What I Wish I Knew Before Hip Replacement Surgery: 5 Teacher Confessions

happy lady in a running pose wearing a red jumpsuit

What I wish I knew before hip replacement surgery: This is my personal journey with an anterior hip replacement – including hip replacement recovery time, physical therapy, hip replacement symptoms, depression after surgery & more. If you want a candid, real-talk, experience-sharing session about this major surgery – this is a must-read!

Super. Okay, but what is the “teacher confessions” part? And what does being a teacher have to do with having a hip replacement?

Well, for starters I AM a kindergarten teacher and I JUST had a hip replacement. So, there's that.

The other hip is getting impatient. I have some true confessions about feelings, pressures, and things I experienced during hip replacement #1 and how I'm dealing with the knowledge that hip replacement #2 is not cooperating with my personal timetable. (Nor that of my kids, parents, principal, or surgeon.)

Aha. Okay, well, that makes the connection for me. Should I read this if I'm NOT a teacher?

If you are curious about all the things that come with getting a hip replacement in general – be it yours or a loved one – then I say YES. Read this for some real talk. Being a teacher is not a requirement. 😉

However, please remember that this is just my personal experience and that your journey will likely share some similarities but also have some differences. Factors will include age, health issues, physical therapy participation, etc. Nothing I will share should replace visiting a doctor, surgeon, or licensed and schooled therapist.

Why Do People Need a Hip Replacement?

Let's look at some facts. I'm 51 years old. I have been physically active all of my life. I'm in pretty decent shape. I am one of those people who actually love to exercise – and feel off-balance and out of whack when I don't. In my youth, I played soccer, did gymnastics, and was a cheerleader, jumping all over the place and high-kicking for every point scored (or not). When I was thirteen, I fell in love with Jane Fonda, asked for a TRIM-TRACK for Christmas, and owned an original THIGH-MASTER by Suzanne Somers. I even became an AFAA-certified aerobics instructor in college and taught mash-ups to my own mix tapes on the concrete floors of the Razz-Ma-Tazz Dance Studio in Searcy, Arkansas. (Come to think of it…maybe those concrete floors are the culprit…hmmm)

If you had asked me less than a year ago, “Why do people need a hip replacement?” I would have answered that they likely suffered an injury, had not been physically active for most of their lives, or were just elderly with aging bones. Those guesses would have been just that—guesses.

I recall growing up in church and almost every Sunday hearing a deacon announce from the pulpit that Ms. Thelma, Grandma Louise, or sweet Mr. Otis fell and broke a hip. It seemed to be pretty common. If you got older, you would fall, and you would break your hip. I never heard much more about what happened after they broke said hips – just that my mom would send a card, and they would be put on the visitation list.

So – why do people need a hip replacement?

In my situation, I learned that I have severe arthritis in both hips. Both hips had bone cysts. One hip also has a torn labrum.

Cartoon by mark anderson:  lady in hospital bed - doctor talking to her about a hip replacement
Andertoons © 2015 Mark Anderson.  Reprinted with permission by Andrews McMeel Syndication.  All rights reserved.

How Do You Know You Need A Hip Replacement?

How in the world did I discover I had severe arthritis in both hips? Honestly, it was a little bit of trial and error, a bit of denial, and a bit of misdiagnosing myself.

Hip Replacement Symptoms

I used to do a lot of high-impact exercises – jumping around and loved anything related to dance. I had a car accident when I was in my 30s that did some damage to my right foot where I rear-ended someone who had slammed on their brakes to miss a car that had suddenly pulled out. My foot (in a flip-flop) got stuck up inside the front body of my Jeep Liberty, which had collapsed into itself. Not pretty. My foot, believe it or not, wasn't “broken.” Ever heard of turf toe? It happens when the joint of your big toe is “forcibly” bent upwards. Let's just say in the ambulance ride, they were asking me if I normally had a club foot. Umm….no. No, I did not.

I was a mystery case at the ER. They had to call in a sports doctor to see what to do to ‘reset' it. I couldn't walk for many weeks and was told I could never go tip-toe or wear high heels again. I cried my eyes out at this horrid discovery. NO HIGH HEELED BOOTS? WHAT? HOW would I EVER make it through my liiiiiiiiffffeeeee…

Due to this fun little experience, I started doing low-impact aerobics. I was never a runner – so walking suited me just fine. I did start to experience some pain in my hip flexors during my 40s, but I chalked it up to needing to strengthen that area more.

In my late 40s, I discovered Pure Barre. I LOVE Pure Barre and am a die-hard Pure Barre fan. It toned and challenged me in ways I had not experienced, though I had trouble with some hip movements. I have always been very flexible, but the hip movements I had trouble with weren't due to lack of flexibility but rather how my body was put together. My instructors were in their 20s and maybe early 30s, so there was THAT big ‘ole pill I was swallowing during each session.

I learned my limitations, accepted them, and got reassurance from the instructors that doing a movement while keeping my body safe was still worthwhile. When I turned 50, I still showed up with that crew of young hotties almost daily. I embraced the fact that even though I could be their mom, I was showing up and hanging in there.

The hip replacement symptoms I started having were sneaky. I honestly think if I hadn't been a Pure Barre fanatic, my symptoms would have shown up much sooner and with a vengeance. I had been strengthening many smaller stabilizing muscles, allowing me to be much more mobile for longer.

I was going to a chiropractor weekly, who helped me with some hip flexor stretches and aligned my neck and back. I would feel ‘achey' in my hip area, so I would assume these stretches. Sometimes, the achier my hips felt, the more I would stretch. I was taking quite a bit of Advil and Tylenol and not finding much relief.

In my days teaching kindergarten, I would often be in a bent or crouched position to be on kid-level, and then when I would go to stand, I would feel a severe pinch and a ‘catch' – causing me to use something to assist me to stand up. When I would go on long walks, sometimes I would have to stop and almost pull my leg into place. My best friend and I called it my Barbie leg – as it felt like it would come out of position and then eventually go back into place.

I struggled for quite a few months, having pain daily but pushing through. In April of 2023, I couldn't sleep or get comfortable. By the end of the school day, I would walk in the door and start crying due to the pain. I would go upstairs, extend my legs, and pray the Tylenol or Advil would kick in. I was using topical treatments like BioFreeze roll-on and pain patches. After about a week of daily tears, pretty extreme pain, and sleepless nights, my husband said, “It's time. Call the doctor. Get a referral to an orthopedic”.

So, I did.

“You are headed towards a double hip replacement”

I don't know what I expected to hear my doctor say, but it WASN'T that. I stared at her for a few seconds, then started laughing. She said, “I know that's not what you wanted to hear.” I replied, “Oh! No, it's not that I didn't WANT to hear that. It wasn't even on my radar to POSSIBLY hear. I think you're going to have to repeat it. Slower, maybe.”

She did. She was kind. I stayed in shock and drove home, sporadically busting out into laughter. I walked in the door and dissolved into tears. My husband couldn't believe it either. I had gotten an X-ray at the office, but an MRI was ordered to get a closer look. She said some other things that she would try to help the pain before the replacements were needed – but to be honest, I didn't hear any of them.

*TIP—Always bring someone who is listening clearly, can ask questions, take notes, etc. For me, that's my husband. I was SURE to bring him back to get the MRI results, and I was pretty positive they would tell us it had been a mix-up with the X-rays on the first visit!

Spoiler alert: There wasn't a mix-up. The X-rays were 100% mine. Severe arthritis in both hips. One larger bone cyst in the left hip. Two smaller bone cysts in the right hip, along with the torn labrum. The news was that the left hip was in worse shape, but the right one was the one giving me the pain. To hear the left one was wrecked was really hard for me to believe as I hadn't been feeling any pain there.

Hip Replacement Alternatives

We asked if there were any hip replacement alternatives, and the answer was “not really.” But there are many things you can do to prolong the replacements, and you DO want to do that for as long as possible. You can try steroid shots in the joints to ease inflammation and pain. You can start physical therapy to learn specific exercises to strengthen the muscles around the joint. I did both.

My husband and I had a dream trip planned for June of 2023. To celebrate my 50th birthday, we were planning to head to Spain for 2 weeks. Something I'd dreamed of since high school. We had started getting nervous I wouldn't be able to walk around easily or enjoy it due to my pain level. My doctor understood this and really believed the steroid shots would give me relief and feel better than I had in a long time. In May of 2023, I had a shot in each hip – and THEY WORKED. BEAUTIFULLY.

I honestly couldn't believe how much relief I had! We climbed hills, walked on cobblestones, and sat on a multiple-hour plane ride without shifting endlessly in my seat to get comfortable—it was heaven! I knew it would last about three months and was told I would feel familiar pain when it wore off. I had a wonderful, pain-free summer and even started school, keeping up with twenty new 5-year-olds with no trouble.

Then, in September, I started slowing down. I got my second round of steroid shots in early October. Then I felt like new again! Truly, I forgot I had hip trouble at all. The idea of one-day needing “hip replacements” seemed like something that would be far, far away.

Until I woke up on my 51st birthday.

Illustration of two hips - a red bow on one.  "Hip Hip Hooray!'

Time for Surgery – A lot sooner than expected

I don't know exactly what happened when I woke up on my birthday in late November. I just know I turned over in bed and felt a ‘click' in my hip—unlike when your finger or back pops. It was more subtle and didn't hurt, but it was a definite moment. I mentioned it to my husband. By the time I was leaving for school that morning, I had a growing pain deep in my hip.

