Care after surgery

After your surgery, there are a variety of things you need to know for your safety, recovery and comfort. You will receive instructions on your nutrition, medicines, exercise program, activity level, discharge equipment, follow-up appointment, and signs and symptoms to watch for. Within this section is what to expect during your recovery, a list of commonly asked questions, a list of questions to ask at your follow-up appointment, and information about pain relief, pain medicines, anti-inflammatory medicines, constipation and nutrition.

Ask your health care team if you have any questions. They want your recovery to be as smooth as possible.

What to expect during your recovery

  • Before you leave the hospital

 Talk with your surgeon about any precautions you may have after surgery.

  • Make sure you have a follow-up appointment scheduled with your surgeon 10 to 14 days after your surgery.

Important: It can take a while to heal after surgery. Recovery is different for each person.

Day you leave the hospital to 3 weeks after surgery

  • Your surgeon and physical therapist will talk with you about your home exercise program. Follow any instructions they give you. This will have a big impact on your recovery.
  • Swelling after surgery is common. You may experience the most swelling 7 to 10 days after surgery.
    • Raise (elevate) your leg above the level of your heart by placing a pillow under your calf or ankle, not your knee.
    • Apply an ice pack or frozen gel pack as directed to help reduce swelling. Learn how to safely use cold therapy on page 51.
    • Call your surgeon right away if you have an increase in calf pain.
  • You will likely have a decrease in energy after surgery. Make sure to balance your activity with rest and continue with your home exercise program.

Three to 6 weeks after surgery

  • Continue with your home exercise program. This will have a big impact on your recovery.
  • You may continue to have pain, discomfort, stiffness and swelling. This is common and should get better over time. Continue treating with elevation, ice pack or frozen gel pack, and other non-medicine ways to treat pain. (Most people are off pain medicine unless they were already taking pain medicine before surgery.) If you feel new pain or your pain gets worse, call your surgeon right away.
  • It is common to have trouble sleeping. It may be helpful to:
    • avoid sleeping or napping too much during the day
    • create a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
    • changing positions in bed
    • avoid drinking too many liquids right before going to bed
    • avoid stress before bed.
  • Call your surgeon if you continue to have problems sleeping.
  • You may start walking without an assistive walking device when your surgeon says it is OK.
  • You may be able to do most activities around the house if your surgeon says it is OK.
  • You may be able to drive if:
    • you are not taking pain medicine
    • your surgeon says it is OK.
  • You may resume sexual activity when you are ready.
    • A firm mattress is recommended.
    • Be the passive partner for the first 6 weeks after surgery
    • Follow your hip precautions if you have them.
  • You may be able to return to work 4 to 6 weeks after surgery, depending on your type of work. You may want to consider going back to work gradually and starting with half days. Remember to take rest breaks and find time to elevate your leg and use an ice pack or frozen gel pack as directed.
  • Your surgeon may want you to schedule an appointment 6 weeks after surgery to have your incision checked and talk about physical activity.

Ten to 12 weeks after surgery

  • You should be able to resume most of your regular activities if your surgeon says it is OK. Some activities such as jogging, jumping and aerobics put a lot of strain or pressure on your new joint and should be avoided. Check with your surgeon before starting any new activities.

Three to 6 months after surgery

  • Ask your surgeon when it is OK to resume having routine dental appointments or any dental work done.
  • Your surgeon may want you to schedule an appointment 6 months after surgery to talk about your recovery and do an X-ray if needed.

Six months to 1 year after surgery

  • Most of your pain should be gone 1 year after surgery. However, you may still have some swelling in your lower leg and foot, and discomfort going up and down stairs or sitting in one position for too long. It is important to be physically active and maintain a healthy weight for the best recovery.
  • You may resume playing low-intensity activities. Talk with your surgeon about which activities are right for you.

See Pain Medicine: What You Need to Know for more information on taking pain medicine.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Hip Replacement, eighth edition, ortho-ah-90139
First Published: 10/01/2000
Last Reviewed: 10/01/2020