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The Importance of Physical Therapy after Hip Replacement Surgery

The Importance of Physical Therapy after Hip Replacement Surgery

Imagine being so stiff, so limited in mobility or in so much pain that being able to walk or even get out of chairs becomes a difficult process.

Symptoms such as arthritis, hip fractures and years of wear and tear are some of the reasons why hip replacement may be required. If an orthopaedic doctor decides a patient is a candidate for hip replacement surgery, consumers should know the procedure generally has a high success rate.

Part of the success of that surgery depends on the recovery process and how well patients take care of themselves as they recuperate. The physical therapy they receive is an important part of that process.

Mobility and Normal Living

A person recovering from hip replacement surgery will learn how to live with the new device as a result of physical therapy.

Artificial hips do provide patients with a relatively wide range of motion-- though not exactly what they may have had before. The importance of physical therapy is to strengthen all the muscles in the hip area to hold the implant in place, as well as to strengthen the rest of the leg to regain mobility.

Physical therapy can also build good fitness habits in a patient, which is important in the long term success of maintaining the implant. It’s important to keep the leg strong and the rest of the body fit. A healthy body puts less stress on the device.

Monitoring Progress

Before having hip replacement surgery, the patient should give their orthopaedic surgeon their complete medical history so they can monitor how the body reacts to the device once it’s implanted. Hip implants are made from various materials, and people may have sensitivities to certain materials like metal.

Metal-on-metal (MoM) hip replacements can carry additional risks. It’s important for surgeons and physical therapists to monitor patient for any adverse reactions to these devices, which can occur months or years after surgery. The FDA continues to issue new information to the public about metal hip replacements.

Physical Therapy and Recovery

The recovery process happens in stages. One of those stages is creating an ongoing dialogue about the surgery with your health care providers.

As patients get stronger, they will build up to more complex exercises. Walking short distances and then building up to longer distances or walking up and down stairs are good exercises to begin with.

As a patient’s healing progresses, patients will be asked to do a range of exercises like hip extensions. Many of these exercises require the patients to lie on the ground and bend and stretch their legs in many different directions.  They are intended to strengthen the leg and make the leg joints more flexible.

Physical therapy is also important because this is when the patient will learn their limitations. Part of a patient’s ongoing dialogue with physical therapists is learning how much bending and stretching you can and can’t do. Bending the leg too far can cause dislocation.

A major no-no in the beginning is bending the hip at extreme angles. Patients are advised not to sit on floors, low stools or low toilet seats until they get stronger. Physical therapy will teach you how to cope with these limitations until you are ready.

Physical therapy can help minimize the risk of post-surgical complications. People who have hip replacement surgery and follow their doctors’ advice will have the greatest chance at a full recovery.

Jennifer Mesko is the managing editor of Drugwatch.com, a consumer advocacy website. She aims to keep the public informed about dangerous prescription drugs and defective medical devices.

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