There’s no dancing around this: hip replacement is major surgery. The decision to have hip replacement is major, too – and after you and your physician have discussed all your options and have decided hip replacement is right for you, it’s already time to start thinking about what comes next.
Immediately After Surgery
Though you won’t feel like competing in a triathlon immediately following hip replacement, your physician and care team will ask you to get moving as soon as the same day and certainly the day after your surgery. This may just mean taking a few steps with assistance at first, but a small amount of movement right from the start goes a long way toward speeding your recovery and ensuring you build up your strength for the weeks, months, and years to come.
Formal physical therapy isn’t routinely ordered after hip replacement surgery as these exercises and a walking program are sufficient for the majority of patients. You’ll be taught exercises in the hospital as well as supplied with a home program by the physical therapist.
As You Get Stronger
I tailor recovery exercise programs for my patients based on their specific needs, but there are a few very good exercises, recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, that help most people recovering from hip replacement surgery. None requires a great deal of strength or flexibility – only a strong commitment from you to perform them with the goal of improving your outcome. Here are some more of my favorites.
Exercises for the Long Run
Your physician likely won’t recommend running, which is an exercise that is very stressful to joints – but there are a variety of low-impact exercises you can enjoy once your strength and stamina improve.
- Though at first you may only be able to walk for a few minutes several times a day, working up to a good 20- to 30-minute daily walk is a great habit to keep up for maintaining your strength.
- Old fashioned bike riding is a great exercise that really gets your hips moving without the stress that comes from higher-impact activities. Use a stationary bike to add in extra moves, such as backward pedaling. Shoot for gradually building up to a 20- to 30-minute ride three to five times a week.
- This is a physician favorite. It offers resistance for building strength, yet provides no impact to damage joints. The kicking motion that comes with swimming also makes it excellent for building hip strength.
- Another low-impact choice, working out on an elliptical machine can be a more challenging option for exercise once you’ve returned to full strength.
- Weight-bearing or resistance exercises. Lifting light or moderate weights or using elastic bands or other devices that provide resistance can help you build strength without fancy gym equipment.
- With its wide variety of stretches and balancing poses, yoga can help you build stability, strength, and flexibility after surgery.
Before beginning any new exercise program, you should always ask your doctor for recommendations based on your current level of fitness and stage of recovery. He or she can help make sure you find an activity that keeps you motivated to stay fit after hip replacement.
Dr. Edelstein is a board-certified Orthopedics specialist and surgeon at Kelsey-Seybold’s Berthelsen Main Campus and Tanglewood Clinic. His clinical interests include total joint replacement surgery of the hip and knee, trauma surgery, and arthroscopic surgery. He is trained in Mako physician-assisted robotic surgery.