Recovery time after hip replacement surgery varies between different people. However, most people can resume light activities within 3–6 weeks of surgery.

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A person may have a total hip replacement, known as an arthroplasty, in which a surgeon removes a damaged ball-and-socket hip joint and replaces it with an artificial synthetic hip joint.

A surgeon may perform a partial hip replacement if the person requires only a new ball joint but not a new socket.

In this article, we look at the typical timeline for hip replacement surgery, what may help with recovery, and how recovery may vary between younger and older patients.

We also look at hip replacement versus hip resurfacing, answer some common questions about the procedure, and assess the outlook for people with a hip replacement.

A person should prepare their body for a partial or total hip replacement several weeks or more before the surgery. This helps reduce the risk of complications and speed up recovery.

The preparation for surgery is the same for people with a partial or total hip replacement. The outcome and recovery for total and partial hip replacements are similar.

A person can typically return home or to a rehabilitation center within days of the surgery. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), most people can carry on with daily living and light activities independently within 3–6 weeks.

To prepare for surgery, a person can:

  • discuss the upcoming surgery with their doctor and healthcare team, and research what to expect during and following the procedure
  • ask their doctor about exercises they can perform that can strengthen their legs, core, and upper body in the lead-up to surgery
  • try to maintain a moderate weight, which can reduce the risk of complications during surgery
  • try to cut down or stop smoking
  • arrange for someone to help with day-to-day activities for the week or two following their return home after surgery
  • prepare meals in advance for greater ease following their return home
  • prepare the home for accessibility and convenience, such as having:
    • a raised toilet seat
    • safety bars in the bathroom
    • a walker or crutches

During surgery, a surgical team will:

  • administer anesthetic, which can be general or regional — general anesthetic puts the person to sleep for the duration of surgery, while regional anesthetic blocks nerves to a certain area of the body
  • make an incision over the hip, and remove the damaged bone tissue and cartilage from the hip joint
  • replace either the ball joint in a partial replacement or both the ball joint and the surface of the socket with new, synthetic parts in a total hip replacement — the procedure takes around 1–2 hours to complete
  • send the patient to the recovery room

Following either a partial or total hip replacement, a person will typically remain in the hospital for 1–2 days.

Doctors typically administer pain relievers, which may include:

The doctor may staple or stitch close the incision for about 2 weeks. This will require wound care at home in the coming weeks, which the medical team will discuss with a person.

Healthcare professionals will help a person to get up and move around immediately after the surgery. A person may be able to walk short distances with assistance on the same day as the operation. This can initially feel painful or uncomfortable.

A physiotherapist may show a person how to exercise the leg to strengthen the hip and advise them on what activities to avoid. They may show the patient how to sit and bend to avoid damaging the new hip.

In a partial hip replacement, the leg may feel more sturdy than it would after a total hip replacement, which can help a person move and recuperate slightly faster.

After returning home from the hospital following a partial or total hip replacement, a person may require help for the first few weeks, or they may need to stay in a rehabilitation facility.

During this time, a person will continue to take the pain relievers that their doctor prescribed. A person may experience pain and discomfort during activity and at night for several weeks.

A person will either attend physical therapy or will need to perform exercises at home that their physical therapist recommends. Daily exercises will help speed recovery and improve flexibility and strength in the new joint.

If necessary, a home health aide, nurse, or physical therapist may check in and assist with recovery.

A person should keep the incision wound dry until a doctor removes the stitches or staples.

Up to 2 weeks after a full or partial hip replacement, a person should be able to move about more easily without aid.

People who previously required a cane or walker before surgery may still need it during this early recovery period.

Within 3–6 weeks, a person can generally resume light activities of daily living. They may feel stronger and more stable and feel comfortable putting some weight on their leg. During this time, a person may be able to resume some basic self-care and light chores.

A person should continue physical therapy 2–3 times a day as their physical therapist recommends, walk regularly and avoid sitting for long periods. Exercise can help relieve pain and stiffness and help with mobility.

After 2–3 months of partial or total hip replacement, a person may be able to resume daily activities but should continue with daily physical therapy and regular walking.

As pain and stiffness typically subside by this point, a person may be able to work on improving the following in their hip:

  • strength
  • flexibility
  • motion

A person can achieve this by performing gentle exercises focusing on posture, weight-bearing, and proper body movement. People may still experience some weakness in the hip and surrounding muscles.

Two important exercises at this stage are walking and using a stationary bike.

Recovery can vary, and a person should check in with their doctor for evaluation of their progress and to discuss the types of physical therapy that will benefit them the most.

Conservative treatments can continue to help with healing after a total or partial hip replacement, such as:

  • gentle stretching
  • weight management
  • therapeutic exercise

Things to try

A person can aid their recovery by:

  • using ice wrapped in a towel to reduce swelling
  • keeping the leg facing forward
  • keeping the affected leg in front while standing or sitting
  • kneeling on the affected leg
  • applying heat before exercise
  • cutting back on exercise if the muscles begin to ache
  • using a stool or high seat while in the kitchen

Things to avoid

A person should avoid:

  • crossing the legs at the knee
  • lifting the knee higher than the hip
  • leaning forward while sitting
  • reaching down while lying down
  • bending 90 degrees from the waist
  • turning feet far outward or inward when bending

Experts do not recommend hip replacements for people below the age of 20. This is because they will likely require further surgeries soon after their initial replacement due to high levels of activity and movement.

In people younger than 55, recovery is generally free of complications, but factors such as obesity and other comorbid illnesses can negatively affect this.

Older adults and preventing falls

Doctors initially designed hip replacement surgery for older patients, who do not move around as much as younger people.

For this reason, although younger people may recover better and have a lower risk of certain complications such as falls, they may require further surgical interventions later.

Annually, emergency departments treat 3 million older adults for falls. Avoiding falls, where possible, should be a priority for older people after hip replacement surgery, as a fall could mean a person requires more surgery. A person should use a walker, crutches, or a walking stick until they are stable.

Recovery may be more difficult for older people as they may already have compromised mobility, which could mean they require assistance permanently, or for longer following surgery.

Possible complications

Surgery in older people may carry an increased risk of complications because they are more likely to have conditions such as:

People should consult a doctor for diagnostic tests and treatments for the above conditions.

In hip resurfacing, a surgeon trims and caps the femoral head, or joint of the hip, with a smooth metal cover instead of removing it. However, they will remove the damaged cartilage and bone inside the socket and replace it with a metal shell.

In most cases, people can go home 1–4 days after hip resurfacing surgery. Sometimes, they can begin putting weight on their leg immediately afterward.

Similarities to hip replacement

A person may need a walking aid such as a walker, cane, or crutches for the first few days or weeks.

People may experience some pain and discomfort for several weeks after surgery. A doctor will prescribe NSAIDs where necessary or opioids for more severe pain.

Similarly, a doctor may recommend physical therapy after surgery and will recommend exercises to help maintain range of motion and restore strength.

A person will likely resume their regular activities around 6 weeks after surgery.

The outlook for most hip replacements is good, and although some people experience a little numbness and stiffness, these usually recede over time.

Most people find that these discomforts are minor compared with the lack of function and severe pain they experienced before surgery.

Below we answer some common questions about hip replacements.

How long will it take to walk again?

A person may be able to walk short distances, with assistance, as soon as the same day as the surgery. Within two weeks, they may be able to walk longer distances.

How long does bed rest last?

A person can usually return home after 1 or 2 days in the hospital. Although they should rest and only perform gentle movements, a person will not need to stay in bed.

When can I return to activities?

People can usually return to light activities within 6 weeks.

How long do implants or replacements last?

A modern artificial hip replacement should last at least 15 years. This rises to 25 years if patients do not engage in high-impact joint loading.

Hip replacement and resurfacing surgeries have similar outcomes and high success rates. A person can begin recovery the same day as the surgery and will typically be able to walk a short distance with assistance soon afterward.

Physical therapy in the hospital and at home can help build strength and flexibility and speed recovery. A person should continue with physical therapy for the entirety of their recovery, following their physical therapist’s directions.

Most people can return to light activities within about 6 weeks and can resume life as normal after about 3 months.