19 December 2006

Four weeks out

OK, I'm four weeks out and I am beginning to draw conclusions about this surgery that I can share. First of all, the American Acadamy of Orthopedic Surgeons has good information about the surgery itself. But it doesn't really have the patient perspective, or the emotional point of view of someone contemplating the hip replacement.

I was terrified.  I had never had surgery, indeed never had general anaesthesia before, which baffled my surgeon because I have two children. But I had them during the womens' movement in the '70s and Lamaze (husband-coached childbirth) was getting voguish. I had two natural childbirths. And I left the hospital after a day each time.

But there was no reason to be terrified.  It is an easy procedure for the patient, the anaesthesia wears off almost immediately, and if it weren't for the fact that the surgeon carves you up like something out of a bad episode of Nip/Tuck, there wouldn't be pain.  There IS, indeed, pain, but it is under the paitent's control because you are given the morphine pump. That's for the first couple of days, and then you get the cocktails of oxycontin and Percoset or Vicodin.

The pain is from muscles, and how much you have is determined by how badly they cut through muscle to do the surgery.  Some surgeons don't cut through at all, but I had a procedure where they put a larger femoral head in so I could have greater range of motion and do more things in the future, and so I have a bigger incision. The other pain is from the incision as it heals.  Anyone who has had stitches has had this pain.

The pain goes away by the day, and your strength comes back by the day. It's always discernible (or at least every day I could tell I was stronger). Today I went to the gym and got in the pool by myself, and I did my whole workout that I used to do before.

Now, that's because I wasn't afraid of the pain and I left the drugs behind (except for Tylenol) two days after I left the hospital. To me, that made it easier to see where I was at, to resume driving, and to see where I needed therapy (glutes are firing now, and it's time for the abductors).

I attribute my speedy recovery to my preparation.  My advice: don't become a couch potato when your hip starts to hurt.  Find a stationary bike, or a pool. Make sure you do a half hour of something every day that mobilizes the joint.  Go for physical therapy, and learn what muscles help you walk.  Develop them: they won't all be cut. Make sure you have upper body strength so you can walk on the walker and the crutches and get yourself out of bed. And take Pilates or some other core strengthener, again so you can get out of bed.

All this makes the recovery shorter.  You don't want it to be longer.  The physical therapy afterward is tedious and un-fun. And sometimes it hurts. So you want to get through it asap, trust me...


Maxine said...

this is the most important piece of information that i've read about prepping for hip-replacement surgery.
thank you. you've inspired me to get back to my abandoned pilates practice. with two months to go before my surgery, here's hoping i can get back some of my range of motion and core strength.

Francine Hardaway, Ph.D said...

You can! And two months is about the right amount of time. Go back to Pilates, and get in touch with your core and with the alignment of your body, because it will help you understand how to develop the leg that is operated on so it is symmetrical with the other one in muscular strength after the surgery.