What are the Best Hip Replacement Exercises?

Sandra Koehler

Hip replacement exercises are a specific training protocol designed to help with the rehabilitation process necessary before and after the surgical restoration of the hips. Performed under the direction of a physical therapist, these exercises are aimed at restoring range of motion and maximizing function while aiding in relieving pain.

An X-ray of the hips.
An X-ray of the hips.

Before a hip replacement surgery it is important to strengthen the trunk muscles including the hip, and the legs. Increasing the general strength of the muscles makes them work to their full potential. This aids in the speed and ease of the recovery process.

An X-ray of the pelvic area, showing a replacement hip. Very gentle exercises should be performed after surgery.
An X-ray of the pelvic area, showing a replacement hip. Very gentle exercises should be performed after surgery.

Strengthening prior to surgery include general range of motion and stretching of the hip and legs. This can be accomplished by doing exercises such as bringing the knee towards the chest. Knee-to-chest movements should be performed in a straight plane or towards the shoulder on the same side, and in an angled plane or towards opposite shoulder. Straight leg raises and moving the leg away from the body, or leg abduction should also be included in the exercise program.

After surgery, hip replacement exercises typically begin with the application of a constant passive motion machine, or CPM, immediately after the procedure. This electronic device consisting of a leg cradle and motion mechanism moves the lower leg up and down similar to the knee-to-chest exercise. A CPM can be set to a specific angle or amount of movement. This motion can be adjusted according to pain levels and protocols set up by the physician. This instant mobility helps maintain hip movement without the muscles contracting.

Simple hip replacement exercises can begin several hours after surgery and may include simple activities to increase circulation and general mobility. Exercises may include such things as ankle pumps, ankle circles and isometrics. Isometrics are exercises which tighten muscles but do not provoke movement. