By Patricia Walter
Surgery experiences and recovery rates will be different for each person having a hip replacement. Many of us were very fortunate to have good experiences in the hospital and have fairly quick recoveries. I guess we are the Rabbits.
There are people that have experienced very difficult recoveries and their return to a normal life has been very slow. I guess they are the Turtles.
Some are lucky and have an average recovery which puts them right in the middle of the Rabbits and Turtles – don’t really know what to call them but Average Joes.
There is really no way to predict what your surgery experience will be and what your rate of recovery will be. I do think that people who are younger and in very good physical shape often tend to recover faster, but that is not always the case. There was a person that ran a Full Marathon three months after their surgery and other people that have taken a year to completely recover to a normal life. It is important to understand that you may experience any one of these rates of recovery.
I personally think that your mental outlook and expectations also affect your recovery. I just knew in my heart, after reading all about the other De Smet Hippies, that I would have an easy surgery and a quick recovery even though I was 61 years old and not in good physical shape. I did indeed have a quick recovery being on one crutch in four days and no crutch at four months. People don’t often believe our stories when we tell them, but there are many of us with that type of easy recovery. For some reason I was not fearful of the surgery, maybe because I had never had any surgery in my life before the hip resurfacing. So mental outlook really does have an effect on your recovery.
I also know that having a very bad hip problem before surgery can affect your recovery process. Some people have had a short leg all of their lives and others had problems with the way their hips were not quite in the same position as other people’s. If your surgeon adds an inch to your leg, then your muscles have a long and tough job ahead of them to adjust to the new length. If a person has limped or walked in an odd way much of their lives, all of the muscles have to learn how to stretch and work when the limp is gone. I think that many of the longer recoveries are due to muscle problems and a person’s body trying to get use to a more normal gait and walking action. The new hip itself is ready to be pain free and working properly, but the muscles around the hip and leg have a lot of rehab ahead of them to adjust to a normal walking style.
Some people have required extensive Physical Therapy to get their muscles back to working normally without pain. Some people have not even taken any formal Physical Therapy and just started to lead as normal of a life as their new hip would allow. It seems that people taking PT and people not taking PT all end up in about the same place after one year. Again, if you have a physical problem before surgery, then I would think PT would be important to teach your body and muscles how to work. But if you did not have a large physical problem before surgery and only had a painful hip, you might not even need a lot of Physical Therapy. Each doctor has their own protocol for PT. Most people have very stiff muscles after surgery and find the stretches and even water therapy do help. Other people are able to just walk and eventually end up feeling normal after some time. The muscles have gone thru a lot during surgery and take time to heal and get back into shape. Some people just have more problems getting those muscles back to operating normally. There does not seem to be any way to predict a person’s recovery.
Many people recover at different rates because their bodies react differently to major surgery. THR is definitely major surgery and your return to a normal physically active life will take some time. The anesthesia and trauma to your body causes exhaustion. Some people also have reactions such as itching, nausea, headaches and a very small number even have blood clot problems. Problems sleeping thru the night are most common. Many people also take naps during the day. Our soft recliner, lounge chairs often become our best friends after surgery. Patience is your best friend.
Family and friends often don’t understand why our recoveries are so slow and difficult. Sometimes it is hard for other people to understand. If you have questions be sure to ask your doctor. A short phone call can help you solve a problem and put your mind at ease.
So the best suggestion I can offer is to read the hip stories and to understand the Rabbits, the Turtles and the Average Joes. We all hope to be Rabbits, but unfortunately, there are many more Average Joes and even some Turtles. What really counts is that you have a new hip or hips and are going to be out of pain as your body heals. Your immediate internal hip pain will be gone when you wake from surgery, but your muscles still have a long recovery process ahead of them.