December 4, 2020

After total hip replacement surgery: Returning to activity

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Recovering from joint replacement doesn’t happen overnight. How to progressively improve mobility.

By having a total hip replacement, you’re taking the first step to getting back to an active lifestyle. Recovery from this surgery is, well, a step-by-step process.

You’ll most likely use a walker to get around at first. You may then progress to crutches or a cane. A therapy team will show you how to use a walker or crutches safely. As you recover at home, you’ll gradually returning to your normal daily routine. Keep doing the exercises your care team teaches you, to protect your new hip and strengthen the muscles that support it. Challenge yourself to walk a bit farther each day. Your activity will increase as you keep up regular effort.

Using your skills at home

In the hospital, you practiced getting out of bed, walking and doing daily tasks safely with your new hip. Once you return home, it’s time to use what you’ve learned. To keep your hip safe, always think before you move.

Make walking part of your daily routine. It will become easier with practice. Your care team can create a walking program that’s safe for you. Slowly increase the amount of walking you do around your home. For example, getting your own glass of water, going outside for the mail and doing household chores like dusting are ways to practice walking. As you recover you’ll move on to more advanced activities, such as using the stairs.

To move easily, you must walk with a smooth motion. Watch yourself in a mirror while you walk toward it, or ask someone to watch you move. Make sure you’re walking heel to toe, with equal weight (and time) on each foot.

The key to becoming active is sticking with your recovery program. Talk to your surgeon about activities that you want to resume. The surgeon can help you return safely to activities such as swimming, gardening, sex and driving.

If you are dealing with an injury, facing surgery or coping with chronic pain, Vanderbilt Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of care. Our specialists work with you from evaluation and “prehab” through physical therapy and, if needed, surgery. We’ll help you get back to doing the things you love, pain-free. To make an appointment, call 615-936-7846.

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