When Can You Walk After a Hip Replacement?

If you’re one of the thousands of people who will have hip replacement surgery this year, you’re likely wondering how soon you can start walking again after surgery.

When Can You Walk After a Hip Replacement?

After a major surgery such as a hip replacement, many people assume you need to rest and let the hip heal. However, this is not the case with a hip replacement. For the best outcomes, you need to be up and moving as soon as possible and as often as your hip feels it can.

In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about walking after hip replacement surgery. We’ll discuss how soon after surgery you can walk, how long you should use a walker or crutches, and when you can transition to a cane. We’ll also give Helpful tips for walking upstairs and what to avoid in the weeks following your surgery.

How Soon After Surgery Can You Walk?

You will start walking almost immediately after surgery and once the general anesthesia wears off. This is typically the same day of surgery or the next day, depending on what time of day your surgery is scheduled.

These initial first few walks are short within the hospital, but you’ll be surprised at how good it feels. You may walk from the hospital bed the first time and then shoot for walking into the hallway the next time.

The hip will be sore from the surgery itself, but the severe deep bone pain should no longer be present, a welcome relief for most people.

Your doctor will also advise that you take very short walks (around your house) within 24 – 48 hours of surgery to help get your hip moving and reduce stiffness. As long as walking does not cause pain, you should continue to walk as often as you can.

As a rule of thumb, you don’t want to sit for longer than 45 minutes at a time unless you are sleeping or eating. Set a timer, get up, and walk, even if it is doing laps around the house.

Does It Hurt to Walk After a Hip Replacement?

At first, walking after hip replacement surgery may be uncomfortable, and you may experience some pain, but it is a different pain than most people experience before surgery. It is typically not the deep and constant pain that was present with arthritis; there is a noticeable improvement each day. A welcome relief for people who have been suffering from hip pain for a prolonged period of time.

Initially, you might be surprised at how little pain there is with walking, but don’t be fooled yet. The nerve block may still be present and hasn’t worn off yet.

You will require the help of a walker to help take pressure off your new hip and to ensure that the leg doesn’t buckle out from underneath you in the early phases of recovery.

To help manage any discomfort, take frequent breaks and walk for short periods of time until your hip gets stronger. You can also use ice, heat, compression garments, light massage, and topical pain cream to help manage the pain from surgery.

The first 2 weeks after a hip replacement can be challenging because you are unsure of what to expect.

Your doctor will also likely recommend taking an over-the-counter pain reliever to help ease any discomfort. You’ll also likely be prescribed powerful narcotic pain medication; however, most people wean off of narcotic pain medication within a few days of surgery.

Of all the joint replacements, a hip replacement tends to be the least painful and limiting compared to a knee or shoulder.

Helpful Tips for Walking After a Hip Replacement

When you start walking in the hospital or surgical center after your hip replacement, someone should go over and review how to walk with a walker. However, if that doesn’t happen, it’s not a big deal.

When using the walker, remember to try and stay inside the walker when moving forward. A lot of people push the walker too far in front of them.

Secondly, the walker should move forward at the same time as the surgical leg. That way, when you go to put weight into the hip replacement side, you can use your arms to take pressure off the leg in the mid-stance of your gait cycle.

Be sure that you stay upright and tall and don’t hunch over. It’s easy to bend forward to take the stretch off the hip.

Finally, it’s really important to get a full hip extension when walking. This means that when you take a step with the non-surgical leg, ensure it is a normal step length so the front of the hip replacement gets a good stretch.

Walking with a walker

Here are a few extra tips to keep in mind while walking with hip replacement:

  • Take short, frequent walks throughout the day. This will help you build up your hip strength and reduce stiffness.
  • Wear shoes that support your feet and provide cushioning for your hip. You may want to look into orthopedic shoes and shoes that are easy to get on and off.
  • To help with balance and reduce hip pain, use a cane or walker while walking until you feel more comfortable on your feet.
  • Make sure to practice safe body mechanics when walking up stairs. Use the railing for support, take it slow, and place both feet firmly on each step before taking the next one.
  • Be aware of your hip replacement when bending over or squatting down. Don’t do it too low or too fast, as you could injure yourself.

How Long Should You Use a Walker After a Hip Replacement?

We recommend using a walker for the initial 2-3 weeks following hip replacement surgery. This is to help protect your hip and ensure it is healing properly.

Using a walker also helps you maintain balance, provides additional support when walking, and decreases the amount of pressure on your hip while walking. It also helps normalize your gait sooner and prevents muscles from tightening up and creating problems down the road.

Some people can transition off the walker and use a cane sooner than 2-3 weeks; however, there really is no rush. What’re a few more days on the walker when you want to make sure that your hip replacement lasts the rest of your life?

