Safe sex after surgery
An orthopaedic surgeon takes a position on positions following hip replacement.
Vikki Mioduszewski Published: February 05, 2019
The six million dollar bionic man from the 1970s TV series was better, stronger and faster than before. In real life, hip replacement patients, at least in the near term, are thinking more about how to walk, sleep, or go up and down the stairs without damaging their healing joint.
There’s another worry that often goes unspoken: When will it be safe to have sex again?
“It’s a hard subject. People tend to feel ashamed, or nervous talking about it,” said Brett Frykberg, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute. “You can tell they want to ask that question. And so, I bring it up.”
The short answer is that sex is OK as soon as you feel ready. But in the beginning, you should avoid certain positions to protect the joint from stress.
It’s a common misconception that sex is going to be very painful after hip surgery, Dr. Frykberg said. But, the truth is there’s actually a lot less pain. Hip surgery is all about improving the quality of life. Sex included.
People choose hip surgery when a condition, usually arthritis, is causing pain, sometimes so much that it limits movement.
“An arthritic hip is the equivalent of putting a square peg in a round hole,” Dr. Frykberg said. “The hip doesn’t move very well, and it’s painful to flex.”
A hip surgery re-creates the round-on-round surface, allowing fluid movement.
Hip replacement patients need to be careful not to stress the joint, though, while muscles, tendons and ligaments are healing. The most vulnerable period is the first six weeks following surgery, Dr. Frykberg said.
If the surgical incision was made from the rear, recovering patients must avoid bending at the waist beyond 90 degrees or rotating the leg inward. If the incision was made from the front, they should avoid extending the leg or rotating toes outward.
The restrictions sound like movements people commonly practice during sex. So, it matters which position is used.
“Men really have no trouble,” Dr. Frykberg said. “Women, on the other hand, need to worry more.”
One position Dr. Frykberg recommends is the simple missionary position. Another is with both partners standing, the woman bending slightly at the waist and the man approaching from behind. These positions keep the waist bending and leg rotation to a minimum. Pillows can be stacked to help stabilize a good position over a longer period of time.
The biggest danger following a hip replacement is dislocation—the ball of the hip joint popping out of the socket. That hardly ever happens. But people should avoid quick, reactive motions that can trigger it, Dr. Frykberg said.
“Just do things slowly,” he said. “Your body is going to let you know if you put yourself in a wrong position. If you go slowly, you can reverse it. Pain will be your indicator.”
For more information about hip replacement, visit Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute.