Managing pain after surgery
You can expect to have pain after surgery, even if you’re taking medicine for pain. It’s important that your pain is managed so you can stand, walk, and start physical therapy.
Let your healthcare team know when you feel pain.
There are many ways to manage your pain and swelling, including:
- using ice
- keeping your leg raised
- taking pain medicine
Let someone know if you need ice to put on your hip or pillows to keep your leg raised.
To lessen your pain during physical therapy, take your pain medicine 30 to 45 minutes before your session, so it has time to work.
Talk to your healthcare team about what works best to manage your pain. And let them know if your pain medicine doesn’t manage your pain or causes side effects.
Don’t wait until the pain is bad before you talk to your healthcare team.
Ask your surgeon when you can start taking any of the medicines you took before surgery (including herbal medicines and supplements).
Rest and activity
You need both rest and activity to recover. You’ll tire easily the first few weeks after surgery. You may find that your sleep patterns also change. Paying attention to how you feel will help you know what you can and can’t do.
Stop what you’re doing and rest when you begin to feel tired. It’s better to do shorter activities (like walking) more often, rather than doing one long activity.
Remember to do your foot and ankle exercises every hour.
Your leg will swell as you get more active after surgery. It’s normal for your hip to be warm and swollen for many weeks after surgery.
- To control the swelling, don’t sit for more than 30 minutes at a time.
- Lie on your back. Put your leg that had surgery on pillows so that your foot is above the level of your heart.
- Keep your leg as straight as you can. Make sure the pillow isn’t under the back of your knee.
- Put your leg up this way 3 to 4 times a day, for 45 minutes each time.
- Put a cold pack on warm or swollen areas after you’re done your exercises.
- Use crushed ice in a bag, an instant cold pack, or a bag of frozen peas or corn. Make sure to put a thin towel between your skin and the cold pack to protect your skin.
Don't leave the cold pack in one place for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Your healthcare team will help you move from your bed to a chair. They’ll also help you stand and walk within 4 hours of your surgery. You’ll be able to do more activity every day. You’ll also begin a program to make your hip stronger and help you gain more flexibility and range of movement.
- You’ll likely be allowed to put as much weight on the leg that had surgery as you can handle. Your healthcare team will let you know if you need to limit the amount of weight you can put on your leg.
- Your physical therapist will teach you how to use a walker or crutches and show you the exercises you need to do. Use your walker until your surgeon or physical therapist says you can stop. Most people need to use one of these walking aids for the first 6 weeks after surgery.
- Your healthcare team will check how well you can do the exercises on your own and move around. They’ll also check that you have the skills you need to manage at home. Your healthcare team uses this information to plan your leave from the hospital and what community services you may need at home.
- Your healthcare team will tell you if you need physical therapy after you leave the hospital. This depends on how well you’re recovering. Even if you don’t have physical therapy once you’re at home, it’s still important to keep walking and doing your exercises.
Your healthcare team will send a report to your family doctor about your surgery and recovery.
Be sure to tell your dentist or other healthcare providers that you’ve had hip replacement surgery. You may need to take antibiotics to lower your risk of an infection before you have dental or other medical work.
If you have questions or concerns related to your hip surgery, call your case manager.
For more information about managing pain and what to expect after surgery, go to After your surgery.