Phoebe Slim
Author: Phoebe Slim, Marketing Executive

Phoebe is a keen traveller, always looking to add to her list of cultural destinations.

14 min read

Recently had a hip or knee replacement?

Having replacement hip or knee surgery shouldn’t stop you from going back to living your normal life.

This includes all the things you’d usually do in your day-to-day routine, from just walking, climbing the stairs and being able to drive, to the more advanced and exciting stuff.

A hip or knee replacement shouldn’t put you off booking holidays and travelling. But, regardless of what you plan to do post-surgery, you should always consult your doctor and listen to their advice before you go back to your usual active routine that you had before surgery.

Sometimes you’ll need to make some tweaks to your daily routine. A knee or hip replacement can be a complex operation, so you need to give your body a fair amount to time to make a sufficient recovery.

Travelling after a hip replacement

Travelling after a hip replacement and still enjoying your holiday is perfectly possible.

However, there are a few things that you need to consider. This includes booking mobility assistance if required. Long walks through airport terminal buildings can add strain to your body, so it’s a good idea to consider wheelchair rental or maybe assistance boarding an aircraft if needed.

You could also let your airline know that you’ve just had surgery. This way they may be able to make the aircraft environment more comfortable for you with pillows or even a change in seating.

When can you travel after a hip replacement?

Again, as recommended by the Royal College of Surgeons, travelling is to be avoided for at least three weeks following surgery.

Getting in or out of a car, or sitting for long periods of time is potentially damaging for soft body recovery tissues. Post-surgery therapy usually includes a strict daily routine that shouldn’t be interfered with in the first few weeks. So it’s important to rest up and allow yourself to recover before thinking about any travel plans.

When can you fly after a hip replacement?

The NHS advises that you should wait three months before flying after undergoing hip replacement surgery.

Remember that long-haul air travel can especially put you at a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) if you’ve had a recent hip replacement. The most advisable thing to do is speak to your doctor. They can recommend different things to help lessen the risk, such as gentle leg exercises, having a short walk on the aircraft, and even wearing compression stockings on the flight.

Mountain range behind a lake

Driving after a hip replacement

The experts at the Royal College of Surgeons suggest that driving after hip replacement surgery should be avoided for the first six weeks. They also recommend that even travelling as a passenger should be avoided for three weeks.

How do I check if I’m ready to drive? Well, a clear indicator is practicing applying pressure on the foot pedals when in a stationary position with the engine switched off. Just make sure you do this before you set off on your travels!

If you feel some pain instantly, or even feel sore for a few hours afterwards, then it’s recommended that you avoid driving and continue resting to let your body to make a full recovery. It can be dangerous for yourself and for others if you drive without feeling physically comfortable.

You should let your insurer know that you have undergone surgery. It’s important to check your policy as some insurers won’t insure you for a certain number of weeks post-surgery.

Sport and exercise after a hip replacement

If you want to enjoy any outdoor activities whilst on holiday (such as canoeing or hiking) these can all be managed the same way as before – but remember you should get advice from your doctor or physiotherapist, especially if you have had the operation recently.

Arthritis Research UK suggests that regular exercise is really important when it comes to lessening the risk of developing arthritis in later life. Having a large operation like a hip replacement shouldn’t leave you bed bound long-term, nor should it discourage you from exercising regularly.

They also say that it is perfectly fine to walk and swim, but remember that cycling should be avoided until around 12 weeks post-operation. Running on hard surfaces like the road is discouraged, as it can have negative long-term effects. So, sports that involve sudden turns or impacts like squash or tennis are not ideal for those who have had a hip replacement. But we always advise consulting your physiotherapist for more in-depth guidance on what should and shouldn’t do.

Walking after a hip replacement

Walking after hip replacement surgery is a process in itself. If you have an enhanced recovery programme then you can be up and walking within hours of having surgery, but this varies from person to person and usually depends on how well you feel. However, when you first start walking you should expect to feel a certain degree of pain and discomfort.

The NHS suggests that your general fitness and well-being, including your ability to stand up and walk to a certain extent, plays a part in how soon you can be discharged from hospital.

When you’re discharged and recovering at home, it’s important to take each day at a time and build yourself up in terms of walking short distances.

If you are a keen hiker, or someone who regularly walks longer distances whilst on holiday, you should get some advice from your physiotherapist on the best way to get back on those hills, everyone is different so it’s best to talk to them to see which is the best way for your to recover. If walking or hiking is a part of your travel plans, remember that you shouldn’t fly until at least three months post-surgery. But the good news is that this is a great time to enable yourself to recover before enhancing your own mobility.

Climbing the stairs after hip replacement surgery

As with walking, climbing the stairs after hip replacement surgery is a process. Once you can walk confidently and have been discharged from hospital – you should be able to climb stairs.

During recovery, the NHS will provide you with crutches (or another form of walking aid if that’s what you need), so any physiotherapy programme will involve the use of a walking aid in terms of navigating you back to a certain level of mobility.

The walking aid will be crucial in helping you get up and down flights of stairs. To climb stairs, you need to lead with your stronger leg and to come downstairs you should lead with your weaker leg – on the side where the hip has been replaced. The walking aid should always be positioned on the opposite side of your repaired hip.

Cyclist Image 1

Exercise after a hip replacement

Most surgeons completely discourage jogging or running on hard surfaces according to Arthritis Research UK. The long-term effects of running or jogging after hip replacement surgery can be damaging to the joint because of the sustained impact.

