Why Do My Knee and Ankle Hurt After Hip Replacement?

Reviewed on 11/23/2022
Why Do My Knee and Ankle Hurt After Hip Replacement
Knee and ankle pain is common after hip replacement surgery

Hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which the damaged parts of the hip joint are removed and replaced with an artificial joint or prosthesis. The prosthesis is generally made of metal, ceramic, and very hard plastic.

After hip replacement surgery, it is common to experience knee and ankle pain due to changes in the length of your leg, swelling, bruising, and nerve damage.

When should I worry about knee and ankle pain after a hip replacement?

Most knee and ankle pain resolves on its own and can be relieved with rest and pain medications. In some cases, however, knee and ankle pain could be a sign of a serious complication such as a blood clot in the leg veins (deep vein thrombosis). This requires urgent medical intervention because it can cause potentially fatal complications, such as blood clots in the lungs or pulmonary embolism

Contact your doctor right away if your knee or ankle pain is associated with any of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in the color of the skin on the legs (red or purple)
  • Leg swelling that does not subside even when the leg is elevated
  • Bumps or sores on the legs
  • Warm skin over the legs
  • Leg pain, cramps, or soreness
  • Discharge from the incision site
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Dizziness or confusion

What is the most frequent complication of hip replacement surgery?

Hip replacement surgery is a relatively safe and effective procedure. Studies show that over 95% of people report improvement in hip pain after hip replacement surgery. 

Despite a high success rate, however, complications can occur in rare cases and can cause persistent pain or require repeated surgery. Some of the complications of hip replacement surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Dislocation
  • Fracture
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve damage
  • Changes in leg length
  • Loosening or wear and tear of the prosthesis

What is the average recovery time for hip replacement surgery?

Pain associated with a hip replacement generally goes away within 2-4 weeks after surgery with proper postoperative care. Most people can go home the same or the next day after surgery. 

  • The incision is typically small and may heal completely within 6 weeks. 
  • Desk jobs could be resumed in about 2 weeks after surgery. 
  • Physically demanding jobs or sports could be postponed for about 6 weeks.

The recovery time after a hip replacement surgery, however, depends on various factors, such as:

How to manage pain after hip replacement surgery

In most cases, pain after hip replacement surgery can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications and physical therapy. Some people may require prescription-strength medications or other strategies to manage pain.

Management may include the following:

  • Medications to manage pain, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or narcotic pain medications (in case of severe pain)
  • Physical therapy to improve muscle strength and flexibility and prevent complications such as blood clots and stiffness
  • Leg elevation and ice packs to help with pain and swelling
  • Nerve block to relieve pain in severe cases (blocks the pain signals carried by nerves from the affected site)
  • Surgery may be required in people who do not benefit from conservative treatment

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References
Image Source: iStock image

Mayo Clinic Study Finds Nerve Damage After Hip Surgery May Be Due to Inflammation. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-study-finds-nerve-damage-after-hip-surgery-may-be-due-to-inflammation/

Hip and Knee Replacement Surgery FAQs. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_hip-knee-replacement-surgery-faqs.asp

Bursitis: Treatments for Hip, Knee Shoulder and More. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/slideshow_pictures_bursitis_treatment/article_em.htm

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