Approximately 300,000 people get hip replacements each year in the U.S., a number that is predicted to almost double by 2030. The most common reason for the surgery is osteoarthritis, an age-related type of arthritis that is often difficult to treat with medications or non-surgical treatments. After surgery, patients routinely have extensive rehabilitation therapy, consisting of outpatient appointments a few times a week to improve strength, stamina, and balance.

If you or a loved one is scheduled to have hip replacement surgery, here’s what you need to know about the hip replacement therapy that follows:

Hip replacement rehab starts at the hospital

Hip replacement surgery does not require an extensive recovery period before rehabilitation can begin. Therapy starts at the hospital, usually the day after the procedure. In-hospital therapy starts slow, with simple movements such as moving from lying down to a sitting position, moving from the bed to standing with a walker, eating meals sitting up, and walking a few steps. By the time the patient leaves the hospital, they should be able to walk about 200 feet with the aid of a walker, crutches, or a cane.

Following a therapy plan

While a patient heals from hip replacement surgery, following through with a therapy plan is important for building a strong, sturdy support system for the new joint and expanding its range of motion. The risk for dislocation of the new joint is highest during the first six to eight weeks post-surgery, and rehabilitation exercises lower the risk by strengthening the leg muscles that keep the artificial hip in place. Therapy exercises can include:

  • Quad squeezes: Strengthens gluteus muscles without stressing the new joint

  • Heel slides: Engages both the quadriceps and gluteal muscles

  • Hip abductions: Stabilizes the pelvis and encourages normal walking

  • Knee extensions: Strengthens the quadriceps and improves knee and hip flexibility

What to expect during rehabilitation after hip replacement

Outpatient physical therapy programs offer a range of options for patients, and therapy plans are customized depending on each patient’s specific needs. With a variety of exercise equipment and techniques, physical therapists help patients strengthen muscles and learn how to move to protect the new joint, including how to properly get out of bed, get into a car, and go up and down steps. Balancing exercises are also included, along with ice therapy to reduce swelling and soreness and heat therapy to loosen tight muscles. Physical therapists can also tailor rehab programs and movements based on a patient’s personal goals, such as returning to certain sports.

Length of rehab period

The length of time required for hip replacement rehabilitation will vary based on the patient and how well they recovery from surgery, but in general the rehab process takes around 6 weeks for patients to resume normal activities. For more advanced activities or recreational pursuits, it can take up to 12 weeks to fully recover. Here’s a general guide for basic activities:

  • Walking: 2 to 4 weeks with a cane, 4 to 6 weeks without

  • Using stairs: 1 week with crutches or walker, 4 to 6 weeks without

  • Driving: 4 to 6 weeks, depending on automatic vs. manual transmission

  • Working: 4 to 10 weeks, depending on type of work and physical requirements

Hip replacement rehabilitation at Bella Vista Health Care Center in San Diego

Hip replacement surgery might be common, but full recovery and rehabilitation isn’t guaranteed - it depends on the dedication the patient and the strength of their rehab team. At Bella Vista Health Care Center, we customize therapy plans designed to help each patient recovery quickly and return to all their favorite daily activities as soon as possible. For more information about our hip replacement rehab programs, please contact us at (619) 399-7920.

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