ready for recovery.

Orthopedic Doctors in CT Answer Frequently Asked Questions about Hip and Knee Replacement

How painful is a hip replacement?

Some localized swelling and pain after hip replacement are normal, but it is always important to pay attention to the level of pain you are experiencing during the recovery phase.

It may be helpful to rate your pain on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most painful. If you rate your pain at a level six or above consistently, consult with your doctor. As you continue with recovery and physical therapy, your pain level should drop to one or two within 12 weeks of your hip replacement.

How can I reduce knee or hip replacement pain?

Reduce knee or hip replacement pain by:

  • Taking pain medicine as soon as you feel discomfort. Do not wait until your pain becomes severe.
  • Following all instructions on the prescription pain medicine label.
  • Exercising as directed.
  • Resting after physical activity.
  • Applying a cold pack to the incision area to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Raising your leg above the level of your heart by placing pillows under your calf or ankle, but not your knee.
  • Avoiding prolonged periods of sitting.
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications as directed by your doctor.

How long does it take to recover from hip replacement surgery?

On average, it takes about two to four weeks to recover from a hip replacement. You will be able to resume certain activities within days or weeks of your surgery. You may be able to stand at your kitchen counter without a walking aid one to two weeks after hip replacement surgery, for example, but it may take a couple of months before you are ready to drive a car. Knee and hip surgery recovery time depend largely on your activity level before surgery, your age, nutrition, if you have pre-existing conditions, and other health and lifestyle factors.

To reduce hip replacement recovery time, follow all therapy instructions from your orthopaedics specialist. For more information about what to expect after hip or knee replacement surgery, consult with the best orthopedic surgeons in CT at Valley Orthopaedic Specialists. Our Connecticut orthopedic specialists are always glad to help!