The month that followed was not pretty. My husband dropped me off at school each morning, and my work wife would meet me at the door in a rolling chair. She'd roll me down the hall and into the classroom – and if I needed to go to the back of the room, my kids would roll me there. I tried to keep my sense of humor in the classroom – but after I was rolled back down the hall at the end of the day, my husband would help me in the car, and then the tears would roll.

I went in and got a shot to help with inflammation. Didn't work. I got an MRI to see if I had a stress fracture – but the results were pretty clear. It's time for the full replacement. This was shocking and scary, but with the amount of pain I was in – I was PUMPED to get it done.

I did NOT want to take time away from my kids. We got the surgery scheduled as soon as insurance would approve it so I could use two of the recovery weeks when I'd be on break anyway. I carried guilt that I would be disappointing my parents, my admin, my team, and, of course, the kids. I knew how much I would be asking of my substitute, and no teacher I know loves to make sub plans for a day – much less weeks at a time.

In my rational mind, I knew I had no choice. In my heart, I carried guilt. Sometimes, I think teachers put their own needs at the back of the line—making sure everyone else is taken care of first. This is a quality many good teachers share, but it can also cause burnout. I'm thankful my husband, admin, and team supported me and insisted I not worry about anything but recovering.

Hip Replacement Recovery

To be honest, I was pretty positive about my recovery.

My doctor shared that six weeks was the norm for recovery from daily activities, and three months was the norm for full recovery. He'd said most people were on a walker for a week or so, a cane for two more weeks, then off the cane and walking normally by week 4. When I asked about going back to work, he said he wouldn't recommend it before week 4, but if I could wait the full six weeks, it would be best.

I posted on Facebook that I'd be getting my first hip replacement, and the responses were so positive.

“It's the easiest thing to rehab!”
“My sister was in Trader Joe's two days after her replacement!”
“I was up by week two!”

You'll be pain-free and so thankful!”

I believed this 1000%. I knew I would be one of the quickest to rebound and get back to my normal self.

Except…that didn't happen for me.

Girl in hospital bed post-surgery "move over HIP-ster comin' through" and girl at home recovering with brother visiting

Hip Replacement Recovery Time

Apparently, I am not as quick of a recovery story as I had planned. There are several reasons why this could be: (these are thoughts shared by my PT and nurse)

  • My bones are younger and stronger – meaning the surgeon had to be more aggressive
  • I had a large bone cyst as well as severe arthritis – so they had to be more invasive
  • My recovery fell over New Year and a week of an ice storm, so my PT had some gaps

I was still on a walker when I went for my first post-op appointment three weeks out. I was “supposed” to be off of a walker one week out. Which brings me to this confession:

As a teacher, I know the average amount of time it takes to teach a child to read. I know the skills to teach, the tips and tricks, and how to implement them in various personalities.

However, there is always going to be an exception to the rule. Maybe the child wasn't exposed to letter sounds in pre-k, or there isn't home practice involved. That child is fully capable and WILL read – just at a pace different from the average would lead you to believe.

It is sometimes difficult to tell parents that there is nothing ‘wrong'—their child is just going at a slower pace. I now have renewed compassion for the big feelings that often accompany this.

When my doctor said, “You are healing well – just a bit behind where we expected you to be,” I took it pretty hard. WHY? WHAT had I done wrong? Was something wrong with me?

Nothing was wrong. It could have been any of the ideas I stated above – or none of them. I just had to practice patience and steadiness, continue my PT, and heal when my body was ready to.

This brings me to realization and confession #3.

I often give impromptu lessons to my kindergarteners about how “we don't always get things when we want them” or “it's okay to feel big feelings, but sometimes just because we feel them doesn't change the circumstances…we have to find coping skills to move through the tough stuff.”

So…yeah. I have had to practice what I preach daily. And I'm not very good at it. I threw a couple of full-on fits if I'm being honest. Ask my husband. 😉

I WANT to go work out – but I can barely stand up right now, so I have to build back up to it. I WANT to sit on the couch with my dogs, but it's not supportive enough, and I will need assistance getting up. It's been a bitter pill to swallow – but a reminder that if it's not easy for ME…it's not easy for a five-year-old who is brand new at this stuff!

Depression After Surgery

We live in a 2-story house, with a steep staircase leading to our bedroom. Our home was built in the 40s, and many of the doorways are quite narrow. The guest bedroom/office is at the back of the house and used to be a carport. It's quaint and cozy, and there's warm lighting. That was where I was set up for my full hip replacement recovery.

It was perfect for a few reasons, one being that once the door is shut – I can't hear much of what's going on in the rest of the house. That also turned out to be a downfall for me. I have suffered from depression in the past, and it is something I will have to always monitor and work on keeping at bay.

