My mother has Osteoarthritis in her hips. Several years ago she had a hip replacement. Last year, she had another hip replacement on the other side. When she talked about the recovery from her first hip replacement, it was very difficult for her and took a long time for her to heal. This second one was a very different story. What was different? A bit more information and a little help.

Three years ago, I had the opportunity to start working with a client Debbie, who had a couple hip replacements. Shortly after that, Body Harmonics created a teacher training workshop about hip replacements. I began to learn a lot about hip replacements, the best strategies to do leading up to them what happens during a hip replacement, and how to best recover after having one.

When my mother was scheduled for her second hip replacement, I mentioned it to Debbie. She immediately insisted that I fly down to help her out the first few weeks after the process. Debbie stressed that I help my mother with three key things: assisting with day-to-day tasks, preparing food and making sure she did her exercises. So I flew from Toronto to Saskatoon and followed her advice.

I managed to spend two weeks with my mother following her surgery. Since I was not able to stay longer and she did not have a caregiver available, it was my goal to set things up for her to be as independent as possible by the time I left. Also, I wanted my mother to understand the importance of why she was doing things so that she would continue to recover successfully after I returned home.

Assisting with day to day tasks

When a person has a hip replacement, they are not supposed to flex their hip beyond 90 degrees or adduct it past their midline. This makes activities like bending, sitting in a regular chair, picking something up off the ground, going up and down stairs, getting into and out of bed, washing, driving, turning the spine to look over your shoulder or reach for something very tricky to do. One must find new strategies to do these without flexing the hip beyond 90 degrees or adducting it.

Occupational therapy is fantastic, as it provides training to do these things. However, basic tasks like doing laundry, making food, grocery shopping, etc. can take an extremely long time and can get exhausting. Also, driving is prohibited for the first couple months, to it’s even more challenging to be mobile and independent.

I did a lot of running around to pick up various equipment and apparatus (some of which I didn’t know existed) that would help make my mothers recovery successful and comfortable. These included a raised toilet seat, bench for the shower, a pincher to pick stuff up off the floor, a device to help put socks on, a basic walker, two walkers with wheels – one to use indoors and one to use outdoors, a sliding board for exercises in bed, a coffee can for exercises in bed, sturdy foam cushions for chairs around the house, and a laundry bag to carry her laundry and toss it up and down the stairs, when needed.

Initially I did most daily tasks for her, but within a few days, I had her start to practice them under my supervision. If she had a challenge, I helped her come up with creative solutions that were manageable. That was one of the moments I really appreciated the creativity we develop working at Body Harmonics studios.

Eating well

When it came to making food, I took it a step further. I’ve spent the past seven years learning about better eating choices to help with my own health challenges. One thing I’ve learned is that when a body is inflamed, it does not heal well.

Before going into the hospital, I asked if my mother would follow a diet I set out for her that would help boost her immune system and strength. It would also help her reduce inflammation and help keep things flowing through her bowels. This worked well for my husband when he recovered from a surgery earlier that year, so she agreed.

Her basic ‘rules’ were no wheat/gluten, no dairy, no processed sugar, no meat/animal products raised with the use of antibiotics, no caffeine and nothing out of a box/package. I’d prepare food and bring it to the hospital for her each day. Thankfully there was a fridge in the unit where we were able to store it.

When her hospital meals came, we’d look at what was on the tray and go through her list of what she should eat and what she shouldn’t. Often she’d be left with a banana or prune juice. Then she’d select what she wanted to eat from the selection I brought her that day and ate that. She remained energized, in good spirits and was not constipated (which is a bigger problem in hospital stays than you’d think). Yippee!

At home, she would watch me prepare meals and we’d find recipes she liked and could follow. There are a lot of great simple basics in Andrea Palen’s Diet Overhaul which I extrapolated from. Her diet included smoothies, a big salad each day, lots of veggies, some rice, sweet potatoes, a variety of protein sources and fresh fruit.

There was one day about a week after her surgery when we went to visit my brother. He had pizza there and my mother had a piece. The next day she woke up and her entire body hurt. She could barely get out of bed. She almost went for painkillers, but opted for water instead. By noon the pain had settled and she was able to make the association between the pain and the pizza she ate. It was back to healthy food for her!

I was sooooo proud my mother maintained her healthy diet after I left and continues to use it as a basis for her food choices to this day.

Doing exercises

Exercises are absolutely essential for successful hip replacement recovery. In the hospital, physiotherapists came to teach exercises within a day or two of surgery. After that, a physiotherapist came to the house to see my mother at home once per week. The exercises prescribed were pre-set for different stages of recovery. Many of them resemble exercises we include in our Mat Work Foundations program at Body Harmonics.

What’s most important is that exercises are done carefully and daily. My client Debbie actually spoke with my mother on the phone prior to her surgery and stressed the importance of “doing your exercises”. So even when she didn’t feel like it, my mother did her exercises three times each day. She also went for at least 1-2 walks/day. They got longer and further as she progressed in her recovery, but she went out regularly and stuck to it.

Stick with the plan and good things will happen

Both in and out of the hospital, my mother made excellent progress with her recovery. She said it was a much more positive and empowering experience than her first time around. I suspect this was partially because I came to help care for her, encourage and motivate her along the way. Everyone needs a cheerleader when they undergo difficult times.

I am so proud of my mother for being committed and diligent to her recovery process. It was a huge leap for her to transform the way she ate and looked at food, be consistent with exercise and keep focusing on how much better she was getting each and every day. Not every day was easy, but she stuck with her plan and stayed in excellent spirits.

I am so grateful and thankful to my client Debbie for encouraging me to support my mother throughout her hip replacement process. Her advice was excellent and helped prepare both my mother and I for what to expect.

I hope this article helps you, your clients or your loved ones should a hip replacement be required.

If you have any other advice, recommendations or stories you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments section below.