I spoke to a lot of people about their hip replacement recovery. The over-arching theme? Easy peasy, no big deal, etc. So, my expectations about post-op discomfort and immobility were skewed. I believe our bodies adapt to and forget pain quickly which may contribute to rosy descriptions of recovery. This is another reason I want to put my experience in writing before I, too, forget.
The one thing I didn’t receive from any medical personnel is what to expect through recovery – what type of pain is typical, how it might resolve, and how new pain might manifest as time goes on. I would have found this very helpful.
You go home to a lot of drugs – pain management, stomach/digestion/nausea meds, etc. That first morning home, I ate breakfast, took my meds, did a few slow laps around the house w my walker. Then, the world went black. I had a chance to warn my husband and my mom before I lost consciousness – he guided me to the floor taking very good care of my leg/hip. Not so much for my head which bounced off the floor. Priorities! 😂
911 was called, I got a visit from several EMTs (🔥), my vitals checked out, and I was helped back to bed. I spoke to the surgeon’s office and my surgeon afterward and its not unusual for this to happen as anesthesia wears off. I know my blood pressure had been trending lower than normal for me.
The pain. As long as I didn’t move and no one touched me, I didn’t hurt. While there was more pain and immobility than I expected, it wasn’t intolerable.
I did all the pre-op education, watched the videos about how to help yourself into bed. I call 🐂💩. I’m young and strong, and I needed help getting in and out of bed for 3 days. And even after I was able to get in and out of bed on my own, it often triggered muscle spasms.
Nerve pain! I could not tolerate having the skin from my knee to my hip touched. The slightest brush against it was breath-taking. PT told me the nerves were irritated from the procedure and showed me how to slowly desensitize my skin.
Other notable pain/stiffness included knee pain, IT band/TFL, Glute/glute medias, back pain. The first evening the most discomfort was in my glute/glute medias. My back bothered me a lot the first few nights. Icing helped.
I also had nausea every morning for the first several days. Zofran worked wonders! 🤢
What we got right.
- I asked my mom to come down and help look after me. I didn’t anticipate needing her as much as I did. It was a relief to have her ensuring I was comfortable and eating (low appetite w all the drugs), and providing comfort. There were certainly some tears shed those first few days and I can’t thank my mom enough for everything she did.
- My husband has been amazing. He keeps me on ice, is looking after the house, and caters to my needs in middle of the night without complaint. 💖
- I went into the procedure strong. Seven months elapsed between the time I knew the hip replacement was unavoidable and when it was performed. I was able to ride, strength train, swim, and walk right up to surgery.
- We have a single-story house with hard wood floors and a walk-in shower. All very convenient for someone recovering from injury and using a walker.
- We also have an adjustable bed which is helpful for elevating comfortably.
- We have a Polar Care ice circulator and it’s been working nearly 24/7 since I got home.
What I would do differently
- I would take more pain meds. I think I maxed out at 3 oxycodone/day at the peak. I was understandably gun shy after passing out the first morning.
- I would get one of those mechanical grippers. I wrote this on day 10 and I still couldn’t put my own socks on.🧦😠
- I would try to nap more during the day. I haven’t been napping and my sleep at night isn’t always great.
- I recommend icing as much as possible through that first week and into the second.
I did not invest in, nor did I need the following: elevated toilet, shower seat, or handicap placard.
I work remotely so I took one full week off work and a second week with light work to allow me to rest, do my exercises and walks without having to worry about work-related meetings.