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Hip pain after knee replacement is quite common. I discovered this during my own recovery experience.
If you have been walking incorrectly or limping for several years prior to your TKR surgery, you might be susceptible to hip pain after knee surgery.
It’s often the case that after TKR surgery, your physical therapist will help you relearn the proper walking technique. After all, old habits take time to change and if you’re like me, you’ll need to concentrate to walk properly on your new knee.
My experience with hip pain originated because I had been walking incorrectly for decades and I put unnecessary stress on the “good” leg. In other words, I favored one leg over the other.
Your “good “ leg may have developed bigger muscles and your joints may have gradually adjusted to a modified way of walking. After surgery, your repaired leg will be realigned and this could impact your posture and walking technique.
After knee surgery, you may experience pain in other parts of your body. This can be alarming for many people because the pain could occur in places that felt great before surgery.
A new knee will require bones, joints, muscles and ligaments to adjust. Remember, the recovery process after knee replacement will take months (not days or weeks).
Below, I’ll share details about hip pain after knee replacement surgery and more about my experience.
Brief Background Of My TKR
For decades I walked with a limp on a bowed leg. This was before my knee replacement surgery.
Over the years my walking mechanics deteriorated. I favored my right leg (injured leg) and put extra stress on my left leg because I relied on it more.
During my knee replacement surgery, my surgeon said he was able to take the bow out of my knee. He actually realigned my leg!
I didn’t believe him until I saw the result. I was amazed and my knee felt more stable with the knee replacement (I had no cartilage in my knee for years)!
When your knee is realigned, the balance of your body will naturally need to adjust. Early on, you’ll need to relearn how to walk correctly.
My therapist made me concentrate on using proper walking mechanics from day one of my therapy. I was encouraged not to lean to one side of my body when I walked and I focused on walking forward “heel to toe”.
My therapist gave me hip exercises along with my knee exercises. In hindsight, it seems she knew that many patients experience hip pain after knee replacement (also read my article about physical therapy).
She emphasized that I should focus on strengthening the muscles around my knee and in other parts of my leg. Strong muscles (as well as flexibility) would better protect the joints in my knees and hips.
My Hip Pain After Knee Replacement Surgery
After my surgery, I experienced slight pain in both of my hips during physical therapy. I chalked it up to relearning to walk and I understood that my body was getting comfortable with a new knee.
This was the only hip pain I experienced early on. However, a year and a half after my TKR I experienced more severe hip pain.
Before leaving on a vacation, I went on several 6-8 mile hikes within a week. I like to keep active but even this was a lot for me (I usually only do one 6-8 mile hike every other week).
During the last hike, my right hip (surgical knee) began to hurt and gradually got worse during the hike. Fortunately, the second half of the hike was downhill. I’m not sure I would have been able to make it back to the car if it had been uphill.
Two days later, the pain was severe during my long plane flight.
I searched for hip pain information on the internet and talked with friends and was convinced I had bursitis.
I took ibuprofen regularly but the hip pain remained. I had planned several excursions during the first week of the trip including hiking and biking.
As the week went by, the pain increased in my hip. I had to lift my right knee to get in a car and I also had trouble sleeping.
I continued to take ibuprofen but my hip began to throb at night (also read my article about my medicine after knee surgery). The last few weeks were spent at my daughter’s home and I was still in severe pain.
I was unable to hike or even walk very far.
My daughter set up an appointment with a physical therapist who examined me. He said I did not have bursitis.
He said that I overdid it hiking before leaving on my trip. He told me to continue using ibuprofen and he gave me several hip exercises to strengthen the muscles around my hip.
They included walking sideways with bands, knee bends using an exercise ball on my back, leg raises, calf raises, and hip flexion exercises as well as lots of stretching.
I found hip abductor strengthening to be very helpful in reducing my hip pain.
It took another 6 weeks of following his directions; exercising, resting, and not engaging in my usual activities of biking, hiking, swimming and pickleball.
I continued to golf with only a little pain. After 2 months the pain gradually went away and I was able to resume my normal activities. If it wasn’t for the strengthening exercises I might still have hip pain.
Exercises That Helped My Hip Pain
- Exercise 1: Walk sideways with a band below your calf muscles 20 steps each direction.
- Exercise 2: With an exercise ball between the wall and your back, do 3 sets of 15 deep knee bends
- Exercise 3: Lay Flat on the floor, flex your butt muscles 20 times and hold for 4 seconds
- Exercise 4: Stretch the hips for 20 minutes twice a day
>> also read my swimming routine (a great low impact activity)
In General, Is Hip Pain Common After Surgery
From what I’ve learned, it’s not uncommon to experience hip pain after knee surgery. It can appear early in recovery or a year later (like my experience).
It’s important to strengthen the muscles and tendons around your knee but you also need to strengthen your hip muscles and other leg muscles.
As you relearn the correct walking form, your muscles and joints will adjust to your new motion. Overuse may also contribute to muscle soreness and it can even cause severe pain.
How To Be Proactive After Knee Replacement To Avoid Hip Pain
- Follow your physical therapist’s plan and exercise regularly. Make sure you are exercising other muscles in your leg and body, not just the muscles around your knee.
- Keep the weight off and help limit the stress on your new knee and other body joints. I feel weight management is key for joint health.
- Stretch on a regular basis, particularly before engaging in an activity.
- Take it easy. Be reasonable when exercising or engaging in activities. Don’t overdo it like I did!
After total knee replacement surgery, your knee joint will be repaired and your leg will be properly realigned. It will take some time (different for everyone) to recover.
The hard work will pay off as you relearn to walk.
I experienced some hip pain in the following weeks and years after knee replacement surgery.
Listen to your therapist and your doctor and take your rehab seriously. Remember, if you have knee, hip or other pain for a prolonged period of time after TKR you may need to see your doctor and an X-ray or MRI may be in order.
Your recovery team (doctor, nurses, and therapists) will have the best answers for your individual needs. So don’t hesitate to contact them.
Exercise on a regular basis, stretch and keep the weight off. Rest when necessary. I hope my experience with hip pain after knee surgery has helped to let you know you aren’t alone!