Rehabilitation After Hip Replacement Surgery: Why It's So Important

    Glenn Smith 31 Oct

    Person Centered Care, Short-Term Rehabilitation, caregiver

    Rehabilitation After Hip Replacement Surgery: Why It's So Important

    After an orthopedic procedure and following the standard post-op care—both physical and occupational therapy play a key role in the process of regaining function in the new joint.

    For those experiencing the constant pain of hip arthritis or similar conditions, there are very good reasons to have hip replacement surgery. Though this still is a major surgery—and a decision that should be carefully considered—recent advances in medical science mean that it's more likely than ever to be a success. Now, surgical incisions are smaller; pain levels are lower; the risk of infection is extremely low; and the recovery time is faster.

    And once the surgery has been completed, there are state-of-the-art rehabilitation services available to support you in your recovery. After an orthopedic procedure such as this—and following the standard post-op care—both physical and occupational therapy play a key role in the process of regaining function in the new joint.

    Read on for an overview of what exactly these therapies provide—and how they play a vital role in successful rehab after hip-replacement surgery.     

    The Treatment Plan: Your Roadmap To Recovery

    Guiding your rehabilitation process will be a specific treatment plan. This is like a roadmap to recovery—laying out the strategies, steps and stages that you will follow.

    The treatment plan is based upon the recommendations of your physician and surgeon, and tailored to your unique situation. It will guide you safely and intelligently along the path to a full recovery.

    Physical Therapy After Hip Replacement Surgery

    In devising their part of your treatment plan, a physical therapist, for instance, will evaluate things like:  


    • Range of motion in the joint
    • Muscle strength
    • Ability to get into and out of bed
    • Ability to get into and out of chairs, or onto and off of the floor
    • Ability to walk

    Based upon the results of such an evaluation, a typical physical therapy treatment plan would then include:

    • A series of strengthening and range-of-motion exercises
    • Pain management strategies
    • Walking with crutches or a walker (in the initial stages of recovery)
    • Utilizing appropriate safety precautions when getting in and out of bed and on and off other surfaces
    • Educating family members and caregivers on safety precautions and how best to assist the patient

    As you can see, this treatment plan provides an overview of the various components of the recovery process—and specific steps to take in order to achieve these objectives. Your physical therapist may suggest additional healing modalities—such as therapeutic yoga classes or therapeutic massage—to further support the healing process. But the exercises that he or she leads you through are an excellent first step on your road to recovery.

    Occupational Therapy After Hip Replacement Surgery

    An occupational therapist will work closely with your physical therapist, to improve your ability to perform the various tasks associated with daily living. Such activities include:  iStock-960352786

    • Self-care (dressing, bathing, etc.)
    • Moving around your home (to cook, clean, etc.)     
    • Engaging in leisure-time activities
    • Performing work-related tasks



    While physical therapy and occupational therapy overlap in certain ways—and this is a good thing!—there also are differences. Your physical therapist will support you primarily in regaining strength, balance and range of motion in the larger muscle groups and joints of your body. Your occupational therapist, on the other hand, will focus more on helping you cultivate the fine-motor skills and cognitive capacities required to engage in the life-activities that are most meaningful to you.

    Adaptive Equipment After Hip Replacement

    In developing their portion of your treatment plan, an occupational therapist will assess your muscle strength and joint range of motion, your fine-motor skills, and your cognitive function.  

    Based upon their initial assessments, the occupational therapist will suggest specific exercises for you to practice. They will also educate you (and your caregivers and family members) on the use of adaptive equipment for dressing, bathing and other activities. These assistive devices support you in gradually and safely regaining full function in the new hip joint. For instance:


    • Sock aid—helps you put on your socks without bending over all the way to your feet.
    • Dressing stick—helps you get dressed without reaching or bending over.
    • Reacher—as its name implies, a long stick with a latch that allows you to reach things you need, without bending over.
    • Shoe horn—especially long, to help you put your shoes on without bending over.
    • Long-handled bath sponge—helps you in the shower, to reach your feet and back without over-extending.
    • Raised toilet seat—that allows you to sit higher on the seat, making it easier to sit down and get up.
    • Elastic shoelaces—transforms your tied shoes into slip-ons, so you no longer have to tie and untie them.

    With the support of this type of adaptive equipment, along with the guidance of your physical therapist and occupational therapist, chances are excellent that you'll progress smoothly through your rehabilitation—and regain full function in your new hip.  

    Questions or comments? Please feel free to contact us. We look forward to supporting you in any way we can.

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