I last played tennis in a charity tennis tournament on the Sunday before my hip operation (Friday 16th October 2015). I had to take painkillers before, during and after the match to make my hip pain bearable and I limped around the court very elegantly! I told everyone I’d be back on court in the new year (I don’t think anyone believed me) and exactly 12 weeks from the date of my operation, I was back on court. ….. pain free!
I thought I would be nervous running around on my new hip but the all of the hard work in the gym strengthening my hip and bottom muscles and the tennis based exercises with my physio meant that I felt really confident.
I started by playing indoors and didn’t go for any difficult balls as I didn’t want to overdo things. Although I felt fine and could have played for longer (it was fantastic being able to run around again) I only played for 30 minutes to make sure there were no problems later. Although I had no aches or pains, I did notice some more bruising around the scar and on my bottom but this went away after a couple of days.
A couple of weeks of gentle tennis later I was ready for my first proper game of doubles. It was great to be playing again and although my tennis hadn’t improved I could run for balls without the excruciating pain I used to feel before my operation.
Charity Tennis Tournament October 2015 (I’m in pink).
It’s been over a month since I last updated my blog. So here’s what’s been happening.
Back to work
I returned to work at the beginning of December, 6 weeks after my hip operation. I felt strangely vulnerable going back into the office after such a long time at home with nothing to worry about apart from my recovery. Everyone asked how I was but because I looked fine and was walking normally they quickly assumed that I was completely recovered and made no allowance for the fact that I had just had major surgery. I initially went back mornings only as recommended by my GP. I felt fine and thought that I would be back working full time really quickly but I was actually really glad to be able to go home at lunch time for the first couple of weeks . Driving 20 miles to work, walking to meetings, sitting on lots of different chairs (high and low, hard and soft) as well as actually doing some work was much more challenging than I had anticipated!. I gradually increased my hours so that a by Christmas I was full time again and now it feels like I’ve never been away.
Sitting on a rock
When I sit on lower or softer chairs, sit in the car or just sit for long periods of time, it feels as if I am sitting on a small rock – not particularly painful but very uncomfortable. I have to use a cushion in the car but even then, a long journey would be a challenge. I asked my physio about “my rock” and he explained that I was simply feeling my hip bone (or ceramic in my case) as the muscles in my hip and bottom have still not fully recovered from the surgery. Unfortunately for me, the cure for my “rock bottom” isn’t to eat lots of chocolate to get some more padding in the bottom area! I need to do even more exercises to really work the muscles in my bottom – more squats, shoulder bridges, swimming (legs only using a float) and lots of walking. I also spoke to my pilates instructor who showed me lots of exercises to strengthen the muscles in my hip and bottom. Now my rock feels more like a pebble!
Still sleeping like a baby
I thought that once I had reached the 6 week mark and could sleep on either my “good” or my operated side, I would be able to sleep properly again …… but I was wrong. I still wake up every 2 – 3 hours throughout the night and then struggle to get comfortable and go back to sleep. To sleep on my “good” side and stop my operated hip from falling forward, I need to sleep with a pillow between my legs and this makes getting comfortable and turning over difficult. If I try to sleep on my operated side, the “rock” in my hip digs into the mattress and keeps me awake. I’m getting quite used to having disturbed sleep but I am really looking forward to getting a full night sleep again.
I started writing this blog to help me through getting my new right hip. I have been amazed by how many people have read it and all of the positive comments – thank you.
It’s now 11 weeks since my operation an my recovery has be amazing – I’m really looking forward to a pain free 2016.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.
Click here to see the complete report.
Exactly 7 weeks after my operation I managed to run for 15 minutes at between 13 and 15 KM PH without any pain or discomfort from my right hip. Although this sounds like madness, I did have the benefit of running on an “anti-gravity” treadmill that allows you to run but only bearing a fraction of your body weight.
When my physio told me he could make me 50% lighter I was intrigued to find out how (and wondered why he wasn’t a millionaire!). Basically you first have to squeeze into some neoprene shorts which have a kind of skirt at the top with a zip around the outside. You then stand on the treadmill and are zipped into a sort of bag. Next an airbag inflates around your waist until you are lifted off your feet and weighted by the machine. You then select was percentage of your bodyweight you want and start to run. I ran at 50% of my bodyweight which made running so much easier! Next time I go I should be able to try 75% to make sure my new hip is OK before running normally.
I joined a pilates class before my hip replacement surgery in an attempt to reduce my hip pain. I was concerned that I would struggle with the exercises and that everyone else in the class would be super supple. I need not have worried as there were lots of people who had joined the class to alleviate back pain or to deal with sporting injuries. I really enjoyed the class and found that even with an arthritic right hip I could manage most of the exercises – even the ones that worked the hip joint. And the best thing was that by strengthening my core muscles, the pain from my hip definitely reduced.
