Returning to Activity after a Hip Replacement

by Christi Loftus
9.17 Blog

After a total hip replacement (THR), many people are eager to return to an active lifestyle – and with good reason! The benefits of exercise after a THR are endless: improved cardiovascular fitness, psychological satisfaction, muscle strength, flexibility, bone growth as well as improved coordination, balance, and endurance. However, it is natural to have some questions and concerns: when is it safe to start exercising again? Which activities or sports are safe to participate in? How much is too much?

While everyone’s recovery is unique, and you should always follow the advice of your physician and physical therapist, these guidelines will help give you an idea of what to expect and how to plan your return to activities.

In the first 6 weeks after surgery, major goals include strengthening, balance, training, and progressing to walking without the use of an assistive device. In the following 6-12 weeks, it is important to focus on more advanced therapy goals. These may include regaining full strength, improving endurance, being able to function at home independently (getting dressed, for example), and going up and down stairs reciprocally.

When you have met your physical therapy goals, are not experiencing any pain, and the x-rays taken by your surgeon look good, you will likely be ready to return to athletics. Your physical therapist and physician will let you know when the time is right, but total hip replacement patients typically return to sports activities 3-6 months after surgery.

Speak with your surgeon and physical therapist about the best post-operative activities for you. Studies have shown that patients who participated in a particular sport pre-operatively are more likely to be able to return that sport safely. In addition, patients with a lower Body Mass Index often experience a smoother transition back to activities and sports. There are plenty of options, so feel free to discuss them and ask questions!

While different surgeons may have different recommendations, low-impact sports are generally safe for patients to participate in after having a total hip replacement.  These include (but are not limited to) swimming, doubles tennis, golf, hiking, cycling, low-impact aerobics, and rowing.  These activities also have a low fall risk, which is extremely important after having a total hip replacement.

Other sports like downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, weight lifting, ice skating, roller-blading, Pilates and yoga involve more impact and an increased risk for falls.  It is advised that you be cleared by your surgeon before participating in these activities.

It is strongly recommended that high-impact sports with high fall risk and possible contact be avoided after a total hip replacement.  These include any sports involving running, jumping, and repetitive high impact on the hip, specifically racquetball, squash, basketball, soccer, football, softball, snowboarding, and high-impact aerobics.

Wherever your interests lie, there are many activities that you can enjoy safely once you’ve recovered from total hip replacement surgery. This is a new chapter in your life and wellbeing, make the most of it!

For more information on hip replacement, please visit http://www.hss.edu/condition-list_hip-replacement.asp.

Christi Loftus is a physical therapist with the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Special Surgery.

Topics: Featured, Rehabilitation and Fitness
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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

Comments

I’ve underwent a total hip replacement approx 4 months ago and have been slowly but steadily healing. I have recently started with some light swimming and am feeling great. I’m really looking forward to the next few months and hoping my healing continues the way it has. Thanks for the great into in this post.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Crista, thank you for sharing. Good luck on your road to recovery! Please let us know if we can be of any assistance.

ruti says:

This contradicts most of the advice i as given and after horrendous mistakes so far i would be interested in your opinion,not medical advice, on free diving and other aquatic activities such as snorkeling. Does it matter about depths/ strokes used or ways you dive? THIS IS PURELY AN OPINION AND NOT A MEDICAL THERAPY ADVISORY REPLY! with thanks

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Ruti, thank you for reaching out. Christi Loftus, Physical therapist, says: “It is possible that a leg discrepancy could affect your lower back. While aquatic activities are often low-impact, everyone is unique and it would be best to discuss these and any other activities you would like to pursue with your physician.” If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Lenda Russell says:

Thank you so much Christi for sharing your information about hip replacement. I had a total right hip replacement done on February 28, it is now going into my fifth week of recovery. It has been a slow process, but I am determine to take it one day at a time. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I feel better already!

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Lenda, thank you for the kind message and good luck on your road to recovery! We will share with Christi.

Jennifer Ricks says:

My name is jennifer ricks and im 24 years old. I had a total hip replacement in december. Im glad to say that after 4 months ive almost had a complete recovery and ive never felt better. I started goingto the gym a few times a week and it helped so much on the recovery. I still have 2 more months before my dr will clear me to go back to work but Ican finally see the llight at the end of the tunnel. Keep your head up girls. It gets better!

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Jennifer, thank you for sharing! Good luck on your road to recovery!

