People who undergo a hip replacement surgery often have problems with post-operative pain. For many, pain management is a matter of managing your expectations. Surgery on a hip requires a significant period of rest in order for the body to fully recover and regain strength. Post-operative pain after hip replacement is shorter for a hip replacement than for a knee replacement surgery.
In the first week of recovery, the patient should rest often and be active only in short spurts. The more rest the body gets during this crucial time, the better for your recovery. Usually, after 10 days, hip joint pain has gone away and soft tissue pain lessens. Some people may use a cane for up to 4 weeks post-surgery. After 4-6 weeks, most patients can return to usual activities without pain.
Ice is used to provide pain relief and reduce swelling. For hip replacement patients, use gel packs and keep them in the freezer. During recovery, you will need to change these packs frequently. Remember that gel packs can burn the skin, so wrap them in a soft, thin cloth. Also, elevate your leg and rest during icing.
Patients are typically sent home with strong narcotic analgesics at first. The orthopedic surgeon will have you scheduled for a follow-up to remove staples/sutures and refill pain medicines as needed. Take the medication as needed, and follow post-operative instructions. If the medication is not effective for your pain, talk with your doctor about increasing the dosage or changing your medication.
Elevating your legs will help reduce pain and swelling. Put your feet higher than your hips to offset some of the physical discomfort in the legs. In bed, prop your legs up on pillows at the end of the bed. Regularly elevating the legs several times each day, along with icing and medication, will help manage post-operative pain.
Regional Pain Medication
Regional anesthesia is associated with fewer complications than general anesthesia. The regional method avoids central nervous depression, and has a different spectrum of effects on the heart and lungs. Regional anesthesia provides excellent pain relief, allows for painless weight-bearing and range of motion exercises, and enhances overall patient satisfaction.
Epidural analgesia can consist of an opioid, an anesthetic, or a combination of both. This method of administering pain medication allows the patient to have a continuous low-dose infusion that is effective for controlling post-operative pain. The continuous infusion allows the analgesia to be more precisely titrated to a level of pain stimulus, and to rapidly terminate should problems occur.
Oral and Injectable Agents
After a total hip replacement, some medications used include:
- Oral or IV Toradol
- Oral anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen)
- COX-2 inhibitors – Mobic Celebrex
- Oral and IV opioids (oxycodone, morphine)
Patients are mobilized out of bed on the day after surgery. The patient works with a physical therapist to learn how to get up and down from bed, how to use the walking device (walker, crutches, or cane), and performs exercises for strengthening and flexibility. The therapist teaches thee patient how to avoid pain with the new hip, and what activities to avoid.
Maheshwari AV, Blum YC, Shekhar L, et al. (2009). Multimodal Pain Management after Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty at the Ranawat Orthopaedic Center. Clin Orthop Relat Res, 467(6), 1418-1423.