I continued pilates classes twice a week for the 9 months preceding my operation which not only kept my pain levels manageable but also ensured that I was fit before my operation.
When I first saw my surgeon he said he often recommends Pilates to hip patients and that I would be able to get back to the class after surgery – he was careful not to give me a timescale though!
At 7 weeks post op, my physio said I would be ok to go back to pilates as long as I avoided any exercises where my right leg crosses the midline or where my right knee goes into my chest (more than 90°).
So last Wednesday I was back in Nicky’s pilates class a bit worried about how my new hip would cope. Nicky gave me a hug and reassured me that she would tell me which exercises to avoid. I managed about 80 percent of the exercises which was significantly better than I had expected and apart from some discomfort when I had to lie on my operated side, my hip was absolutely fine. The same can’t be said for my tummy muscles which were complaining after an hour of core muscle work!
In deference to my new hip I have been wearing flat boots and trainers for the last 6 weeks. This week I went out for dinner with some work colleagues and wore heels! Steve suggested that I should go out in trainers (with a dress!) but heels (and high ones at that) won the argument. I’m pleased to report that I walked fine and felt no pain or discomfort from my new hip.
I went back to work this week. I’m glad my GP suggested that I work half days for the first 2 weeks as this has meant that I have been able to work in the mornings then go to the gym in the afternoons. I’m still cycling (up to 10k now), walking on a 5 – 7% incline on the treadmill for 30 minutes and doing the strengthening exercises. I’ve also been swimming to try to build up my leg muscles. I hold onto a float and kick my legs which is much harder than it sounds. To start with I was kicking madly and moving really slowly but luckily one of the swimming instructors took pity on me and showed me how to hold the float properly and advised me to put a “woggle” under my hips to help align my body. I’m now getting from one end of the pool to the other much more quickly – although I am still being overtaken by swimmers in the slow lane!
I’m not getting any pain in my hip despite working, driving and exercising although by the end of the day it feels like there is a rock under my bottom when I sit on the sofa (not painful but very uncomfortable). I can only assume it’s something to do with the muscles healing. I’m not due to see the consultant until January 2016 (3 months after the op) so will ask the physio if this is normal.
Sleeping is still difficult – if I lie on my operated side it hurts (that rock again) and if I try the “good” side with a pillow between my legs I just can’t get comfortable. I’m getting better at sleeping on my back although I still wake up 3 or 4 times a night. I don’t feel tired though so I must be getting enough sleep.
It’s 6 weeks since I went into The Spire Hospital, Bristol, to have my new right hip. Although I can’t jump for joy or go out dancing to celebrate, there are lots of things I can now do:-
- Drive – being able drive on my own was a great feeling. I had to sit on a cushion as the seats in my car are low so my driving position felt a bit strange. My hip felt OK although after 30 minutes in one position I was relieved to be able to get out of the car and move around.
- Stop wearing my compression (TED) socks – I have found out from other “hippies” that many surgeons don’t insist that they wear these stockings for 6 weeks, but mine did. Despite them being tight and a nightmare to put on, I became strangely attached to wearing them!
- Tie my shoelaces – I have been walking in trainers and if Steve wasn’t around to tie my right shoelace then I couldn’t go out which was frustrating. Now that I’ve reached the magic 6 weeks, I can tie my laces and zip up my boots without help although doing this without bending my knee past 90 degrees is quite challenging
- Put on my socks and tights on – after 6 weeks of practise, Steve has become quit adept at helping me to put my tights on but it’s so nice to be able to dress myself again.
- Sleep on my operated side – although I can now lie on my operated side, I’ve tried it and it’s really uncomfortable. I’ve tried lying on a pillow and putting a pillow between my legs but so far it hurts too much to sleep. I’m going to keep trying as I still haven’t got used to sleeping on my back. I still only manage about 2 hours sleep at a time so to be able to lie on my side and sleep for 7 hours in a row would be amazing.
- Sit on the sofa – one of the things I found most difficult throughout my recuperation was sitting on a high chair to relax and watch tv. I borrowed a padded dining chair from my parents that my family nicknamed “the throne” as I sat in the corner and looked down on everyone!
- Stop using a raised toilet seat – the hospital provided me with raised seats for the toilets to ensure that my hips were always above my knees. They were perfect from me but my family were less impressed!
- Go back to work – I started doing some admin work from home two weeks after my surgery so going back to work tomorrow won’t be a complete shock. On the advice of my GP I’m going to work half days for the first few weeks.
So far my recovery from hip surgery has been amazing but there is still a long way to go before I can start doing all of the things I could do before my operation (albeit with lots of pain and a limp!). My scar is healing well but I still get bruising around the incision and some days I feel discomfort in my hip which I can only think is as a result of my muscles healing. I am doing my exercises every day plus walking, cycling and swimming. I can feel the muscles in my thigh and bottom slowly starting to work again and I am gradually starting to feel fitter.