Miranda says:

Jennifer, I am 22 years old and have had severe AVN since I broke my hip at 12 years old, the doctors usually say that I”m to young for a hip replacement but it”s still my decision. I”ve been limping and in pain for what feels like my whole life. But you just gave me hope for an end to my misery :)

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Miranda, thanks for reaching out. For more information on hip replacement, click here: http://www.hss.edu/condition-list_hip-replacement.asp#.U57xCHJdXTo. If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

paul says:

hi jennifer im 31 and ive got avn and was in agony for two years with it until i had thr on my right and core decompression surgery on my left hip it has been 6 weeks since the operation and all is well i have no pain what so ever and have my life back which i never thought would be possible my two boys are also loving the fact they have their dad back im loving it. Recovery for me seemed a breeze but i think because im young it helped and most case studies on healing time are for older people as you dont see many younger people with total hip replacements. Good look i hope you choose to do it as i have and never looked back!!

Colleen Carroll says:

Hi, my name is Colleen Carroll, 56 and I had total hip replacement 2/24/14. They ONLY issue I have had is femur pain at the stem. My PT believes it is a result of walking too far too soon. ( 3-4 weeks I was up to 2 miles and some slight incline hills ) Week 5 and 6 the femur pain began and I had to stop go for ” walks ” and stay on my cane. I am now at 12 weeks post surgery, still using my cane but the femur pain has gotten MUCH better. Just wanted to share because I was DYING to get out a walk and that caused a set back for me. Take it SLOW !!!! I thought I was ! : (

Dave says:

Hi Colleen. I had my hip replaced on 2/25/2014 and experienced the same thigh pain. The area around the scar often tingles/ burns and my backside aches from time to time. I am glad to have a working joint but the pain can be difficult. I initially felt like my leg was longer and this added stress to my back but exercise and stretching are helping me get used to the new hip. I am an avid walker and have continued the exercise routine, golf as well. I think it is important to pace/rest especially as the body gets used to the new joint. This is difficult for me, hard to not be doing stuff. I hope your recovery continues in a positive fashion.

Christine says:

Hi my name is Christine. I”m 40yrs old and am getting a total hip replacement June 24th. My doctor said I will only need to be out of work 6-8weeks. Everything I”m reading makes it seem like I may need more time off. Ugh. I hope not. I weigh about 145 and am 5”8″. He said because of my health I won”t need a lot of time off. I am a bartender on the Las Vegas strip and it can get pretty at times. I would love some opinions if anyone has them. Thank you for any helpful advice.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Christine, thanks for reaching out. It is best for you to consult with your treating physician. For more information on total hip replacement, click here: http://www.hss.edu/condition-list_hip-replacement.asp. If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance. For more information, visit http://www.hss.edu/physician-referral-service.asp.

Colleen Carroll says:

Christine. My surgeon told me 6 weeks as well because I work out and am 56. Took 3 months for me to be able to go back : ( Good luck though

Bruce Baker says:

I just had a total hip replacement at 58, back mountain biking at 6 weeks. Went back to desk job at 4 weeks. As long as you are in good shape before the surgery and do all the rehab (at home and at PT) you can come back quickly.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Bruce, thank you for reaching out. Congratulations on your great recovery! If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Paul Marley Jr says:

I just found out today for sure that I will probably need a hip replacement, I injured it almost 30 years ago while doing Karate. It has really been bothering me this last year, I am a full time student finishing my last year in engineering school. My life has been crazy I was seeing that the recovery time is different for everyone which makes since. I am in fairly good shape I weight about 170 lbs. and I am 6’1due to school I haven’t exercised as much as I use to. I use to run anywhere between 4 to 5 miles a day. I am hoping to get back to that but on an elliptical instead of the pavement. I appreciate reading about all your insight about recovery. Thanks
Paul C. Marley Jr.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Paul, thanks for reaching out. For more information on hip replacement, click here: http://www.hss.edu/condition-list_hip-replacement.asp. If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance. For more information, visit http://www.hss.edu/physician-referral-service.

Michael Allen says:

I had bilateral THR in November’09. My doctor said I could probably return to work in 3 months, and I was able to return in 4. The pain I had been living with for 10 years was gone when I woke from the surgery and has not returned. I recommend you follow the instructions of your surgeon, work hard in therapy, and listen to your body. It will tell you when it has healed, don’t rush it.
GREAT JOB HSS, Thanks

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Michael – Thanks for your post! Glad to hear you are doing well!

