What is a Hip Replacement?
A hip replacement is a surgery that is performed due to severe damage to your hip, whether from a fall, arthritis, or other causes.
The diseased and/or damaged parts of your hip joint are removed and replaced with prosthetic parts made of metal, ceramic, or hard, durable plastic.
A hip replacement is usually done when more conservative treatments have not helped or are no longer effective, and the pain is interfering with your everyday life.
You can receive physiotherapy treatment well in advance of total hip replacement surgery to strengthen and prepare your hip for surgery so you can go into the procedure feeling stronger than you did before, as well as have a faster and easier recovery afterward.
What Causes the Need for a Hip Replacement?
The need for hip replacement surgery is generally caused by hip osteoarthritis which is the breakdown of the hip joint caused by repetitive, long-term strain on your hips.
Additional factors leading to hip replacement surgery may include:
- Hip dysplasia – a form of arthritis that worsens over time and affects people from birth
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Post-traumatic arthritis (following injury)
- Osteonecrosis – inadequate blood supply to the ball part of the hip joint which causes bone deformity and collapse
- Direct trauma such as falls or motor vehicle accidents
What are the Signs and Symptoms You Might Need a Hip Replacement?
The most common sign that you might need a hip replacement is pain that severely hinders you from enjoying your daily activities, whether it’s working in the garden, climbing stairs, sleeping, or just sitting down and standing up.
Most often, the pain will be in the front of your hip, but it could be in your groin or thigh as well.
What Does Recovery From a Hip Replacement Look Like?
While hip replacement surgery may not be entirely avoided due to advanced arthritis or disease, it should be considered as a last option only after other conservative methods have failed or stopped working.
Some patients seek alternative treatments like hip resurfacing, partial replacement, and injections.
However, pain that no longer responds to medication, injections (both of which cannot be continued long-term), or physiotherapy exercises may call for a hip replacement.
Surgery is sometimes necessary, but carries risks such as blood clotting and infection. Due to this, you will be prompted to sit up and even try walking with a walker or crutches on the same day or the day after your surgery.
Regular activity and exercise is crucial to regaining strength and function of your hip joint, which is why physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation from a hip replacement.
Physiotherapy for Hip Replacement Recovery
Physiotherapy is a drug-free treatment that meets both pre- and post-surgical hip replacement needs including pain and swelling relief, as well as mobility and strengthening exercises, all of which are essential to a lasting recovery.
Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy can include:
- Activity modification and functional retraining
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Range of motion and flexibility exercises
- Stability and endurance exercises
- Personalized exercise plan that you can do at home to encourage continuous improvement and progress
- Patient education
- Occupational therapy to help you function independently at home and work
- Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as:
Can You Recover from a Hip Replacement on Your Own?
While your new hip joint should reduce your pain and increase your range of motion, you will still need to do special strengthening exercises to heal effectively and promote long-lasting health.
Prognosis is good following total hip replacement surgery as long as you adhere to your physiotherapy plan.
If a proper treatment program is not followed, you are at risk for scar tissue development which can lead to adhesion and limited mobility.
A normal recovery with guided physiotherapy usually takes at least six to 12 weeks, with most people getting back to their regular activities, although modified.
However, total recovery can take six to 12 months.
Can You Prevent Hip Replacement Surgery?
A study on a six week physiotherapy education and exercise program has been shown to significantly improve pain, function, knowledge, and mood for patients waiting for hip surgery, and can even postpone the need for a hip replacement.
And while hip replacement surgery may not always be entirely avoided, you can certainly prepare for a successful surgery and recovery by strengthening the surrounding muscles with physiotherapy.
Even better, you can try to prevent hip osteoarthritis in the first place, the main cause behind hip replacement surgery. Speak to a physiotherapist about the best exercises for your activities.
If you have hip osteoarthritis risk factors, you can take steps to help reduce your chances of developing it, including:
- Exercising regularly, including muscle strengthening and stretching exercises such as yoga or tai chi (at least 30 minutes every day)
- Eating a non-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Improving your posture