How Soon Can I Drive After Hip Replacement Surgery?

Resuming driving after hip replacement surgery is a common milestone many patients look forward to. The most pressing question often is: how soon can I drive after hip replacement surgery? While recovery times can vary, a safe return to driving can generally be considered around the 4 to 6-week mark.

This post unpacks the factors that impact your individual recovery and when you might expect to regain driving independence.

Key Takeaways

  • The ability to resume driving after hip replacement surgery depends on the type of surgery, pain management, physical therapy progression, and individual recovery, with a general recommendation of four to eight weeks before getting back behind the wheel.
  • Active participation in physical therapy is critical for successful recovery post-hip replacement, focusing on strengthening exercises, range of motion activities, and practicing daily activities such as getting into and exiting a car safely.
  • Legal and insurance guidelines are important when considering resuming driving after hip replacement surgery, and patients should seek medical clearance and understand their insurer’s policy to ensure coverage and avoid liability issues.

Driving After Hip Replacement: Factors to Consider

When can you safely resume driving after hip replacement surgery? While this question may seem straightforward, the answer depends on several factors.

Type of hip replacement surgery

The type of hip replacement surgery you undergo can significantly influence your recovery timeline. Some key differences between anterior hip replacements and traditional hip replacements include:

  • Anterior hip replacement typically involves less postoperative pain
  • Anterior hip replacements result in quicker improvement in muscle strength
  • Patients undergoing anterior hip replacements may be able to resume driving sooner than those undergoing traditional hip replacements.

Pain management

Managing postoperative pain is crucial for a safe and comfortable return to driving after hip replacement surgery. Most patients experience a significant reduction in arthritic pain and stiffness immediately post-surgery, which can increase comfort while driving. Pain levels normally decrease to a mild intensity within three months post-surgery, and physical therapy can further aid in managing any residual pain and swelling.

Medical advice

Medical advice for when to resume driving after hip replacement surgery can vary. General recommendations range from four to eight weeks post-surgery, but individual factors can influence this timeline. Ultimately, the safest time to resume driving should be determined in consultation with your orthopedic surgeon.

The Role of Physical Therapy in Resuming Driving

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in your recovery and return to driving after hip replacement surgery, including the period following hip surgery. By improving circulation, reducing swelling, and increasing strength and flexibility in the hip joint, physical therapy enhances your ability to perform driving-related movements safely.

Strengthening exercises

Strengthening exercises play a crucial role in maintaining stability around the hip joint. Regular activities like walking, swimming, or cycling can prevent muscle weakness and stiffness, thereby facilitating a smooth transition to driving post-surgery.

Range of motion exercises

Hip abduction and hip adduction exercises are crucial for increasing flexibility and mobility in the hip joint, thereby assisting with the necessary movements involved in driving.

Practicing daily activities

Practicing daily activities like getting in and out of a vehicle post-surgery can be beneficial. Adjusting the car seat to be fully reclined and as far back as possible facilitates safer and more comfortable entry and exit after hip replacement.

Timeline for Resuming Driving After Hip Replacement Surgery

So, how long does it typically take to get back behind the wheel after hip replacement surgery? The average recommended time to return to driving is approximately 4.5 weeks post-surgery. However, this timeline can vary depending on individual factors.

Anterior hip replacements

For those who undergo anterior hip replacements, the road to recovery is often shorter, particularly those with right-sided anterior hip replacements due to less pain and greater ease in getting in and out of the car. This is in contrast to left hip replacements, which may require a slightly longer recovery period.

Traditional hip replacements

On the other hand, recovery from traditional hip replacement surgery generally requires patients to avoid driving for a period of 2 to 4 weeks post-surgery.

Individual factors

Individual health and surgery-related factors can significantly influence the timeline for resuming driving. For instance, patients who have had surgery on their right leg are generally advised to wait between 3-4 weeks before resuming driving, while those who have had left-leg surgery and drive an automatic vehicle can start driving once they are no longer taking narcotic pain medication.

Potential Complications and How to Avoid Them

As with any surgical procedure, hip replacement surgery and knee replacement come with potential complications. Some common complications to be aware of include:

  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Dislocation of the new hip joint
  • Fracture
  • Nerve damage
  • Loosening of the implant

Persistent high pain levels weeks after surgery may be a sign of infection or other complications. By monitoring pain and engaging in physical therapy, you can help prevent these complications and facilitate a quicker transition back to driving.


