If you’re scheduled for a total hip replacement, you might be wondering what the rehab process will look like, how long the recovery will take and if there are things you should or shouldn’t be doing. Here we answer some of these questions and give a brief description of what the rehab process will look like from start to finish.
PREhab 6 weeks or more pre-op
AIM: Maximise range of hip and optimise strength of unaffected side prior to surgery
Prior to getting your total hip replacement, we recommend a few weeks of PREhab. Really, this can be started as soon as you decide to go for surgery. The better condition the muscles of the hip and the other leg are before the surgery, the easier the recovery will be after.
The main focus is on maximizing range and strength of your affected hip while maintaining strength of your unaffected leg. This will enable you to continue to move as freely and comfortably as possible in the lead up to the surgery.
Initial Post-op Recovery Weeks 0-2
AIM: Pain management and gradual increase in mobility
The day after the surgery (or the day of in some cases), your inpatient physiotherapist will help you to get out of bed and begin walking. Yes, you will be walking as early as the day after the operation! Studies show the sooner people get up and walk after their hip replacement surgery, the better their outcomes in both the long and short term.
Before being discharged your inpatient physiotherapist will ensure you are comfortably and independently walking with crutches or a walking-frame.
The first two weeks after the surgery you will feel quite tired and the movement in your hip will be limited. It is important during this phase to keep pain levels under control enabling you to carry out your exercise program. You will be encouraged to take short regular walks around the house and engage in very light activities as tolerated. During this stage of rehabilitation, telehealth may be a convenient way of staying on top of your rehabilitation, all from the comfort of your own home.
Early Rehabilitation Stage Weeks 3-12
AIM: Increase strength, maximise range and wean off walking aids
At this stage, the pain levels should have improved quite significantly, and you should be a lot more mobile. Sleep quality will begin to improve and you should begin to return your general activities of daily living with greater ease. At this point we would encourage you to get out for daily walks with a focus on gradually increasing your walking distance.
During this phase you will focus on building strength and weaning off the crutches- aiming to be walking independently by 6 weeks post op. It is also possible to return to work approximately 4-6 weeks post op if sedentary in work, or a little later if you have an active occupation. It is generally advised not to return to driving for 6 weeks after your total hip replacement and so with that in mind, we continue to offer telehealth as an option for convenience. This gives you the best support to progress your rehabilitation without having to rely on public transports or lifts to your appointment.
Late Rehabilitation Stage Weeks 13-26
AIM: Improve Exercise Tolerance, Functional Rehabilitation
Through walking programs, gym programs and functional exercises the aim of this phase is to get you reintegrated into your daily routine, and get you back doing what you love. While the hip still may not feel completely normal, however limitations in daily function will be few and fewer.
During this phase of rehabilitation we will work closely with you and your functional goals. We expect you to be out walking regularly, increasing your exercise tolerance and continuing to strengthen your hip. The Rehab program may shift toward more sport specific exercises during this phase, depending on your goals.
Return to Full Function 6 months+
AIM: Return to Higher functioning activities. Regular life should resume.
By far the most exciting phase of rehabilitation as the primary focus is to achieve your individualised goals such as returning to sport or higher functioning activities.
By the time you are 6 to 9 months post op, you will find very few limitations in daily life. It is likely that your hip will begin to feel normal to you again and you will likely be back doing what you love, be it playing golf, gardening, or even your weekend hike.
People rarely regret having a hip replacement surgery. The pain experienced post-operatively often is not as severe as the arthritic pain that led them to surgery in the first place.
Long term outcomes after hip replacement are generally very good and with the right rehab, we aim to ensure you achieve your individualised goals. Every rehabilitation plan will look different for every individual, and it will be guided by your goals and your targets. Our aim is to guide you back to doing what you love, comfortably and confidently.
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