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It may seem impossible to imagine walking, let alone exercising, following hip replacement surgery, but getting through the recovery period takes patience and perseverance. Your doctor will want you to take it easy after your hip replacement surgery, and while you learn how your new hip works.

That doesn’t mean you will be advised to lie still in bed.

On the contrary: It’s important to start moving to help prevent blood clots in your legs and to counteract the anesthesia from your surgery. Physical therapists will help you begin to move about, with exercises the day after your operation and then assisted walking during your hospital stay.

Expect to be in the hospital for at least 3 days.

You will be given pain medication intravenously at first, and then it will be replaced by injections and finally pills. Many people worry about becoming addicted to pain medication, but those fears are unfounded.

You will need the pain medication so that you can learn to use your new hip, but you will be able to control the amount of medication you take. Remember — it’s easier to prevent pain before it starts than to try to control it when you’re already experiencing the pain.

When your hospital stay is complete, you may choose to move to a rehabilitation center for additional assistance or go home if you believe you can manage on your own with help from family, friends, or a skilled caregiver.

The American Academy of Surgeons recommends these tips for getting started with recovery:

  • Avoid reaching or bending, by placing frequently used items in one central location.
  • If getting to your bedroom requires the use of stairs, consider making a temporary bed on the main floor.
  • Remove any throw rugs that could get caught under your walker or crutches.
  • Consider borrowing or purchasing a chair that has a firm, higher-than-average seat and arms so you will be able to get up and down easier.
  • Make sure your shower has safety features, such as a chair or grab bar.

Your doctor will give you individual instructions about when you may resume certain activities, based on the amount of weight-bearing recommended for your type of artificial hip. In general, for the first 12 weeks, patients should only sit in chairs with arms and not cross their legs at the knee, to avoid stress on the hip joint.

Of course, these are all recommendations for artificial hips that are functioning as they were intended. Recently, patients worldwide have experienced the early failure of metal-on-metal hip implants.

Most notably, DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, recalled 93,000 ASR metal-on-metal hip implants in August 2010. The devices included were the ASR XL Acetabular System, which is used in total hip replacement surgeries, and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System, a partial hip replacement used to preserve the bone (only used internationally).

These devices release metal fragments into the body, which can lead to metal poisoning and severe tissue damage. These complications have led to thousands of lawsuits filed against DePuy.

Before your surgery, talk to your doctor about which implant she or he plans to use. Together, you can choose a safe option.

Jennifer Mesko is the managing editor of Drugwatch, a consumer advocacy website that brings attention to dangerous drugs and defective medical devices.

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