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What You Can and Can't Do After a Hip or Knee Replacement

Hip Knee Replacement

Having replacement hip or knee surgery should never prohibit you from going back to living your life as you normally would.

This includes all the things you’d normally do in your day-to-day routine, from simply walking, climbing the stairs and being able to drive, to more advanced physical exercise – like some sporting activities.

A hip or knee replacement shouldn’t put you off booking holidays and travelling, either. However, regardless of what you plan to do post-surgery, you should always consult your doctor and listen to their advice before resuming with life in the same way you did prior to having a knee or hip replacement.

In some cases, you may need to make some slight adjustments to your daily routine, as a knee or hip replacement can be a complex operation – and therefore you need to give your body an adequate amount to time to make a sufficient recovery.

Driving After a Hip Replacement

Driving after hip replacement surgery is perfectly fine if everything goes to plan.

It is strongly advised that you feel fit and well enough to drive before even considering getting back behind the wheel. A clear indicator of this is practicing applying pressure on the foot pedals when in a stationary position with the engine switched off.

If you feel some pain instantly, or even feel sore for a few hours afterwards, then it is recommended that you avoid driving and continue resting to enable the body to make a full recovery. It can be dangerous for yourself and for others if you drive without feeling physically comfortable to do so.

How Long After a Hip Replacement Can You Drive?

The Royal College of Surgeons suggests that driving after hip replacement surgery should be avoided for the first six weeks. They also recommend that even travelling as a passenger should be avoided for three weeks.

Positioning your body to get in and out of a vehicle can strain the tender healing tissues and complicate recovery. Either way, as mentioned above, regardless of the recommended 6 weeks post-surgery window, you shouldn’t drive if you still don’t feel physically able.

Long drives should also be avoided right away, as they can cause aches, pains and general discomfort – and the same applies if you are still feeling the effects of any sedative pain relief medication.

You should also inform your insurer that you have undergone surgery. It’s important to check your policy as some insurers won’t even insure you for a certain number of weeks post-surgery.

Travelling After a Hip Replacement

Travelling after a hip replacement and still enjoying your holidays is perfectly possible and should never prevent you from doing the things you enjoy.

However, there are a few things that you need to consider.

This includes booking mobility assistance if required. Long walks through airport terminal buildings can add strain to your body, so it’s important to consider wheelchair rental or assistance boarding an aircraft if needed.

By the same token, you may also wish to inform your airline of the fact you’ve had surgery. They may be able to make the aircraft environment more comfortable for you with pillows or even a change in seating.

When Can You Travel After a Hip Replacement?

As recommended by the Royal College of Surgeons, travelling is to be avoided for at least three weeks following surgery.

Getting in or out of a car, or sitting for long periods is potentially damaging for soft body recovery tissues. Post-surgery therapy usually includes a strict daily routine that should not be interfered with in the first few weeks – so it’s important to rest up and allow the body to recover before even considering any travel plans.

When Can You Fly After a Hip Replacement?

The NHS advises that you should wait three months before flying after undergoing hip replacement surgery.

Long-haul air travel especially, can put you at a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) if you’ve had a recent hip replacement. The most advisable thing to do is speak to your doctor.

They can recommend different things to help mitigate the risk – which can include gentle leg exercises, having a short walk on the aircraft, and even wearing compression stockings on the flight.

Sport and Exercise After a Hip Replacement

Sport and exercise after hip replacement surgery is perfectly possible as long as you give yourself sufficient recovery time.

Any outdoor activities that you might want to take part in on holiday, such as canoeing and hiking for instance, can all be managed the same way as before – although you should seek advice from your doctor or physiotherapist, especially if you have had the operation recently.

Arthritis Research UK suggests that regular exercise is very important to alleviate the risk of developing arthritis in later life. Having a large operation like a hip replacement should never leave you bed bound long-term, nor should it discourage you from exercising regularly.

They also state that it is perfectly fine to walk and swim, whilst cycling should be avoided until about 12 weeks post-operation. Running on hard surfaces is discouraged, as it can have negative long-term effects – so, sports that involve sudden turns or impacts like squash or tennis are not ideal for those who have had a hip replacement (although, we would always advise consulting your physiotherapist for more in-depth guidance on what should and shouldn’t do).

Walking After a Hip Replacement

Walking after hip replacement surgery is a process in itself.

You can be up and walking within hours of having surgery (on an enhanced recovery programme), but this varies from case to case and usually depends on how well you feel. However, when you first start walking you should expect to feel a certain degree of pain and discomfort.

The NHS outlines that your general fitness and well-being, including your ability to stand up and walk to a certain extent, plays a part in how soon you can be discharged from hospital.

When you are discharged, and recovering at home, it’s important to take each day at a time and build yourself up in terms of walking short distances.

If you are a keen hiker, or someone who regularly walks longer distances, you should get some advice from your physiotherapist on the best course of action for you. If this forms part of your travel plans, bear in mind that you shouldn’t fly until at least three months post-surgery – so this is a reasonable time to enable yourself to recover before enhancing your own mobility.

Climbing the Stairs After Hip Replacement Surgery

As with walking, climbing the stairs after hip replacement surgery is a process. Once you are able to walk confidently, and have been discharged from hospital – you should be able to climb stairs.

During recovery, the NHS will provide you with crutches (or another form of walking aid if required), so, any physiotherapy programme will involve the use of a walking aid in terms of navigating you back to a certain level of mobility.

The walking aid will be crucial in helping you get up and down flights of stairs. To climb stairs, you need to lead with your stronger leg, and to come down stairs you should lead with your weaker leg – on the side where the hip has been replaced. The walking aid should always be positioned on the opposite side of your repaired hip.

Running/Jogging After a Hip Replacement

Most surgeons completely discourage jogging or running on hard surfaces according to Arthritis Research UK.

This is because the long-term effects of running or jogging after hip replacement surgery can be damaging to the joint due to sustained impact.

If you do wish to do short gentle runs for exercise then you still can – but it’s important to bear in mind that running will speed up the level of wear of tear a lot more than lower impact activities.

Cycling After a Hip Replacement

Cycling after hip replacement surgery is often seen as a good way to exercise and build up muscle that may have been wasted through inactivity during the recovery process.

Arthritis Research UK suggests that you should not attempt to cycle until 12 weeks after your hip operation. If you are a keen cyclist, it may be more advisable to build up both your mobility and confidence on a static exercise bike rather than going out on the roads immediately.

Like running, you may also need to bear in mind the high-impact nature of some types of cycling – like mountain biking, for instance, and how this can have long-term effects.

Swimming After a Hip Replacement

Like cycling, swimming after hip replacement surgery is generally seen as a great form of exercise for people with limited mobility in general.

As opposed to running or jogging on hard surfaces, swimming is a low-impact and gentle form of exercise that people of all ages can enjoy. However, Arthritis Research UK suggests that swimming breaststroke can be detrimental to those who have had knee replacements in particular.

As always, it’s recommended to seek advice from your physiotherapist on the best movements and exercises you can do in a swimming pool after having hip surgery.  

Skiing After a Hip Replacement

Skiing after hip replacement surgery is not recommended.

This is due to the high-impact nature of this activity on joints and also the high risk of injury whilst on ski slopes.

Of course, you can ski at your own risk once you have made a full recovery, however damage to the actual replacement itself whilst skiing can be complicated – and many insurers may not be able to provide you with cover if you intend on going on an overseas ski trip having undergone hip replacement surgery.

What Can’t You Do After a Hip Replacement?

What you cannot do after a hip replacement is ignore the advice of your surgeon and/or physiotherapist.

The NHS states that in order to look after your new hip in the best possible way you must:

  • Avoid bending your hip at a right angle (90°) where possible.
  • Avoid any activities that require a twisting motion.
  • Avoid swivelling on the balls of your feet.
  • Avoid laying on the side of the wound or applying any sort of pressure to it in the hours and days following surgery.
  • Avoid crossing your legs over one another.
  • Avoid low chairs and toilet seats (you can get raised toilet seats courtesy of the NHS).
  • Avoid activity in the aftermath of surgery and avoid high-impact sports altogether.

Hip Replacement Surgery Recovery Time

Hip replacement surgery recovery time for partaking in different activities varies – but the table below summarises this in a more simple format.

Activity

Recovery Time Required

Walking after hip replacement surgery

Dependent on initial recovery, but can be as soon as one day.

Running after hip replacement surgery

Not recommended - see above section.

Driving after hip replacement surgery

6 weeks after surgery.

Climbing stairs after hip replacement surgery

Dependent on initial recovery, but can be as soon as one day.

Cycling after hip replacement surgery

12 weeks after surgery.

Swimming after hip replacement surgery

As soon as the wound heals (according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons).

Skiing after hip replacement surgery

Not recommended – see above section.

Flying after hip replacement surgery

3 months after surgery.

 

Sport and Exercise After a Knee Replacement

Knee replacement surgery is designed to improve your quality of life, and therefore it should never prevent you from doing any sporting and exercise activities you would have done prior to surgery.

In fact, sport and exercise is actually recommended after a knee replacement.

The NHS states that you should be able to stop using your walking aid and resume normal leisure activities six weeks after surgery (depending on how well you’ve recovered).

Arthritis Research UK has a guide on certain exercises you can do to help with you knee replacement in the meantime. This includes knee bending exercised to do for 10 minutes 6-8 times a day to help straighten and strengthen the knee joint.

Running After a Knee Replacement

Running or jogging on hard surfaces isn’t advised – for similar reasons as to why running or jogging with a replacement hip is not recommended.

The impact of running causes wear and tear much quicker than other exercises – so it’s worth exploring other means by which you can maintain a healthy lifestyle following knee replacement surgery.

Swimming or cycling are much more advisable, due to the low-impact nature of these types of exercises. Again though, you should check with your physio – as certain types of swimming (mainly breaststroke in particular) are to be avoided for those with a knee replacement, where possible.

Skiing After a Knee Replacement

As with running and jogging, skiing is generally not recommended for those who have had knee replacement surgery – or any other form of joint replacement for that matter.

Joint injuries are commonplace on ski slopes – and you are at risk of doing your new replacement knee serious damage if you do start skiing again.

Again, you can start skiing at your own risk – however, some insurers may not be able to provide you with sufficient level of winter sports travel insurance cover for a ski trip once you declare that fact that you have had a knee replacement.

Activity

Recovery Time Required

Walking after knee replacement surgery

 

NHS states you will generally be helped to stand with 12-24 hours after surgery. You should be able to stop using your crutches or walking frame 6 weeks after surgery.

Running after knee replacement surgery

Not recommended – see above section.

Driving after knee replacement surgery

As soon as you can bend you knee again – usually 4-6 weeks after surgery.

Climbing stairs after knee replacement surgery

6-10 weeks after surgery.

Cycling after knee replacement surgery

1-2 weeks after surgery (stationary bike).

Swimming after knee replacement surgery

3-6 weeks after surgery.

Skiing after knee replacement surgery

Not recommended – see above section.

Flying after knee replacement surgery

As soon as you are able to sit comfortably with the knee bent – usually 3-4 weeks after surgery.

 

 

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