After months of pain, you have come to the decision to have your hip replaced. You have chosen a reputable physician and facility, and have also arranged to lay low for a few weeks following the surgery. These decisions, however, represent only a small portion of what having a hip replacement entails.
As a physical therapist, I find that all too often patients are unprepared for the weeks and months following surgery. A hip replacement is a major procedure with many life-changing side effects, so it's important to know ahead of time what you're getting into so you can plan and arrange your life accordingly.
Invariably, the biggest change following surgery is adjusting to your new "hip precautions." Hip precautions are a series of movements and activities you cannot perform because of the high probability of hip dislocation. While there are many different approaches to hip replacement, all warrant "precautions" to prevent additional surgeries and bracing if the hip dislocates.
There are three main precautions that need to be observed following replacement. The first is no bending at the hip and waist beyond 90 degrees. This means that your hip and waistline can never pass a right angle. It means not bending forward to tie your shoes, not picking things up from the floor and being selective about the furniture on which you sit.
The second precaution is not crossing your legs. While this seems comparatively easy to not bending forward, there are many activities that will require caution and forethought to prevent dislocation. For example, when sleeping at night many people lie on their side and let their leg fall over onto the bed. This will press the ball of the hip against the muscles that were cut and increases the risk of dislocation.
The third precaution is turning your toes inwards. Again, while this may seem simple, patients that have a significant lack of strength often walk and climb stairs with their toes turned inwards. It will take weeks of gait training to walk without having to make a conscious effort to keep your feet straight.