Recovery – Hip Replacement Surgery

Normal Hip Joint & ArthriticA hip replacement is often required in severe cases of joint damage, usually as a result of arthritis or a traumatic fall that fractures the hip.  If due to arthritis this will cause significant pain and poor quality of life.

If a fall has resulted in hip fracture, a hip replacement is necessary due to an inability to weight bear and mobilise.  In the treatment of arthritis a hip replacement will be recommended when symptoms have not responded well to other treatments.

There are many types of hip replacements: cemented, uncemented, ceramic, plastic and metal. Your surgeon will explain the different types and will select the right hip replacement for you. Most hip replacements will last 10-15 years.  A total hip replacement is the removal of the damaged bone of the ball and socket joint of the hip.  A metal stem is inserted into the middle of the upper thigh bone (femur) and a metal or ceramic ball is then attached. The socket is shaped to allow the new socket to be fitted which is made from high density plastic or ceramic. This matches the ball of the stem allowing for smooth movement.

What can I expect from my new hip?

Hip replacement surgery provides excellent pain relief and significantly improves the joint’s range of movement.  Quality of life is improved vastly and some people are able to once again participate in sports they enjoy such as tennis, swimming and golf.

Common Concerns

Wound & Scar

Your wound will be on the side of your hip and may feel tender after surgery – a slight ooze may also occur but is normal.  You should be prescribed pain relief and your physiotherapist will normally aim to help you mobilise the day after surgery.  Once your scar has healed it can help to massage in a small amount of E45 cream to prevent thickening and adhesions.

Pain and Stiffness

Whilst your muscles are healing you may experience discomfort in your hip from muscle spasm or trauma of the surgery. Ensure you take your prescribed painkillers as pain slows down wound healing and recovery.  Continue your exercises to improve hip flexibility and strength. Taking a period of rest during the day will allow the muscles and ligaments to recuperate, ready for the next activity.

Swelling: Ice Applications

Ice can be used to reduce swelling, bruising and pain – an unopened bag of frozen peas also works well! Wrap the ice or pea bag in a damp tea towel and place on swollen area for 20 minutes – NEVER apply ice directly to the skin.

Check every 5 minutes – the skin should be pink.  If the skin turns white, remove the bag until a pink flush is regained.

Ice can be repeated, but with a 45-minute gap between each application.

Icecubes for inflamationSleeping

Sleeping can be difficult to begin with on your back but a pillow can be used to prevent affected leg from rolling.  When your wound has settled you may be able to lay on your operated side with a pillow between your knees. At 6 weeks from surgery you should be able to lay on your non-operated side.


See Caring for Your New Hip Guide which should be followed for at least 6 weeks.

Driving – Your surgeon will normally permit you to drive again after 6 weeks – always obtain their consent however, before doing so.  You may normally return to work after 6 weeks also – but again check with your consultant first.

Sexual activity

Most people resume sexual activity 6-8 weeks after surgery providing you follow hip precautions to avoid risks of dislocation.  A comfortable position for women is to lay on the unoperated side. The operated leg should be supported on a pillow with the knee slightly bent. Men may be more comfortable to lie on their backs with their partner kneeling astride them.

Article by Rhonda Herring for Lynden Hill Clinic Patient Information Series