I have my follow up appointment and x-ray with my consultant, Mr Steve Eastaugh-Waring, on 18th January 2016. I am hoping that he will be impressed by my progress and that he will give me the okay to run, play tennis and go to pilates again.
I have surprised myself (and my family!) with my patience during the first 5 weeks of my recovery from hip surgery. Now that I am nearing the end of my 6 weeks off work, however, I am definitely getting impatient – I just want to be back to normal. When I started this journey, I naively thought that after 6 weeks I would be able to do more than I could do before surgery so it has been difficult to accept that whist my recovery has been amazing there is still a long way to go before I will be able to run and play tennis again.
This week I have been really focusing on my fitness. My physio session was really tough and showed me just how weak my muscles are so I’m determined to get them stronger before my next session in 2 weeks time. As well as walking every day, I can now cycle and walk on the treadmill in the gym. The physio advised me to walk briskly with the treadmill set to a 3% or 4% incline as this would work the muscles in my bottom. It’s hard work and so far I can manage to walk “uphill” for between 15 and 20 minutes. I follow this by cycling 3K as quickly as I can with the bike set on a resistance of between 4 and 5.
After my walking and cycling, my legs are like jelly and then I need to do my other exercises to strengthen the muscles in my hip – the exercises are:-
- walking sideways with an elastic resistance band tied around my ankles
- Standing on my operated leg (knee slightly bent) holding a 4K medicine ball at arm’s length then moving the ball from one side of my body to the other (180º) tensing the muscles in my bottom and hip to stop me falling over – repeat x 12. Sounds easy but it’s not!
- Stepping onto a step with my operated leg, bringing the “good leg” up to my chest then touching this leg back on the ground whilst supporting all of my weight on the operated leg. Repeat x 12
- Lying on my back on the floor (it’s quite a manoeuvre to get to the floor without breaching the hip restrictions), arms across my chest and legs on a large Swiss ball; lift up into a shoulder bridge straightening my legs on the ball then back to the floor. All this without falling off the ball. Repeat x 12
- On hands and knees, with back flat, extend one leg out straight behind and extend the opposite arm straight in front. Hold for a count of 3 then swap sides. Repeat x 12
- Squats to 90º, squeezing my glutes as I stand back up – this is the exercise I find the hardest as I am scared I’ll fall backwards. My solution is to put a bench behind me so that if I go to far, I sit down!
When I get to the 6 week since my surgery I will be allowed to bend down, lie on my operated side, stop wearing my compression socks, sit on the sofa and best of all I will be able to drive again – only 3 days to go……..
Last Friday the physio gave me the all clear to get back into the gym so this week I have found out just how unfit I am after 4 weeks spent recuperating from my operation.
I didn’t really know how much exercise is the right amount so thought I would start gently, listen to my body and just see how I got on.
Swimming – I decided to start my week of activity by swimming but as I can only swim breaststroke and breaststroke legs are banned for me (I must ask how long for) I decided to hold a float and do some lengths just kicking my legs. Easy I thought, but I was very wrong! After 1 length my legs felt like jelly – propelling myself through the water is not as easy as I imagined! The first day I only managed 2 lengths before I flopped into the jacuzzi! Two days later and my legs felt much stronger but still I was exhausted after only 4 lengths. By Thursday I had progressed to 5 lengths and I felt a little less exhausted.
Cycling – the physio cautioned me to make sure that I keep my knees below my hips when cycling on a stationary bike in the gym so I adjusted the saddle so that I could only just reach the pedals. I started with very little resistance (level 2) and cycled for 5 minutes. Feeling confident I increased the resistance (level 5) and cycled for another 10 minutes covering 5k which I was quite impressed with. My legs felt very wobbly when I got off but my hip felt absolutely fine and the next day I felt no ill effects.
Walking – every day this week have have done a 2 mile walk from home to the River Severn and back. Usually the views are lovely but this week I have walked in torrential rain and gale force winds. Luckily I no longer need to use a stick as walking with an umbrella and a stick would be a challenge. When the rain stops the view is lovely..
Four weeks ago today I was on the operating table having my right hip replaced! That nerve-racking day seems like a lifetime away and if I had known then what I know now I wouldn’t have been nervous at all.
Today I feel like the end is finally in sight. I went to my physiotherapy session and the physio, Stu, said I’m making excellent progress and am way ahead of what he would expect of someone who had a hip replacement only 4 weeks ago. Once he had checked my range of movement and muscle strength by getting me to push against him with my operated leg, it was straight into the gym and I soon realised just how unfit I have become after 4 weeks of little exercise apart from walking.
