Physical Therapy After Hip Replacement Surgery

When do you need hip replacement surgery?

A total hip replacement (THR) is often recommended when a patient has significant arthritis in a hip joint. When arthritis causes hip pain that interferes with walking, sleeping or standing up, you may benefit from a THR.

What are the types of hip replacement surgery?

Hip replacement surgery removes damaged bone and cartilage, and replaces the damaged joint with an artificial hip. There are three surgical approaches to total hip replacements.

  • Posterior approach: The surgeon makes an incision through the back of the hip near the buttock.
  • Anterolateral approach: The incision is through the side of the hip.
  • Anterior approach: The incision is through the front of the hip.

The posterior and anterolateral approaches require precautions after surgery, such as refraining from crossing your legs for 4-6 weeks after surgery. Some surgeons advocate the anterior approach for several reasons. This technique may do less damage to major muscles, resulting in less post-surgical pain. It may expedite your ability to walk without an assistive device such as a walker or cane, and it may shorten rehabilitation time by five to seven days.

What can I expect after a total hip replacement?

Soon after surgery, often on the same day, you will be out of bed and bearing your full weight on the affected leg if you can tolerate the pain. Patients usually start walking with a walker, then progress to crutches, and then to a cane during the three to four weeks after surgery. By the fourth week, you can usually walk on a level surface without an assistive device.

What is the recovery time after hip replacement surgery?

Most patients return to work about one month after surgery. Patients can generally resume driving about four weeks after THR on the left hip, and six weeks post-surgery for THR on the right side. Physical therapy for THR usually lasts four to six months, but can take as long as one year in patients with other significant health issues.

How can physical therapy help me recover from hip replacement surgery?

Rehabilitation is crucial after a total hip replacement, and it is a good idea to start physical therapy before having total hip replacement surgery. Flexibility and strengthening exercises before surgery can improve your ability to recover from the surgery. Following surgery, your physical therapist will show you exercises to improve your strength and range of motion. Therapy may also include massage and electric stimulation.

Three phases of physical therapy:

  1. The first phase of post-surgical rehabilitation is designed to reduce pain and swelling. Treatment may include massage therapy, electrical stimulation, ice, compression, light exercises, and elevation of your affected leg.
  2. The second phase of physical therapy focuses on increasing your range of motion, improving your mobility, and strengthening your muscles. Hands-on joint mobilization, passive range of motion, and therapeutic exercises will help you accomplish these goals.
  3. The final phase of rehab will allow you to regain your full strength, restore your balance and coordination, and maximize function of your new hip. You’ll continue with therapeutic exercises tailored to help you return to full function.

Can physical therapy help me avoid hip replacement surgery?

Physical therapy will not prevent you from needing hip replacement surgery, but it can dramatically facilitate the rehabilitation of your new hip. The sooner you begin physical therapy, the faster you will return to full function.