A tip that we find helpful is to make sure the walker is set at the correct height. When standing upright and tall inside the walker, the handles should hit you at the crease of the wrist. Occasionally we’ll raise the walker one notch taller to prevent people from hunching over or being bent down while walking.

When Can You Get Rid of the Walker After a Hip Replacement?

Once you are comfortable walking with a walker, you can transition to a cane. A single-point cane is the most recommended and helps people balance during walking and turning. You’ll know when you are ready to lose the walker when you see a couple of signs.

  1. You frequently stand up and start walking away, forgetting your walker
  2. You are carrying your walker and not using it on the ground
  3. You can walk pain-free around the house all day
  4. Your physical therapist has evaluated your gait and cleared you from the walker

If your hip is still uncomfortable transitioning from the walker to a cane, then stick with the walker until you are ready.

We still recommend using the walker in a few instances, even after you’ve quit using it during the day.

This includes when you wake up in the middle night and have to go to the bathroom. We’ve had some people fall in the middle of the night because they were groggy and unsteady.

The instance is if you are walking outside on gravel or uneven ground. You might have to move a hose or do something outside, and it’s best to use the walker for a few extra weeks on uneven ground,

Helpful Tips for Walking Stairs After a Hip Replacement

Walking up and down stairs after hip replacement surgery can be a more challenging post-surgery activity.

First and foremost, it is important to use a handrail whenever possible. This helps protect your hip joint and provides stability when maneuvering stairs.

Secondly, it is okay to take your time and move slowly. The hip joint isn’t quite used to the forces of walking up and down stairs, so it’s important to be mindful when doing this activity.

Finally, you can use a cane for extra stability if needed. This helps you keep balance and helps the hip joint when walking up and down stairs.

To perform stairs after a hip replacement, remember this saying ” Up with the good, down the bad.”

When you go up the stairs, lead with your non-surgical leg and go one step at a time. The non-surgical leg is strong enough to pull you up the stairs.

When going down the stairs, lead with your bad or your surgical leg. This may sound scary; however, you want the good strong leg to do all the work of lowering your body down the stairs. Your surgical leg doesn’t have the strength to do that yet.

How Long Does a Hip Replacement Take to Heal?

The standard time frame for hip replacement recovery is 6 – 8 weeks, but it can vary depending on the individual.

It’s important that you have realistic expectations about hip replacement recovery timeframes. It takes at least 6 weeks for the hip joint to start feeling almost normal. After 8-12 weeks, most people feel like they are ready to start light activities.

Most people can go back to work between 2-6 weeks depending on what type of job they have, although we strongly recommend delaying that as long as possible. Focusing on your rehab exercises and spending the necessary time on your hip is important.

We tend to tell people that they will feel between 75-85% of normal at the 12-week mark after surgery. You will be able to do most activities that you want, but you’ll still have the occasional stiffness and achiness after long days.

It often takes a full year after surgery to feel “normal” or 100% back to full strength. At that point, your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and the hip itself have recovered and gained back the necessary strength to feel 100%.

When Can I Start Hiking After a Hip Replacement?

Hiking is an activity that we get asked about frequently living in Colorado. Hiking is also one of the main reasons that people undergo a hip replacement, as the pain prevents them from continuing their favorite hobby.

Hiking, in the traditional sense, should not start until the hip has had time to heal and fully recover. This typically takes anywhere from 12 weeks or longer post-surgery, depending on the individual. It’s important to listen to your body and proceed very slowly when starting any outdoor activities.

We recommend that you start out by walking on flat, even surfaces before tackling the steep hills and uneven terrain of hiking. Gradually increase the intensity of your walks as hip strength increases. You will want to incorporate strengthening exercises that focus on eccentric control or lowering your body down as you might stepping down a rock.

People tend to do fine going out on a hike but fatigue out and start to have issues on the way down to the beginning of the trail. It takes much more strength and muscular control to go down terrain.

Our favorite exercise for improving eccentric control is the lateral tap downs on a side of a step. This exercise works the glute medius and quads and helps improve control of the leg in a lowering motion.

Eccentric Lateral Step Down for Hip Strengthening

It is important always to have a partner with you when going on hikes and taking breaks often. We recommend bringing a walking stick or poles to provide extra stability, especially when navigating uneven surfaces.


It’s important to be patient after a hip replacement and increase activity levels gradually over time. Walking after hip replacement surgery can begin as soon as the same day as surgery and is one of the best ways to speed up recovery.

Be sure to use a walker correctly and for longer than your instincts would like to ensure that your walking mechanics return to normal. Most people only need the walker for 2-3 weeks, which you’ll realize long after you’ve recovered wasn’t that long in the big scheme of things.

Overall, walk as much as you can listening to your body, and you’ll be off the walker and back to doing things that you love, like hiking, before you know it.

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  1. Pingback: Using a Walker After a Hip Replacement: A Complete Guide - The Hip PT

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