My normal outlet to combat these feelings is exercise – and I was clearly unable to do that. Perhaps it was the combination of the lack of activity, the solitude, the winter month, and not much bright light – but I fell into a mild depression.

I knew enough about it to know I was in it and knew I would have to take steps to climb out of it. I also know that depression after an operation is nothing to be ashamed of but rather to be aware of. When this next hip gets replaced—it will be in a warmer month—I will let in daylight, and I will have to allow myself to take calls and visits from friends, not isolate myself and fall down that slippery slope.

I realized that as much as I love to help people out, it's HARD to be on the receiving end. My parents set up a meal train for us, and it was one of the kindest things I've ever seen. I was blown away at how many families signed up, stopped by, and brought cards and flowers, and it hit me that I needed to accept and allow it. At first, I felt I needed to apologize for the trouble they were making for me. WHY? I don't know.

From now on, I will be the first one to jump on a meal train because I recognize that it does wonders for the ones on the receiving end. I wasn't up for company for the first two weeks, but hearing families chatting with JW brought back a little reality and made my heart fill up. It wasn't about the food – although dinner was what I looked forward to each day! 😉 It was about seeing the names of people who signed up and being reminded that although recovery is a very solo thing, I was being lifted up by many.

PT on a dining room table with assistance from pup
girl standing with her walker giving thumbs up

Hip Replacement Physical Therapy

If I have any advice about hip replacement physical therapy, it would be simple: DO IT.

My husband took me twice a week to in-person visits, and I would have gone more had my PT encouraged it or said it would help me. I missed a week due to an ice storm early on in my recovery – and I still wonder if missing that week slowed me down.

The exercises she told me to do – I did EVERY DAY. The flattest surface available was our dining room table. 😉 Hey! It was too hard for me to get all the way down on the floor – and it was the perfect height to sort of slide on and off. My pups got a kick out of the stretches – as we improvised and used an old dog leash.

I walked laps through the house every time my husband told me it was time to move. I know I lucked out in this department. Find someone who is as organized and structured as my husband to take care of you if at all possible. He had a detailed medicine log, when I moved, what I did, etc. If you live alone and have a major surgery like this done – you NEED SOMEONE TO HELP YOU. Ask a friend, a parent, or a sibling, or check your insurance to see if it covers some home help.

What I Wish I Knew Before Hip Replacement Surgery FAQ:

How big is your hip replacement scar?

My scar is about 4 inches long. It runs just above my hip bone (well, what we call our hip bone – the part you can feel) down the front of my thigh.

When can you go back to work?

I think a lot of it depends on what your job requires of you. If you have a lot of standing, walking, bending, stairs, etc…I'd say give yourself as much time as you can. I planned on going back to school the start after three weeks, and it was just too soon. I ended up going back after six weeks and started with 1/2 days.

Hip Replacement: How Long Does It Last?

Well…I've been told that if I were getting a full hip replacement in my seventies, it would probably last the rest of my life. However, the younger you are, the more active you are; there is a chance I may have to get the replacement replaced. (You can extend the life by not jumping, running, or doing crazy high-impact things)

Hip Replacement X-ray – can you actually see the replacement?


Yep! Seeing it for the first time shocked me – but it also helped me understand why this is considered major surgery and why it was 100% ok for me not to be rebounding as fast as I'd planned! I'd watched a diagram of what would happen – but as my PT explained – “to get to that location is quite the journey – there are things that have to be moved around – so that is why your quad hurts so bad!” Seeing this now makes me amazed at what doctors AND the human body are capable of – and grateful that I live in a time and country where this surgery is so successful!

I started writing this blog a month ago. Since then, I have been given the date for my second hip replacement. The steroid shot didn't take. The increased movement while rehabbing my new left hip agitated the right hip. The MRI from December to March showed considerable advancement in the arthritis, the bone cysts, and the torn labrum, and the pain level and my limited mobility tell us it's time.

So, my fifth teacher confession is being altered a bit. I must admit that as much as I wish I could rally and finish the school year with this special group of kinders, I simply can't hang on and ride it out until May. That makes me feel weak, like I'm giving up. I also know that those feelings are valid and normal but untrue. The truth is that my health has to come first.

The kids are going to be ok. Life will go on. They will get ready to go to first grade without me, and they will enjoy things like the field day with the substitute, Mrs. Thomas, whom I'm more than lucky to have. They will laugh with each other. My team and Mrs. Thomas are picking up and keeping the boat afloat.

Is it what any of us wanted? No. Do my kids like for me to be gone? No. Do the parents like for their routines to be a bit different? No. But it all comes down to the fact I didn't ask my body to do this either! I truly don't WANT new hips…I NEED new hips. And just as you can't decide when you will get the flu or break an arm – I didn't choose this.

The timing will never be ideal. But – this too shall pass.

I'm looking forward to writing a blog post about everything I can do with my bionic hips!

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