Most people experience some pain after a hip replacement. Pain usually ranges from mild to moderate and may radiate to the thigh. Doctors call post-hip replacement surgery pain in the thigh femoral stem pain.

A hip replacement is a common procedure that replaces a hip joint that is no longer functional. Some people may need hip replacements as they age due to wear and tear on the joint. Others need them due to degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Read more to learn about how long pain after a hip replacement can last, how to cope with it, and more.

An X-ray of a pelvis with the hip highlighted.Share on Pinterest
ChooChin/Getty Images

According to studies cited in research from 2019, thigh pain is a common symptom following hip replacement surgery, occurring in around 3%-25% of procedures. The research also suggested rise in the use of cementless femoral stems has increased incidences of thigh pain.

Historically, surgeons used bone cement to secure cemented hip joints. The new cementless joint allows the bone to grow and attach to it. Despite its benefits, cementless surgeries are more likely to cause femoral stem pain than cemented procedures.

However, while thigh pain is a possible complication, it does not usually persist over the long term. Most hip replacement surgeries result in a significant reduction in pain and improved quality of life.

Pain after surgery is fairly typical, and a hip replacement is no exception. When a person has this procedure, their body has undergone significant trauma to replace the damaged joint. While this will reduce pain and discomfort in the long term, it can cause acute pain in the short term.

Most people can expect mild to moderate swelling and pain to subside in 3–6 months.

According to older 2015 data, post-operative pain becomes chronic in about 10% of people who receive a total hip replacement. This means the pain is ongoing.

If a person experiences pain several months after they have healed from surgery or has pain that interferes with sleep or daily function, it may be a good idea to contact a doctor.

For some people, thigh pain after hip replacement surgery will go away on its own without treatment.

However, others may have pain that lingers for several weeks or months. Strategies for recovering well at home and reducing pain can include:

  • Preparing the home: Making sure the home is a comfortable, safe place to recover is an important way to avoid unnecessary pain.
  • Proper wound care: People should pay careful attention to wound care to avoid infection and additional pain.
  • Elevation and ice: Elevating the affected leg and icing it can reduce swelling and pain.
  • Pain medication: Most doctors will prescribe or recommend some form of pharmaceutical pain relief.

Others may experience chronic, or long-term, pain. When typical pain treatments and at-home remedies do not work, a doctor may recommend further options to fix the issue. If a person experiences ongoing pain, they should contact their doctor to discuss their options.

According to studies included in a 2017 article, in most cases, thigh pain after a hip replacement is mild to moderate. This pain typically occurs in the mid-front of the thigh. It may feel as if an ache and come and go.

Some people may also experience discomfort that presents as numbness in the thigh.

Various factors can contribute to thigh pain after a hip replacement. The type of surgery, natural biomechanics, and type of hip replacement a person has are all factors. Several of the main causes of thigh pain are:

  • a loose implant, meaning the bone cannot grow into the implant, causing small amounts of movement
  • an infection
  • the bone is more flexible than the stiff stem, causing the implant to painfully press into the cortical bone
  • a thigh bone fracture
  • bone remodeling, which occurs when new stresses make the bone remodel
  • meralgia paraesthetica, which describes severe pain in the outside of the thigh due to lateral femoral cutaneous nerve damage

According to a 2019 study, the hip joint design may affect a person’s pain following surgery. The study found that people who had short-stem uncemented hip replacements were more likely to experience chronic thigh pain than those who had wedge-shaped, straight-stem uncemented total hip replacement surgery.

In addition, the researchers found that bow-leggedness had links to mid-thigh pain.

Some people may be more likely to experience complications due to physical differences and biomechanics, such as being bow-legged. Some research suggests that physical differences in bone shape likely play a role.

Because it takes time for the bone to attach to a cementless hip joint, a person may need to limit activity for a few weeks to several months. Returning to activity too quickly may increase their likelihood of complications such as thigh pain. Sometimes, the joint may loosen with activity, causing pain to radiate to the thigh.

Although some people think age, weight, and other factors influence postsurgery pain, this is likely not true. Results from a 2020 study suggest that the following are unlikely to cause thigh pain:

  • sex
  • age
  • weight
  • height
  • bone density

A person should contact a doctor for mild to moderate pain lasting more than 6 months. Severe pain that makes it difficult to function may also be cause for concern.

Additionally, if other symptoms accompany the pain, it may be a sign of infection. Symptoms that may indicate infection include:

  • swelling
  • redness
  • skin discoloration
  • high fever
  • drainage or pus coming from the wound
  • pain that worsens with activity or rest

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about thigh pain after a hip replacement.

What is normal pain after hip replacement surgery?

Following hip replacement surgery a person may experience pain that usually occurs in the mid-front of the thigh. It may feel like an ache that comes and goes.

What are the symptoms of a failed hip replacement?

Symptoms of a failed hip replacement may vary. However, some localized symptoms that may indicate infection include persistent pain, drainage or pus coming from the wound, and swelling. Systemic symptoms that that may indicate infection include fever, chills, and sweating.

How long does it take for muscle pain to go away after hip replacement?

In most cases, individuals who have undergone a hip replacement can expect mild to moderate swelling and pain to subside in 3–6 months.

However, this can vary between people. Older research suggests that around 10% of individuals may develop chronic pain following a total hip replacement.

What are the symptoms of femoral nerve damage after hip replacement?

Research from 2018 indicates that symptoms of femoral nerve damage following hip replacement may include numbness, a tingling or “pins and needles” sensation, or paralysis.

A total hip replacement surgery can significantly improve a person’s quality of life, but it is a major surgery that takes time to heal. Thigh pain is a common complication after surgery. For most people, it will go away on its own, and a person can manage it with medication and home remedies.

Before a person undergoes hip replacement surgery, it is important to discuss potential risks and complications with a doctor.