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May 26, 2023

Physical Therapy After Hip Replacement

Senior Patient and physical therapist in rehabilitation walking exercises | physical therapy after hip replacement

Hip replacement surgery is one of the most common types of joint replacement surgery in the U.S., with thousands of people undergoing the procedure every year. It can be very restorative, reducing pain and providing you with significant improvement in mobility. However, just getting the new hip joint isn’t enough. You also need to re-learn how to use the joint and walk properly. That is where physical therapy after hip replacement becomes so important.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy After Hip Replacement

Many types of injuries benefit from physical therapy, and a hip replacement is easily one of the most important. Most people who have this surgery are encouraged to stand up and start walking on the hip within a few days of receiving the procedure. That can be scary, but once you leave the hospital and get clearance from your doctor, there are some outstanding reasons why you’ll benefit from physical therapy at this point. Some including: 

  • Reducing your pain
  • Improving and maintaining proper circulation in the area
  • Eliminating joint stiffness that may make it hard to get moving right away each day
  • Reducing inflammation around the joint and surrounding tissues
  • Gaining confidence in your balance and movement
  • Getting back to your natural gait again
  • Improving muscle strength in the surrounding area
  • Improving joint strength which could help to make the procedure more successful

Your outcome could be different from another person’s experience. However, to properly heal and gain mobility, you have to move and use the hip joint. If you do not do so frequently enough in the right manner, that can lead to complications, including difficulty with scar tissue development, inflammation development, and more pain. Physical therapy can help you with this.

What to Expect During Your Post-Op Physical Therapy

After your hip replacement surgery, you may be in the hospital for a few days. During this time, the hospital staff will begin to work with you, including helping you to start physical therapy. You’ll likely only get the beginning level of support at this point, and you’ll likely receive much more therapy after discharge.

The senior patient and physical therapist continue to practice physical therapy after hip replacement

Setting Some Goals

The first step in outpatient therapy will be to set some goals for yourself. You’ll work with a physical therapist to understand where you are right now.

  • How long can you stand now?
  • How confident do you feel when taking steps?
  • How many steps can you take before you have to sit?
  • Do you have the proper form when taking steps?
  • How is your core muscle strength? Do you feel strong?

Setting goals allows you to measure the success you’ll have going forward. Your physical therapist will encourage you to work towards improving those goals in a manner that is both safe and comfortable for you.

Creating a Physical Therapy Rehab Plan

The next step in the process is to create a plan for getting that improvement you hope to see. This is always customized to fit the very specific needs you have, including where you were before your procedure and where you are going in the future. Some key elements of this will include:

  • Using gym equipment to improve your cardiovascular health. This will help build up your muscles which in turn helps to give them more ability to support you. You’ll also use gym equipment as a way to improve your range of motion.
  • Manual therapy is typically necessary. Manual therapy can provide a significant number of benefits after hip replacement because it helps you to properly move and stretch that joint, pushing through scar tissue without causing pain.
  • Gait training is a method of improving the way you walk. The key here is to get back to walking normally, but even those without a hip don’t always walk in the best form possible to protect the spine. Gait training allows you to regain proper movement, which can reduce pain and inflammation and also support the long-term health of your new joint.
  • Strength and balance training is another core component of the process because they work to give the muscles in the rest of your body the functionality they need to perform at their best. By working to improve your balance, you are less likely to fall, and you’ll be more confident in the other exercises you do.
  • Massage therapy can also be a valuable form of therapy for most people because it aids in improving circulation. It helps to get oxygen-rich blood to all of your muscles, helping them to heal, become stronger, and function properly. It can also help to ease the soreness you may feel after hip replacement surgery.

What Are Your Goals After Surgery?

Work with your physical therapist to create some goals for yourself after your procedure. For example, initially, your team will work with you to stand and walk. Then, the goal will be to go from sitting to standing with confidence without support. You’ll also need to work on the following:

  • Being able to go up and down stairs
  • Getting in and out of bed with confidence
  • Squatting without feeling like you are going to fall over
  • Taking care of your day-to-day needs, like getting dressed and preparing meals
  • Build up your ability to walk longer distances and exercise
  • Aid you in being able to work outside, run, and go swimming
The elderly gentleman is now walking outside in a sunflower field with his wife, she is better after physical therapy after hip replacement

It can be empowering to realize just how much your mobility could improve with the help of physical therapy after hip replacement surgery. All of the pain and discomfort you felt prior to the procedure may improve significantly if you engage in physical therapy well enough to reach your goals.

Let Our Team Guide You Towards Success

At Rock Valley Physical Therapy, we’re in it for the long haul. Our highly experienced, compassionate, and skilled physical therapists will work closely with you to support you as you heal. Most importantly, you’ll always have someone by your side to help you work through the hard moments and continue to push you appropriately to reach your next goal. We are here to help you succeed. Contact Rock Valley Physical Therapy today to learn how we can help you.