Colleen Carroll says:

Im about 4 months post THR and still have thigh/femur ? pain. My surgeon told me that its common and some people just take longer. My PT thinks I should get a second opinion. Anyone else have this issue ?

adi j says:

Hi there all i am a 35 year old man and I am having a THR on the 7th of july and I am really worried i am a very phyisical Person and would love to be able to continue doing some activities i Snowboard , play football ,run and cylcle a lot .will i be able to continue with any of These . Thx.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Adi, thank you for reaching out. It is best for you to consult with your treating physician following surgery so they can better advise.

Dave says:

Hope your surgery went well. I am 41/2 months out and am seeing positive results. I am 52 , a former athlete who is used to a very active lifestyle. I began hitting golf balls 3 weeks post op and was very proactive in my rehab. Be sure to pace yourself, slow and steady really is the approach after a THR. Keep a positive mindset and follow post op instructions. Best wishes.

Jimmy says:

I had THR done feb 2014, I am 36 I have done some light jogging some surfing and kawakying. all with sever stem/femur pain. I been utilizing a cane when I am not performing sports activites. Anyone have a good exercise routine they can recommend. I eat poorly and been gaining weight!

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Jimmy, thanks for reaching out. For more information on total hip replacement, please click here: http://www.hss.edu/condition-list_hip-replacement.asp#.U7qiDJRdXTo If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Dave says:

Hey Jimmy, I gained some weight after my surgery on 2/25 and am doing lots of low impact cardio namely walking and hiking. Also doing core work on the exercise ball. My Dr says stay away from higher impact stuff like running. I play golf and walk the course and do some weight training. Have had the thigh pain too, stretch a lot and try sustained controlled movement activities like the treadmill or elliptical. I am regaining my flexibility and strength. Good luck.

Mary says:

I went back to work last week, 8 weeks post op. I walk unaided but do limp. I”ve just started swimming. Are there restrictions on pool activity?

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Mary, thank you for reaching out. Christi Loftus, Physical Therapist, says: “Assuming any precautions from the surgeon are now lifted and the incision is completely healed, there are not likely to be any other restrictions. Avoid anything that causes pain and refer to your physical therapist for specific exercises that would be appropriate for you while in the pool. Walking in the pool can also be beneficial for patients who experience some pain while walking on dry land.” If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Paul Marley Jr says:

I just had my surgery done on my hip on Monday the 7th and I am already back home and walking with a walker the pain is minimal for me during the whole procedure so far. I actually got to walk outside yesterday and I made two full laps around the cult a sac. Go at your on pace to not try to over due it and re injure yourself. My advise to anyone that needs a hip replaced is to follow the procedures the Doctor prescribes for you and you should do very well. Good luck to everyone who has had a hip replaced or is going to.

Doug Zitek says:

Treadmil is not low impact.. its running. Not a good idea for thr.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Doug, thank you for sharing your input!

Theresa says:

I had my the on June 4, 2014. Yesterday I tried a Walking Off The Pounds exercise video…it felt great and I walked a mile at home because it was raining. I am still using a cane because without it I have a limp and do not want to damage anything by limping too much. I feel like I need more advanced exercises though.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Theresa, thank you for reaching out. Christi Loftus, Physical Therapist, says: “You want to use your cane until you are able to walk with no pain and no limp. Sometimes, it can take weeks or months to walk without the assistance of a cane. In the meantime, it may benefit you to see a strength and conditioning specialist or follow up with your physical therapist to get an updated home exercise program.” If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Sundae says:

Hi. How do I find out precisely the full details about the type of implant I have? Does HSS keep that on file? My surgeon has given me a generic description, but I”d like to know a lot more.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi, thank you for reaching out. Please contact us at socialmediacontact@hss.edu for further assistance.

Jerimy Gilley says:

Hello I am a 41 year old male that suffers from avsacular Nurcosis in both hips.already had total left hip replacement and just waiting to have the right one done.i have to say I cam feel the difference between before and after.best decision I ever made.

susan hoffman says:

Me too,
Going for my surgery in september 5Th
I teach all types of exercise classes.
I hope I heal fast.
My left hip has avasacular nurcosis.
When did you start exercising again,how soon.

Jolene Fisher says:

I have a question. I had total hip replacement and the hip is much larger than my normal hip causing deformation. My gait and rom has been affected. The deformation is significant enough to cause pants to pull down on the normal hip as I walk. My surgeon just says it is my imagination. Any advice?

