Gardening after hip replacement

illigardenerAugust 11, 2008

As an avid gardener facing hip replacement surgery and the restrictions that places on some physical activities, I would like to hear from gardeners who have undergone this surgery and how it has changed or limited their garden activities.

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

"has changed or limited their garden activities"...

After the first few months, almost not at all. I think you will find you automatically protect it without a lot of conscious effort as it's healing, and after that there won't be much you cannot do that you were doing before - with just a few tweaks.

You'll carry anything heavy (large plants, potting soil etc) close to your body on the 'bad' side. I still don't find the operated leg to be quite as as strong as the other so I'm not as effective with a shovel as I could be and have someone else do heavy may not find that to be the same in your case, mine was most likely genetic and I'd been doing right-side compensating to avoid pain for years, leaving less muscle on the left.

Since bending from the waist is harder on hips than weeding/planting on all fours, I had my doctor show me how to get up and down from the ground safely before surgery...and I practiced :)

If you are in reasonable health otherwise, you should be fine, and you'll enjoy your time in the garden more when you are free of pain. Just listen to your body and give it time to become strong and stable ... I had the replacement done late winter when I could first rest, then work on strengthening and flexibility. I couldn't reach my shoes to tie them yet (forbidden) that February, but I did prune roses without help ;)

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 5:46PM
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Thanks morz8 for the information. I have been concerned about the bending issue and will check with the doctor on how to get up and down. I was worried that my gardening days were over.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 7:56PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

No, no....far from over. I know the news you must have a joint replaced can feel a little overwhelming, but your gardening days are not behind you. If you'd asked about downhill or water skiing, I'd have had a different answer for you ;)

If you have the opportunity to do some things that are not weight bearing (pain causing) to strengthen and tone before surgery, you'll recover a little faster....isometrics (an exercise therapist or PT could help you here), swimming both good.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 10:12PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

A guy that I used to work for had that surgery. One thing he found invaluable is one of those little bench seats with two handrails.

It looked like the link below, but I think he said he got it from A.M. Leonard (their site is down for maintenance right now, wouldn't you know).


Here is a link that might be useful: Garden stool & support

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 1:32AM
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My case is not normal, but here it is:

My hip replacement odyssey started in 2001. The first operation fell apart before I left the operating room. I had a second one a few days later, which was a makeshift attempt to put me back together so I would still look human. On the outside I looked normal, but inside I was deformed. I couldn't lift my leg or stand on my operated side at all. I lived like that for eight months until I found a good surgeon at a university hospital who had real surgical skills. The third surgery put me back together in such a way that my body acted as a complete unit again, albeit with diminished capabilities. The first team of local yokel doctors apparently were trying to break into the financially lucrative hip replacement business, but had mediocre skills.

At the time, I didn't realize they could perform an operation like this again so close together. I thought I would have to wait a couple of years to have it done again. I feel extremely lucky that I was able to have another operation and found a surgeon who made me almost normal again. While the repetitive surgeries caused nerve damage on my operated leg and hip area*, I now have somewhat normal control over the motions of the operated leg - except that it is extremely weak. The first 5 years after the operations seemed to be devoted to trying to be normal again - trying to walk in a way that everyone else walks. [I haven't mastered that yet and recently injured myself still trying to do it.] Unfortunately, in my case, I had to be very protective of my joint. I didn't bend over and put very little weight on it. I was terrified it would come apart if I put any stress on the joint. Today, I still believe it might have come apart if I had put any stress on it, and I'm still very protective of it.

Now, while I can figure out how to do many things in a different way than before, it usually takes so much more time and trouble than it used to, that I give up. Part of the problem is that I am a single parent who has to work for a living. Because everything I do takes a little longer, I have a difficult time doing the just the regular daily chores that I did before the surgeries, which makes it impossible to take on additional tasks. I've had to lower my expectations of myself a great deal. I am the sort of person who enjoys taking on and completing big projects. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment. It is a very disappointing situation to have to settle for less from myself.

My child is in college now, so I am starting to get a little time. I've always wanted a garden and, now that the economy is going downhill, I have decided that I need to become more self reliant. I'm really going to try to start a garden this year.

I have a difficult time getting up and down from the sitting or kneeling position. For many years I thought that, if I fell while trying to cross the street, I'd get run over because I couldn't get up. In the last 3 years I figured out how to get up off the ground if there isn't a piece of furniture nearby to pull myself up on. First, I have to roll over until I am on my hands and knees. [To roll over, I have to hold my legs together as a single unit and roll my entire torso over at the same time.] To get off the ground when on my hands and knees, I have support my torso with my hands, as if doing pushups, and then carefully reposition my legs so they are bent under my body in a crouching position. Then I can lift myself onto my legs and stand up gradually [being careful to support my body on my nonoperated side leg as I stand up without putting any weight on my operated side hip joint].

As someone mentioned here, I can't use a shovel. There is no strength in my operated side leg, so I can't push the shovel into the ground with it. I can't support myself on the operated leg either in order to push the shovel in the ground with my good leg. The best I can do with a shovel is to try to ram it into the ground with my arms like post-hole digger. It's not that helpful. I'm going to have to get help from my boyfriend here. He's doing a lot of grumbling over my garden so he may not be too helpful either.

It's difficult to bend or kneel for any length of time. Therefore, I plan to used raised beds in my garden so I can sit on the wooden sidewalls of the bed. I hope to put a ledge around the bed to sit on. I may also get one of those wheeled garden seat/box things if the ledge is not sufficient.

I've also found it useful to use a plastic shower seat without a back to put under my torso when I kneel down and lean. Basically, I lay on my stomach over the top of the seat. This makes it possible to kneel down and work on the ground when my body gets tired so I don't crouch down and bend my hip joint too much.

I have to be careful twisting my body around. This has gotten a little easier over the years. Initially, though, it was a serious concern.

These are the tips I can think of now. I'm sorry that this is negative, but I hope you can learn something from my fiasco to prevent this from happening to you. In my case, I've gotten better since the surgeries, but not too many of my prior abilities have returned. Luckily, I took care of a couple of big projects before I had my surgery. If I hadn't, they would never have gotten done.

**Repeated surgeries have caused nerve damage in my leg and foot, as well, because my leg needed to be stretched during the last surgery to put it back where it belongs. The stretching stretched my nerves throughout my leg and foot and caused nerve damage.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 1:47AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Here's a clever way to sow seeds while standing.

Get a piece of plastic PVC water pipe, 1/2" or 3/4" about 3 ft long. (It's cheap -- ten feet of it costs about $2.) The top should be cut straight across. The bottom can be cut straight across or on the diagonal, forming a kind of point. A hacksaw works fine.

Find a shallow container that you can pick seeds out of, like a tuna can. File down or flatten and cover with duct tape any burrs on the edge of the can. Attach the can with duct tape somewhere near the top of the pipe, whatever height feels right for you. Make it tight so it doesn't wobble.

If you are a small person and the 3 ft length is too tall, cut off the excess.

Prepare your garden bed. Put your seed in the can. Place the bottom tip of the pipe where you want the seed. Drop a seed down the pipe. Repeat. Then use a rake to cover the seed and gently firm the soil with the head of a rake.

You can even plant seed potatoes like this, as long as you have a plastic pipe that is wide enough, like 3" diameter. (This is more expensive, about $8 for 10ft -- ask if they have any cutoffs or broken pieces.)

If you shop at a place like Home Depot or Lowe's, check the back of the store for a scraps and damage cart, just in case they have some pipe you can use, so you don't have to buy ten feet of it.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 9:33PM
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