Story by: David Steen Martin; Reviewed by Jeffrey D. Stimac, M.D. on November 15, 2023
If you’re thinking about getting hip replacement surgery, you are probably in pain. Maybe it’s difficult to walk up stairs and get up from a chair.
But how painful is the hip replacement surgery itself, and what’s the recovery like from getting an artificial joint?
“There are options to alleviate pain that don’t involve surgery, but there often comes a point for many of my patients when they know it’s time for a hip replacement,” said Jeffrey D. Stimac, M.D., a joint replacement surgeon with Norton Orthopedic Institute.
Hip replacement surgery is most commonly performed on people between ages 50 and 80, but they can be performed on patients of any age, from teenagers with juvenile arthritis to older patients with degenerative arthritis. Surgery is recommended based on pain and disability.
Much of the decision depends on whether pain relief isn’t sufficient from anti-inflammatory pain medication, physical therapy, modifications to daily activities and use of walking supports.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, you might benefit from hip replacement surgery if your hip pain limits everyday activities such as walking or bending, if the pain persists day and night, or if the stiffness limits your ability to move or lift your leg.
Find out if it might be time to talk to an orthopedic specialist.
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Here’s a rundown of the pain you will experience throughout the process:
During the approximately hourlong hip replacement surgery itself, you are under anesthesia and feel no pain.
The surgeon will make an incision, remove diseased and damaged bone and cartilage and leave healthy bone intact. The surgeon then will install the hip implant: a replacement hip socket with a metal stem inserted into the top of the thigh bone, which is then topped with a replacement ball.
When you awake from anesthesia, you are monitored in the recovery area. Soon after, you will be encouraged to sit up and walk using a cane or a walker, under the supervision of a physical therapist. This is to help prevent complications such as blood clots in the legs.
Hip replacement surgery is typically an outpatient procedure, meaning you are often sent home the same day.
Your orthopedic surgeon at Norton Orthopedic Institute will perform an anterior hip replacement if you are a good candidate. This anterior approach, from the front rather than the back, involves cutting less muscle.
Immediately following hip surgery, you will feel some discomfort at the site of the incision and around the hip. There also may be some pain in the thigh and knee. This is associated with the change in length of your leg.
Pain from surgery typically will diminish within days. After surgery, you start on a walker or a cane for balance, but usually don’t need the walker for more than a couple of days and don’t need either a cane or a walker at your two-week follow-up appointment.
Norton Orthopedic Institute will give you exercises to keep you moving and strengthen your hip joint and the muscles around it, which will be weak after surgery. Physical therapists will come to your house to make sure you do the exercises as prescribed, which helps speed recovery.
Daily activities and exercises will help you regain use of the muscles and the joint.
Full recovery typically can take six to eight months, but it’s not uncommon to be exercising normally on your new hip joint two months after surgery.
In the long run, hip replacement surgery should reduce pain, restore strength and mobility to your hip, and help you return to normal activities. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you are still experiencing pain that affects day-to-day activities months after surgery.
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