After hip replacement surgery, your body goes through a lot of stress. The high demand for new blood vessels and nerves in your new hip joint requires your body to increase production of the collagen in your connective tissue. This process can cause your muscles to become inflamed, which is called postoperative neuromuscular pain.
Many people also experience muscle pain or stiffness in the days and weeks after their procedure. This happens to everyone at different times. You may need to keep your hip capsule open longer than expected or you may have a lot of blood in your surgical area, which makes you feel light-headed.
However, some muscle damage is to be expected following surgery, even though it is not ideal. After all, the surgery itself has put great stress on the operated joint. In this article, we discuss the possible symptoms of muscle damage after hip replacement and how you can prevent or manage it.
- Tenderness and pain
The first sign of muscle damage after hip replacement is usually tenderness and pain in the operated muscles. This is to be expected and is often managed by taking an oral painkiller, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). You can also pop a pain reliever or muscle relaxer pill, such as Tylenol or Flexeril.
If these measures do not help, you may experience muscle spasms, cramps or a decrease in your ability to move the operated joint. In this case, you should contact your surgeon as soon as possible to discuss other management options.
- Difficulty moving your hip
The movement of your hip may be limited due to muscle spasms, tenderness, pain or decreased range of motion. This is another common side effect of muscle damage after hip replacement. It can be managed by stretching or massage to the operated leg, as well as taking an anti-inflammatory painkiller. In some cases, you may need to temporarily use a cane or walker while your hip is still painful.
If these measures do not work, you should see your doctor. It is important to rule out other causes of muscle spasms, such as an infection or damaged nerves.
- Swelling and redness of the operated hip
Swelling and redness of the operated hip are also common signs of muscle damage after hip replacement. This usually occurs 2-3 weeks after surgery, and is caused by blood pooling in the tissues of the operated leg. Although uncomfortable, this should subside within a few weeks. If it does not, you should contact your surgeon.
In some cases, the surgeon may have accidentally cut a blood vessel during surgery. This can lead to ischemia (lack of blood flow), which can cause a painful and swollen operated leg.
Your surgeon should be able to tell you if this is the case. If it is, he will most likely recommend wearing a compression stocking during the week following surgery. This will help keep the blood in the operated leg, rather than pooling in the shoe.
- Decreased range of motion
Decreased range of motion is often the result of muscle spasms. This can occur in any joint following trauma, such as a hip replacement. Your surgeon may have to perform a series of stretching exercises to help loosen up your muscles. In some cases, using a foam roller or lacrosse ball can help.
If your range of motion is limited, it is important to maintain your activity levels after surgery. This will help keep your muscles from becoming stiff and painful.
- Decreased strength in your operated hip
Decreased strength in your operated hip is also common and can be caused by a number of factors, including muscle spasms, nerve damage and poor muscle recovery. This can happen months after your surgery and is usually not a cause for concern. Your surgeon can check your strength in the operated hip using a dynamometer (e.g. Mobi or Hoyer), which can help determine the cause of the weakness.
- Muscle weakness in your operated leg
In rare cases, you may experience muscle weakness in both your operated leg and your non-operated leg. This can occur due to several reasons, including nerve damage, poor muscle recovery or poor blood flow in the operated leg. If this is the case, your surgeon may prescribe physical therapy to help strengthen your leg.
Treatments of muscle damage after hip replacement
Your doctor may give you specific instructions to help you avoid muscle damage and keep your muscles strong and ready to go again.
Here are 9 tips to help you prevent and manage muscle damage after hip replacement.
1. Eat a Balanced Diet
It’s important to eat a balanced diet after hip surgery, which will help your body recover and stay strong. Your diet should include a small amount of protein every few hours, along with complex carbohydrates to help stabilise your blood sugar. Include a variety of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and whole grains in your regular diet. Don’t worry about eating specific calories right now – your body will be burning more calories as it heals.
2. Keep to Your Activity Plan
After surgery, it’s normal to feel tired and lethargic. Your doctor will probably recommend that you keep to your normal activity plan while your body heals. Ask your doctor to review your activity plan before your procedure, or bring it with you to your appointment. Make sure to include things like walking or swimming, even if you don’t feel like it. Your doctor may also recommend massage or acupuncture treatments to help with pain and inflammation.
3. Don’t Take Pain Meds Excessively
Many people find that taking pain relievers after hip arthroplasty is necessary. But taking them excessively can lead to a higher risk of side effects and muscle spasms. It’s important to talk to your doctor about how much pain medication is right for you. Ask about alternatives, like pain management therapy, which is becoming more common.
4. Don’t Shift Your Weight Incorrectly
Many people feel embarrassed or self-conscious when they move their new hip, so they hold it too tight or put too much pressure on it. But this can lead to muscle spasms and pain down the road. It’s best to avoid moving your body parts in every direction other than straight up and down, and to keep pressure off your incision whenever possible.
5. Take 20-minute Hip Flexor Exercise
Flexor muscles are in your hips, so it makes sense that they’d be sore after hip replacement. The good news is that they’re also the ones that relax when you sleep, so a simple 20-minute massage can help release the tension. You can do this yourself or hire a physical therapist, who can also give you specific exercises to improve your flexors.
6. Maintain your New Knee Position
Knees are another joint that requires plenty of recovery time after hip replacement. Make sure to keep your new knee position while standing and sitting, and avoid putting heavy pressure on it when you’re sleeping. If you have trouble remembering, put a pillow between your knees when you sleep. Your doctor may also recommend wearing a knee brace when your knee is in the new position.
7. Keep your New Joint Cool
Your new hip joint is super-sensitive to heat, so try to stay away from hot tubs, showers, and heating pads or chairs. When you do start to feel warm, take a cool bath or shower instead, and try to stay out of the sun for the first few weeks. Contact your doctor if you have pain or redness in your new hip after a few weeks.
8. Proper Lubrication of Your Joint
One of the main causes of muscle spasms and irritation after hip replacement is improper lubrication of the joint. Make sure to ask your doctor about a lubricant that can be applied to your incision, as well as your joint itself. You may also want to consider using a strap-on pillow when sleeping.
9. Be Patient and Stay in Touch with Your Surgeon
Rehabilitation after hip replacement takes time. If you’re experiencing pain, numbness, or tingling, contact your surgeon immediately. It may be that your rehabilitation is progressing more slowly than usual, or you may have other complications. Follow your rehabilitation program carefully, and don’t hesitate to call your surgeon if you need an adjustment.
Despite the discomfort and complications associated with muscle damage after hip replacement, it is important to note that it is common and can be prevented. Most of the time, a simple surgical procedure results in minor muscle damage. In other cases, the damage is minimal and can be managed with painkillers or rest.
If muscle damage is experienced, it can be prevented or minimised by keeping the following in mind: Take anti-inflammatory medications as prescribed. Avoid using crutches unless absolutely necessary. If you have to use them, make sure they are arm crutches and not leg crutches. Place your hip in an elevated position while you are resting.
Hip replacement surgery is a serious surgery with many risks. The good news is that after the procedure, many people are able to return to their normal activities without issue. You just need to make sure to follow these 9 tips to help you prevent and manage muscle damage after hip replacement.