Total Hip Replacement - Rehab Experience

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What is involved in the rehabilitation process after total hip joint replacement?

After total hip joint replacement surgery, patients often start physical therapy immediately! On the first day after surgery, it is common to begin some minor physical therapy while sitting in a chair. Eventually, rehabilitation incorporates stepping, walking, and climbing. Initially, supportive devices such as a walker or crutches are used. Pain is monitored while exercise takes place. Some degree of discomfort is normal. It is often very gratifying for the patient to notice, even early on, substantial relief from the preoperative pain for which the total hip replacement was performed.

Physical therapy is extremely important in the overall outcome of any joint replacement surgery. The goals of physical therapy are to prevent contractures, improve patient education, and strengthen muscles around the hip joint through controlled exercises. Contractures that can cause limitation of joint motion result from scarring of the tissues around the joint. Contractures do not permit full range of motion and therefore impede mobility of the replaced joint. Patients are instructed not to strain the hip joint with heavy lifting or other unusual activities at home. Specific techniques of body posturing, sitting, and using an elevated toilet seat can be extremely helpful. Patients are instructed not to cross the operated lower extremity across the midline of the body (not crossing the leg over the other leg) because of the risk of dislocating the replaced joint. They are discouraged from bending at the waist and are instructed to use a pillow between the legs when lying on the non-operated side in order to prevent the operated lower extremity from crossing over the midline. Patients are given home exercise programs to strengthen the muscles around the buttock and thigh. Most patients attend outpatient physical therapy for a period of time while incorporating home exercises regularly into their daily living.

Occupational therapists are also part of the rehabilitation process. These therapists review precautions with the patients related to everyday activities. They also educate the patients about the adaptive equipment that is available and the proper ways to do their "ADLs" or activities of daily living.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Momo, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: March 19

I had anterior total hip replacement 4 weeks ago today. I was in the hospital 24 hours. I walked with a walker 3 hours after the surgery and next day before going home they had me walk with a cane and up and down 15 stairs. I got home and took 2 Tylenols. I had almost no pain, I only had burning around the incision. Two weeks post operation I was able to walk without the cane. Since I did not take narcotics I was allowed to drive after 2 weeks, since it was my left hip and I do the driving only with my right leg. I think having a good surgeon that only does anterior hip replacement is the right way to go. I had to travel 40 plus miles to have this done; worth the trip. Now if I walk too much I get a soreness on my thigh but the doctor says it's been only 4 weeks and probably that will be gone by 8 weeks. I hope this helps somebody make the right decision.

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Comment from: Norm, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: April 15

I had a total left hip replacement last September 29th. I only spent 2 days and one night in hospital. I used a walker for a couple of weeks and then a cane for a couple of more weeks after that. I am back to driving and regular activities shortly thereafter. Only lasting problem is squatting down and then getting back up without grabbing onto something. I took physical therapy for a few weeks but honestly don't think it did much good. I am trying my own exercise program now of just squatting down and then 'willing' myself back-up without any assistance. It seems to be working slowly. All in all I am glad I had the replacement.

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