Charting a hip replacement recovery timeline, from hospital horizontal layabout to walking wizard. Part 5 covers days 6 to 21, from exiting hospital to walking around.
- Part 1: Midlife arthritis and the underlying problem
- Part 2: Total hip replacement decision
- Part 3: Total hip replacement pre-op assessment
- Part 4: Surgery and hospital recovery: Days 1 to 5
- Part 5: First steps to recovery. Days 6 to 21
- Part 6: Hip recovery limping along. Weeks 3 to 7.
Week 1: Hip operation recovery timeline
Days 1-5: Documented in gory detail in Part 4. Not quite the start I had hoped for, but release came on Friday morning, Day 5.
Day 6: First full day at home after a very disturbed night’s sleep. Up several times in the night with various discomforts, from toilet, heating, general uncomfortableness and not being able to adjust my bed. At least hospital beds have that going for them.
I hadn’t realised how tricky things might be. As I almost fell off the toilet in a bid to be “normal”, I couldn’t quite get over how tricky some of the simple things could be. I mean, struggling to sit on a two foot high toilet, what’s that all about?
Fortunately my wife and kids had mobilised, so I had the gadgets (long handled shoe horn, litter picker, raised toilet seat and most importantly a bell) to help me get by. Although I had ridiculed the £15 raised toilet seat, I found it made life much easier.
I had a couple of naps, did a very short walk (not even to the end of the road) and did the bed exercises. You have to have faith that moving your leg sideways 3 times is an achievement.
Was still feeling a bit sick, but managed to crack open the biscuits (digestives for health reasons). Had liver for tea, but picked about. Shame because it was lovely.
Also drank loads of water, no idea why, as I thought I’d been re-hydrated in the hospital.
Another disturbed night’s sleep. This time for some reason overheating and being on my back, so slept with the window open. Interestingly, the idea that you need to sleep on your back may be outdated according to some, but I wasn’t chancing it.
Day 7: Getting dressed by myself
Managed to get myself dressed, if surgical stockings, dodgy t-shirt and shorts count as dressed. Obviously this was using the grabber as picking things off the floor is a no-no.
I also got a bit further down the road on the crutches without getting too breathless. I had to have a mini-break at the turnaround point, but that’s probably more to do with the iron issue from the infection / bleed than the hip replacement.
Already finding the non-bending, non-carrying, non-outside world annoying, but it could be so much worse. I have found a TV boxset – Narcos – to occupy my day.
Had a couple of visitors to pass the time. I’m not sure what my mate would have thought if he could see his wife on her knees putting my shoes on for me. I guess that’s the upside of looking slightly pathetic.
Week 2 – fog begins to lift in the hip replacement recovery process
Day 8: There’s a skill to self-injecting the blood thinning medicine
Two short walks today. My leg is beginning to feel a bit tight, but doing the bed and chair exercises seem to help as I guess they’re stretching the muscle. There is an occasional jolt of pain, especially if I’m knocked, but all the previous groin pain I had prior to the operation has disappeared.
Today when laying on the bed my wife asked me to take my phone out of my shorts pocket. It wasn’t my phone, it was just the abnormally shaped swelling. Twenty years ago and that would have had some very different implications…today I just asked for a change of stockings (you can’t do that by yourself!) and went back to sleep.
Made a mess of injecting myself with the blood thinning medication (Fragmin), so have ended up with the best billy bulls-eye bruise on my stomach so far. Just as well I have the space / rolls of fat to find “clean” sites each day.
Day 9: Beginning to feel alive again, if a bit foggy around the edges.
The swelling still makes me look like I have a lop-sided, odd-shaped backside, with a ledge you could stand a cup of tea on. Rest assured there are glutes of iron in there somewhere.
Got to the end of my road on the crutches, which was fine aside from a few twinges and feeling tired at the end. The simple physio exercises are becoming easier, although there’s always a tug when I start where the swelling is.
Sitting too long in one place is also a bit uncomfortable, but usually rectified by a short stretch (nap) on the bed…
Day 10: Sneaky day time naps still part of recovery
Walked to the end of the road and back. A bit further each day in the hip operation recovery timeline, but still accompanied by a minder as I’m a bit slow and unsteady. No real pain, but simple tiredness, so required some recovery time in front of the TV.
Now I’m moving better, getting in and out of bed is much easier, as are the stairs and general standing up.
Had some visitors to help with the coffee and cake carrying, but beginning to feel much more independent. As an aside, found out that Digestive Biscuits are actually one of the better biscuits for you due to their high fibre content. Given I still need high fibre (that’s iron tablets for you – think lumps of coal), there’s a good excuse to work through another packet.
Injections stopped today, and most of the painkillers are finished (Paracetamol only if required) so just taking Aspirin and iron tablets.
Sneaked upstairs for an afternoon nap, and was in bed early, so obviously not quite the party animal I once was.
Day 12: Big backside yet to disappear, but socially improving
Oh life is so much better. Two walks, exercises and a clear head. Just realised how crap I had been feeling until now.
Still just wearing shorts and compression stockings. Although I look a bit of a dick wandering down the road, it’s much easier getting dressed and undressed. I still have (on one side) a backside like Kim Kardashian, so jeans remain in the “too hard” category.
The bruising isn’t too bad, but the itching is annoying sometimes. Apart from that the pain has pretty much gone away. The only twinges are when I’m exercising or doing the walks.
This afternoon a friend game round to watch the rugby, so we indulged in a wine gums/sours/crisp marathon. Not quite able to make the pub yet, but now able to talk without falling asleep!
Day 13: Starting to get confident, could be a recipe for disaster
Becoming more independent now and confident on the crutches. Just have to remember not to do overdo it. Sorely tempted to bend down to tie my shoelaces, but stopped myself. The hip dislocation story isn’t a pleasant one.
Been tracking @HippySpen on Twitter who is a couple of weeks ahead of me in recovery. He seems to have walked further by this point, which I’m putting down to being a (bit) older and having had the infection. It’s good to track someone going through the same thing though.
Week 3 – no more baby steps, giant strides forward
Day 15: Back in trousers for first physio follow up
First trip to the physio, which also meant no more shorts and a car journey. Putting a tracksuit on was more challenging, and help was required.
Getting in the car was much easier than last time (when I left hospital) and it was good to get out.
Anyway, had a long session discussing life with the physio. Because my swelling is so large (smirk) he counselled against too much exercise on the bad leg, but has got me to focus on posture and gradual changes. That said, my crutch technique is good, so walking can continue. Homework is continued bed exercises, and one leg stands on the good leg, with half as long on the bad.
He did give my adducters a good rub as they’re providing all the support given my glutes were sliced apart, which means they now feel bruised as s**t. Sports massages are not pleasant.
Managed to go round the block which was about 20 mins of walking, but that combined with the physio meant I needed an afternoon nap.
Having been advised to take it easy as hip replacement recovery is not to be rushed, so that’s what I’m doing. At the moment my mouth is moving more than the rest of my body, as my cake and biscuit intake is now reaching new heights now my appetite has returned. Given my lack of exercise, I’m not quite sure what shape I’ll be in six weeks time.
Getting a bit bored of TV. Wish I could carry a cup of coffee as I’m now up for doing everything at home, although did manage to do it with a travel mug.
The grabber is still coming in handy, as I spent a happy 10 minutes chasing my mobile phone across the floor this evening.
Day 17: Motion is Lotion
Walking much more easily now and without tiring as fast. Did the longest trip so far, which was great as the sun was shining and it was good to be in the fresh air.
Need to remember to change seats occasionally as sitting too long seems to aggravate something in my groin, but the physio said that would be normal as my muscles started to engage.
Day 18: Follow up with consultant – dressing gone!
Visited the consultant this morning for the removal of the dressing. Saw the artificial hip in place on the x-ray. He explained the hammering I felt in the operation. Basically they push the stake-like fitting down into the bone so need to fit it in tightly. Obvious really.
He said I looked better than last time I saw him (death warmed up) and was a very rare specimen indeed . They never did find the cause of my infection/crash. We’re talking a less than 0.1% chance of that sort of reaction happening, so how I lucky was I?!
Also discussed next steps. Basically continue as before but keeping the crutches until 4 weeks to create a better walking style while the muscles heal. Seems a bit late to be correcting the lumbering gait I’ve been famous for over the years, but he seems to think he can do it. Interestingly where my foot used to turn in, there is a chance it will now be straighter. I may be an improved being from the one that started this journey.
Anyway, went for a walk in the sunshine, had a trip out for a coffee in town, and did some more exercises (apparently sideways leg lift is the most important).
Looking forward now to ditching the stockings tonight and rubbing some oil into the scar (and the stretch marks). Never thought I’d be glad to see stockings disappear from my life.
Day 21: Posture and strength – not speed – for best recovery
Physio today. His view was still not to rush too much, as it’s all about posture and quality of movement in the medium term. That said, he did give me some floor exercises which are tough, to add to the easier standing leg ones.
The only one I couldn’t do was a one-legged plank using my bad leg. I thought about it but it just wouldn’t move. My body knew best.
He also thought my legs were still different lengths , which was a bit disappointing given it was supposedly adjusted during the operation. I’m guessing the difference won’t be big enough for different sized turn-ups on my trousers anyway.
As we were heading off on holiday that week he warned me about sitting in the car too long without moving, walking too far without walking aids and not doing the exercises properly while I was distracted (aka hungover). He didn’t mention alcohol, and I didn’t ask, so can plead ignorance on that one.
By the end of the week I could do strolls in the sunshine for well over half an hour. It was good to be almost independent again, and every day still felt like an improvement.
Once you’re out and about you feel at least like you’re back in the real world.
Hip replacement key considerations…
Looking back over the past 3 weeks of my hip replacement recovery I would say:
- Get the gadgets. Even the sock putting on gizmo has proved useful. The grabbers have been a godsend.
- Don’t rush. Each day brings an improvement. Yes it’s frustrating, but when you see the scar you realise you have had a major operation.
- Following on from the above, accept help. You can’t do everything. To start with someone will have to help, but three weeks isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things.
- It’s surprising how tiring it all is. Although you think you haven’t moved much, you still feel knackered at the end of the day. According to the physio, walking when you’re tired isn’t a good use of time as you’ll develop bad habits..
- The hip pain (for me anyway) pretty much disappears straight away. The swelling is a bit uncomfortable but it’s better than the feelings before the operation!