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Jolene, thank you for reaching out. It would be best for you to consult with your treating physician so they can determine the best course of treatment. If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Jodell Roth says:

I am 60, 5′,140lbs and active before surgery. The thread has given me a more realist view of what I have been experiencing. 7/28 was my replacement date I had wonderful recovery the first 2 weeks and advanced well. However when I tried increasing my slow walk up to I miles I had severe back pain taking up to 48 hours to resolve. No cane very slight limp.(prior to surgery walking 4-5 miles 3-4 days per/week and working 12 hour shifts). Recovery is now going much slower then I had hoped. I am compliant with hip exercises, would pool work improve or hasten this process.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Jodell, thank you for reaching out. It would be best to consult with your treating physician and/or physical therapist about the possibility of including aquatic therapy in your treatment plan. If you are interested in receiving care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Bill Davis says:

I had surgery, THR, Jul 8th, 2014, exactly two months out now. I think people should be very aware that pain meds will allow you to over do early on. I did and after 4 weeks in which I thought I was making amazing progress I suffered a major set back, deep internal pain from interior swelling. So, off the pain pills, added heat, now doing very well. Soreness in my hip but no real pain or normal movement limitations.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Bill, thank you for reaching out. Your physical therapist will be able to provide you with advice on how to enjoy the beach safely. If you are interested in receiving rehabilitative care at HSS or through one of our Rehabilitation Network membership facilities, please contact our Rehabilitation Referral Service at 800-493-0039 for further assistance.

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Bill, thank you for reaching out. It would be best for you to consult with your treating physician so they can determine the best course of treatment. If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Jeremy says:

Hi I am a 37 year old active male. In 5 days I’m having bilateral hip replacement. My doctor says my condition is the worst he has ever seen. I am very scared for this and concerened about continuing my career. I am a water utility worker( construction) install water mains, fire hydrants, ect. My doc. Said I should be back to work in 10 weeks, from everything I have read thats not the case for this severe of operation and recovery. Anyone with information or advice I would greatly appreciat it. Thank you

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Jeremy, thank you for reaching out. It would be best for you to consult with your treating physician so they can determine the best course of treatment. If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Sandy says:

Hey Jeremy I bilateral hip replacements 5 months ago at the age of 40 due to avn and I have rheumatiod arthritis. I had severe bone loss and had to get trabecular technology. I was afraid like you but had no other choice. I want to tell you, you will be ok. Strengthen the muscles around the hip and surrounding leg muscles don’t be embarrassed about your cane use it it’s only temporary, take it easy u will get back to work I’m a hairstylist I’m not back yet but I want my legs really strong before I go back because of the long term. Work will be there I know u have bills but do all the work now don’t Rush so when ur ready to go back u will keep moving ahead and never have to look back!! Good luck with your recovery.

Jay Geary says:

Hi I just turned 64 on September 2 and had a THR of the left hip (osteoarthritis – cartilage ragged out from decades of running and hip intensive activities) on 9/16. I”m 5”10″, 170 lbs. I”m 5 days post-op and in a rehab facility. I”m already able to walk without a walker for about 100 feet, but I do use one when going any farther. Trying to go slow and steady but rehab says they”re going to send me home in possibly 3 days. (someone will be there!) I did a lot of weight lifting and strength conditioning at a well-known gym franchise (despite arthritis pain) before I went under the knife. I think it has made a world of difference in my recovery. I would recommend tag to the extent someone us medically able to build up or maintain peak strength before surgery, do it!

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Jay, thanks for sharing your input.

Cindy Kay says:

I had Left THR on August 25, 2014. The first few weeks were really hard, I had limited range of motion and way more pain then what I was expecting, but in my 5th week of recovery, I think I”m doing well. I haven”t had pain meds for over 2 weeks, doing PT 3 times a week and walking with a cane. I can move around my kitchen pretty easily without any assistance of the cane, but I”m taking the advice of my surgeon and not going to over do it too soon. I want to heal properly and completely and if that takes 6 months, then so be it. I”m only 45 and I have a lot of years left and I want this hip to make it with me, because I do NOT want to do this again!! Going back to work soon too, wish me luck!!

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Cindy, thank you for reaching out. Good luck on your road to recovery! If you wish to receive care at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

Dadez says:

Had simultaneous anterior bilateral THR 8-27-14. Went home next day. Recovered quickly probly due to being very physically active and healthy before surgery. Go slow, do a little more each day, make sure and do range of motion for flexibility and WALK! Do stairs if able, follow prescribed exercises and do them religiously. I am 60, going back to work this week and feel great. Have been walking 1-2 miles/day for last 4 weeks plus active lifestyle. Back to horseback riding next month!

HSS on the Move says:

Hi Dadez, thank you for sharing your recommendations!

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