The average risk of infection after a hip replacement is between 1-2%. Symptoms of an infection include persistent joint pain with swelling, warmth, drainage, and redness, possibly accompanied by fevers, chills, or sweats.

Blood clots

Without preventive treatment, up to 80% of patients undergoing hip replacement surgery will develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and 10-20% will develop pulmonary embolism (PE).

Proper preventive measures, including physical therapy exercises guided by a physical therapist, can significantly reduce these risks.

Muscle weakness or stiffness

Muscle weakness and stiffness are common postoperative concerns that could impede safe driving after hip replacement surgery. Physical therapy, including aquatic therapy, can significantly aid in preventing these issues and ensuring a smoother transition back to driving, as well as promoting soft tissue recovery.

Legal Guidelines and Insurance Considerations

In addition to medical considerations, it’s important to be aware of the legal guidelines and insurance implications when resuming driving after hip replacement surgery. Failing to adhere to these guidelines can lead to penalties, invalidated insurance, and increased liability in the event of an accident.

Legal guidelines

Legal guidelines for resuming driving after hip replacement surgery vary by location and are in place to ensure patient safety and recovery. It’s important to follow these medical and legal guidelines and obtain a doctor’s clearance before driving.

Insurance considerations

Insurance considerations are equally important. Some insurance companies have policies that may not cover drivers for several weeks after the procedure. Resuming driving too soon after hip replacement surgery without informing the insurer may affect your insurance coverage.

Tips for Driving Safely After Hip Replacement Surgery

Getting back behind the wheel after hip replacement surgery is a big step in your recovery journey. A personalized approach to resuming driving, considering factors such as:

  • the type of vehicle
  • surgical technique
  • side of surgery
  • medications
  • other health conditions

Driving safely is crucial, and knowing how to use emergency braking can ensure a safe return to the road.

Adjusting the driver’s seat

One of the simplest changes you can make when returning to driving after hip replacement surgery is adjusting your driver’s seat. Adjusting the driver’s seat as far back as it will go before entering or exiting can create ample room, easing the process while protecting your hip.

Using assistive devices

Using assistive devices such as cushions or support pillows can also make a significant difference in your comfort levels while driving after hip replacement surgery.

Gradually increasing driving distances

Start with shorter journeys and gradually increase driving distances to gauge your comfort and manageability.

Take short breaks during lengthy drives to stretch and prevent stiffness or discomfort.


In conclusion, resuming driving after hip replacement surgery is an individual journey that requires careful consideration of various factors, including the type of surgery, pain management, physical therapy, potential complications, and legal and insurance considerations. Personalized strategies, like adjusting the driver’s seat, using assistive devices, and gradually increasing driving distances, can ensure a safe and comfortable return to driving.

Remember, this is your journey, and every step you take brings you closer to reclaiming your freedom on the road.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can you put full weight on leg after hip replacement?

You can put full weight on your operated leg after 6-8 weeks, once you are comfortable walking with a cane or without any assistance.

What 3 things should be avoided after hip replacement surgery?

After hip replacement surgery, it’s important to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activities, refrain from bending at the waist beyond a 90-degree angle, and not to bring your knee up higher than your hip. These precautions will aid in your recovery and prevent complications.

How long does it take to walk normally after a hip replacement?

In most cases, you will be able to walk without a walking aid after 10 to 14 days following hip surgery.

When can I start driving after hip replacement surgery?

You can typically start driving again approximately 4.5 weeks after hip replacement surgery, but it’s important to consider your individual health and recovery progress. It’s best to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized guidance on when it’s safe to resume driving.

Do I need physical therapy to resume driving after hip replacement?

Yes, physical therapy is essential for improving circulation, reducing swelling, and increasing strength and flexibility in the hip joint, which is crucial for safe driving after hip replacement.

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Modesto Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Eric Giang

Dr. Eric Giang, DO

Dr. Giang is a leading fellowship-trained shoulder surgeon in Modesto, CA. As a trusted orthopedic surgeon, he is serving the Modesto community with a commitment to enhancing the quality of life for every patient.

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