If you do wish to do short gentle runs for exercise then you still can, but remember that running will speed up the level of wear of tear a lot more than lower impact activities.

Like cycling, swimming after hip replacement surgery is generally seen as a great form of exercise for people with limited mobility in general. As opposed to running or jogging on hard surfaces, swimming and cycling are low-impact and gentle forms of exercise that people of all ages can enjoy. However, Arthritis Research UK suggests that swimming breaststroke can be detrimental to those who have had knee replacements in particular. They also suggest that you should not attempt to cycle until 12 weeks after your hip operation. If you are a keen cyclist, it may be more advisable to build up both your mobility and confidence on a static exercise bike rather than going out on the roads straight away.

Skiing after a hip replacement

Skiing after hip replacement surgery is unfortunately not recommended. This is due to the high-impact nature of this activity on joints and also the high risk of injury whilst on ski slopes.

Of course, you can ski at your own risk once you have made a full recovery, however damage to the actual replacement itself whilst skiing can be complicated – and many insurers may not be able to provide you with cover if you intend on going on an overseas ski trip having undergone hip replacement surgery.

What can’t you do after a hip replacement?

It’s advised that you do not ignore the advice of your surgeon and/or physiotherapist.

The NHS states that in order to look after your new hip in the best possible way you must:

  • Avoid bending your hip at a right angle (90°) where possible.
  • Avoid any activities that require a twisting motion.
  • Avoid swivelling on the balls of your feet.
  • Avoid laying on the side of the wound or applying any sort of pressure to it in the hours and days following surgery.
  • Avoid crossing your legs over one another.
  • Avoid low chairs and toilet seats (you can get raised toilet seats courtesy of the NHS).
  • Avoid activity in the aftermath of surgery and avoid high-impact sports altogether.

Hip replacement surgery recovery time for partaking in different activities varies – but the table below summarises this in a simpler format for you.

Activity

Recovery Time Required

Walking after hip replacement surgery

Dependent on initial recovery but can be as soon as one day.

Running after hip replacement surgery

Not recommended - see above section.

Driving after hip replacement surgery

6 weeks after surgery.

Climbing stairs after hip replacement surgery

Dependent on initial recovery but can be as soon as one day.

Cycling after hip replacement surgery

12 weeks after surgery.

Swimming after hip replacement surgery

As soon as the wound heals (according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons).

Skiing after hip replacement surgery

Not recommended – see above section.

Flying after hip replacement surgery

3 months after surgery.

Sport and exercise after a knee replacement

Knee replacement surgery is designed to improve your quality of life, and therefore it should never prevent you from doing any sporting and exercise activities you would have done prior to surgery.

In fact, sport and exercise is actually recommended after a knee replacement. The NHS states that you should be able to stop using your walking aid and resume normal leisure activities six weeks after surgery (depending on how well you’ve recovered).

Arthritis Research UK has a guide on certain exercises you can do to help with you knee replacement in the meantime. This includes knee bending exercises to do for 10 minutes 6-8 times a day to help straighten and strengthen the knee joint.

Running or jogging on hard surfaces isn’t advised – for similar reasons as to why running or jogging with a replacement hip is not recommended.

Swimming or cycling are much more advisable, due to the low-impact nature of these types of exercises. Again though, you should check with your physio as certain types of swimming (mainly breaststroke in particular) are to be avoided for those with a knee replacement, where possible.

Man on a mountain

Skiing after a knee replacement

As with running and jogging, skiing is generally not recommended for those who have had knee replacement surgery – or any other form of joint replacement for that matter!

Joint injuries are commonplace on ski slopes – and you are at risk of doing your new replacement knee serious damage if you do start skiing again.

Again, you can start skiing at your own risk – however, some insurers may not be able to provide you with sufficient level of winter sports travel insurance cover for a ski trip once you declare that fact that you have had a knee replacement.

Activity

Recovery Time Required

Walking after knee replacement surgery

 

NHS states you will generally be helped to stand with 12-24 hours after surgery. You should be able to stop using your crutches or walking frame 6 weeks after surgery.

Running after knee replacement surgery

Not recommended – see above section.

Driving after knee replacement surgery

As soon as you can bend you knee again – usually 4-6 weeks after surgery.

Climbing stairs after knee replacement surgery

6-10 weeks after surgery.

Cycling after knee replacement surgery

1-2 weeks after surgery (stationary bike).

Swimming after knee replacement surgery

3-6 weeks after surgery.

Skiing after knee replacement surgery

Not recommended – see above section.

Flying after knee replacement surgery

As soon as you are able to sit comfortably with the knee bent – usually 3-4 weeks after surgery.

 

Do I need to tell you about my hip or knee surgery when getting travel insurance cover?

When getting a quote with us we’ll ask a few short questions about your health history, including whether you visited a medical professional, or hospital within the last 2 years, which would include to undergo any surgeries.  

Whilst you don’t need to tell us about the surgery itself, you would need to tell us about the health condition which resulted in you needing the hip or knee surgery. We may ask a few follow up questions about your treatment just so we can really understand your circumstances and get a good picture of your overall health.

We’ll then show your quotes from travel insurance providers which will include cover for any health conditions you’ve told us about – that way – if your condition flares up before you go away, of causes you trouble whilst you are on holiday, you’ll be protected.

Not had your surgery yet? That’s ok too – just add the health condition to your policy – you’ll just need to let your travel insurance provider know if your condition changes or worsens leading up to your surgery.

You can find out more about how to tell us about your health condition in this guide here. 

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