He started by getting me to walk up and down so that he could analyse my gait. The great news is that I no longer walk with a limp. My right knee still tends to go inwards when I’m walking but he says that’s due to the muscles that were cut during surgery not yet being strong enough, coupled with my muscles having learned to adapt to avoid the pain in my hip before surgery.
Next Stu got me doing exercises to strengthen the muscles in my legs and bottom:-
- Squats until my bottom was level with my knees (hands across my chest)
- Stepping onto a step with my un-operated leg then lifting the knee on my operated leg to 90 degrees then lowering it and straightening it to the floor without putting all my weight to the floor.
- To test my balance, I then had to throw a 1 kilo ball against a mini trampoline and catch it whilst standing on one leg – Stu almost regretted giving me this exercise when on my first attempt I hit the edge of the trampoline ricocheting the ball across the gym – luckily there were no other patients in the gym!
- Next, Stu tied a resistance band around both of my legs and I had to side step the length of the gym keeping the band taught.
- Still with the band tied around my legs I then had to step out and back with one leg then bring the other leg to join it whilst maintaining tension in the band and then repeat with the opposite leg for the length of the gym. I looked like a failed dancer from Strictly Come Dancing!!
I was exhausted after this session but in absolutely no pain and it was fantastic to see what great progress I have made in 4 weeks.
I now have the OK to get back into the gym. I can cycle on a static bike (taking care that the saddle is high enough so that my knees don’t go above my hips), use the cross trainer and walk on the treadmill. I can also swim as my scar has now healed – no breast stroke legs though! I’ve never been so excited about going to the gym!
I thought I knew as much as I could about having hip replacement surgery before I went in for my op, but how wrong I was! Here are some of the things I wish I’d known before the operation:-
- Getting into a car to go home from hospital is really difficult – getting into the passenger seat of a car (right hand drive) when your operated leg is the right one is really challenging. You need to keep your operated leg straight and not twist or lean whilst you are feeling sore, tired and vulnerable. I would have practised this manoeuvre whilst “able bodied” as once you get the knack it’s OK.
- You have to sit on a “high” chair (keeping your knees lower than your hips) for 6 weeks – I thought I would be fine on a kitchen chair but it was so uncomfortable that we had to borrow some padded chairs the day I came out of hospital. I should have been more prepared!
- You have to sleep on your back for 6 weeks – I should have practiced before I had the op as it took 2 weeks to sort out how to get even slightly comfortable! I started almost sitting up and managed about 10 minutes sleep at a time! My tip is don’t have too many pillows for your head (I use 2 thinnish ones), then have a thin pillow to rest your feet on (to stop painful heels) and a feather one to put between your legs.
- You need more books, films and tv programmes to watch than you think – I wish I had recorded more tv and films to watch as you have so much time when you first come out of hospital.
- Your operated leg will bruise and swell up – when your leg goes black from your hip to your ankle and swells to twice it’s normal size, it’s quite worrying! When this happened to me I frantically searched the internet to find out if it’s normal and it is! I also found out that you need to walk and do your exercises regularly but then elevate the operated leg above the heart and put ice on the hip as often as you can. After 2 weeks most of the swelling and bruising had gone down which was a huge relief.
- You need help putting compression socks onto the operated leg – my husband, Steve, is now a sock putting on expert but the first few days were very difficult – my leg was sore, swollen and bruised and any tug or twist was very uncomfortable. I have to keep my socks on for 6 weeks so it would also have been useful to know that you need to moisturise your legs otherwise the skin gets really dry and itchy.
- You can’t wear any clothes that are tight over your operated hip – I was fine when I was in hospital and first at home as pyjamas and track suit bottoms were comfortable. The first time I wanted to leave the house, however, my jeans or trousers were too uncomfortable to wear. After trying lots of options I found that tights and a skirt were the best (although Steve has to put my tights on!)
- You can’t get anything out of kitchen cupboards below the work surface – after a few weeks I felt quite well and thought I would cook. I couldn’t get to any of the dishes, plates and pans that were in low cupboards, neither could I put anything into or taken anything out of the oven – the “helping hand” is useful but not strong enough for heavy items. We have had to reorganise the kitchen so that I can get to things – something I could have easily done before the operation.
- Talking to other people who’ve had hip replacements really helps – I wish I had joined Facebook groups and other hip forums before I had my operation as the advice and support from others is invaluable. I found a forum “bonesmart” and joined a closed group on Facebook called “Hip Replacement” both of which were full of good advice and reassurance.
- You won’t be able to work for at least 6 weeks – I asked my surgeon how long I would need to be off work and he said it depends on the patient but about 6 weeks. I naively thought I would recover quickly and would be back in the office within a month but after the operation the surgeon said I needed to give my hip time to heal properly and that going back to work too soon could jeopardise my recovery – so I’m off for 6 weeks.
From my research not all surgeons use the same methods for hip replacement and some don’t insist on 6 weeks of precaution – mine did and I trust him!!