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Post Hip Replacement Exercises

A hip replacement is a common treatment for elderly people with hip arthritis and gives a very great amount of arthritis pain relief with some of the highest quality of life improvements of all medical interventions.

In the years preceding the hip replacement it is likely that the gradually developing osteoarthritis of the hip joint has a series of effects on the tissues around the joint. The ligament like capsule of the hip joint, a fibrous bag surrounding the joint, tightens up in reaction to the abnormalities of the joint surface, restricting hip movement. Exercises for joint pain will likely have been performed under physiotherapy supervision.

Due to the fact that the hip arthritis makes the joint painful and move abnormally, the muscles surrounding the joint are unable to work properly and to their full power. This makes a degree of muscle wasting occur, also called muscle atrophy, which gradually increases hip weakness and makes the person unable to perform a joint exercise program and normal tasks such as moving the bodyweight.

This deterioration in the ability of the hip joint before the hip replacement surgery means that after the operation there is some hip replacement therapy to be done to restore the hip and pelvic area to full movement and strength. In many cases weight bearing and learning to walk normally will restore much of the hip's ability to function but in some cases exercises are required to deal with particular difficulties.

It is important not to overdo the exercises for the new hip for at least two reasons. One is the risk of dislocation if the joint is moved too far, particularly in standard hip replacement where the ball is small and the neck can impinge on the socket, levering the joint out of position. In hip resurfacing this ball is much bigger and this risk is much lower so hip resurfacing exercises can be more safely pursued.

The second reason is that the implant, bone and perhaps cement need to grow together to form a long-lasting lock so the joint will last for many years. If the area is subjected often to significant forces this may be too much for the bone healing to occur, potentially leading to a loose joint and the necessity of repeat operation.

Hip replacement exercises are divided into mobilising exercises and strengthening exercises. The normal ranges of movement are important for functionally being able to get in and out of bed, walk upright and do normal tasks. Hip replacement stretches are often not required but if so they need to be performed carefully and without significant force or speed to ensure safety of the joint.

To get a better idea of what to do it is good to watch a total hip replacement video of the exercises concerned, although you should ALWAYS check with your physiotherapist or surgeon before starting an exercise programme.

Exercises after hip replacement can be seen at Therapy and the Hip and Knee Institute page on home exercises for the first eight weeks after operation.

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