5 top tips for a better recovery from hip surgery

Mr Hugh Apthorp | November 15, 2022 | Video

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Mr Hugh Apthorp, London's highest volume hip replacement surgeon, shares 5 do’s and don’ts for recovering well after a hip replacement.

What advice is crucial in the early stages of hip replacement recovery?

Hugh: In your post-operative recovery (stage) I’d like to offer five bits of advice.

One. The first is in relation to the exercises you'll be shown. Just do the exercises you're shown and the amount you're shown. Doing twice the amount of exercises that you’ve been given will not make you better twice as quickly, in fact, quite often, it’ll slow you down.

Two. The next thing patients often make a mistake with is trying to give up all their painkillers. So the common thing is, they've got themselves nice and comfortable, they’re walking really well and then they think ‘I’ll stop my painkillers now’. Then they wake up the next day and they can’t get out of bed. And the reason is that it’s very helpful to have some low-grade pain killers in the background. It just needs paracetamol - something like that - to just take the edge off things, allowing you to do the exercises which allows you to progress more quickly. So don’t give up your pain killers too quickly, and certainly don’t give them up in one go.

Three. The next one is not overcommitting what you want to do after your surgery. What people often do, before an operation, is have an incredibly optimistic view about how they’re going to progress and what they’re going to be able to do, particularly in relation to work. Give yourself some time. Tell people it's going to take longer than it really will - and then what you can do is introduce things on your own terms, so you can achieve them easily. So, please don’t tell work you’re going to back at two weeks, give them a longer expectation and then go back to work on your own terms because you'll find it much less stressful.

Four. The next thing is in relation to your crutches. I will show you that you’ll be able to walk without crutches before you leave hospital. Please use your crutches though, to help you rehabilitate your muscles without over-stretching them, and without over-stressing them. Patients who give up their crutches too quickly, often progress more slowly, so please don’t regard your crutches as a sign of failure. They’re just a sign of helping you progress with the best outcome, because we’re trying to teach you to walk normally again. At some point, you’ll forget your crutches and you’ll know it’s time to give them up. But please don't regard them as a sign of failure, they are there to help you.

Five. The other bit of advice I always give patients, is to try and have a bit of a rest during the day. Because what’ll happen is, after you're surgery you’re going to feel quite tired to start with. So, you need to factor in a rest. It’s not a bad thing to feel tired, it’s part of the rehabilitation process. So, in the afternoons, factor in a bit of time to relax, have a rest and put your feet up. If you try and work through the whole day without resting, by the end of the day, you’ll be going backwards, not forwards. So, to enjoy your recovery, build in some rest. And if you follow these five simple things, most people will recover with very little difficulty.

Mr Hugh Apthorp, is a specialist hip replacement surgeon with a private practice at London Bridge Hospital. He pioneered the rapid recovery programme for the NHS in the early 2000s leading to fewer complications after hip surgery.

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