Why physiotherapy should be essential for hip replacement patients

Hip replacement is life-changing, but with physiotherapy at your side, you can prepare for surgery and get back to normal life afterward too.
Read our blog to find out how our specialists can help you or someone you know with their preparation and recovery.

There’s no doubt that a hip replacement can be life-changing for sufferers of hip pain. The freedom of movement and mobility experienced post-surgery can drastically improve quality of life. But as well as the procedure itself, self-care in the form of physiotherapy plays a hugely important role in the success of the operation.

Before we look at the role of physiotherapy, it’s important to understand how the hip works.

The hip is a ball and socket joint, meaning that the head of the femur fits into the acetabulum of the pelvis. The head of the femur and the inside of the acetabulum are covered with a layer of hyaline the tissue. Once this cartilage is worn away or damaged (usually by arthritis), the underlying bone is exposed, resulting in pain, stiffness and possibly shortening of the affected leg. By replacing these surfaces the aim is to reduce pain and stiffness to restore an active and pain-free life.

What is a total hip replacement?
A total hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which both damaged surfaces of the hip joint are replaced with prosthetic substitutes. 

Which conditions commonly result in the need for a hip replacement?
Patients in need of a hip replacement are usually suffering from one of the following:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Post-traumatic arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Avascular necrosis
  • Hardware failure after internal fixation of hip fractures.

How can physiotherapy help?
Every surgery has its own side effects or risk. But looking after the joint to build and maintain strength and mobility as much as possible post-surgery can greatly aid healing and the overall success of the procedure.

There are some risks associated with hip replacement which physiotherapy can help to avoid.
For example, as a result of the trauma to the stabilizers of the hip (capsule, ligaments and muscles), patients are at risk of:

  • Dislocation
  • Abductor insufficiency
  • Pain on the groin area and weakness on the glutes
  • Restriction on what we refer to as ‘ADL’ – activities of daily life – such as long-distance walking, stepping in or downstairs, getting in or out of a car
  • Balance problems which can make patients vulnerable to falls [see our blog on falls risks and prevention]

Did you know that physiotherapy can also make a difference before surgery?
Clinical evidence and medical literature shows that physiotherapy before surgery is particularly important to reduce the recovery time and side effects.
Starting a programme of exercise as soon as you are approved for hip surgery could play an important part in improving quality of life.
This is because many months spent on a waiting list for surgery, often in pain and can cause further deterioration. A study of a 6-week education and exercise programme has shown significant and sustained improvements in pain and disability on patients waiting for joint replacement surgery. Further positive results included improvements in function, knowledge and psycho-social aspects.

After surgery
A post-operative rehabilitation programme can help you to return to a fully active life sooner after surgery. It can be tailored to account for your current state of health and the level of activity you wish to achieve, whether you hope to gain physical fitness or recover for recreational activity, for example.

There are a number of ways we can help you before and after surgery, including:

We will look at a number of factors such as:

  • Subjective history
  • Range of motion
  • Muscle power
  • Circulation
  • Mobility and function

Treatment before or after surgery may include:
We can help you with advice and home exercise plans to aid:

  • Rehabilitation
  • Strengthening your glutes and hip muscles 
  • Goals & expectations for your daily activities or hobbies
  • Functional/ADL adaptions.

Overall, physiotherapy is hugely beneficial to hip replacement patients. It can improve strength and gait speed after total hip replacement and help prevent complications such as subluxation and thromboembolic disease. In addition, physiotherapy can increase your mobility and help you with exercises and precautions necessary during hospitalization and after discharge. It can also speed up your recovery, meaning you are released from hospital earlier.

Physiotherapy provides pain relief, promotes rehabilitation and can get you back to normal daily life sooner. Early weight bearing, and physical activity has benefits for the quality of bone tissue as it improves the fixation of the prosthesis and decreases the incidence of early loosening.

Our aim is to help you make the most of your new hip and enjoy a fully active life as soon as possible after surgery. If you have already had an intensive course of post-surgery physio in the hospital but you want to work on long-term goals and maintenance, you can always drop into the KTB clinic and join our group exercise after an assessment from one of our physiotherapists .

KTB qualified physiotherapists can really make a difference to your post-surgery recovery or pre-surgery intervention.

Photo attributions: KJPargeter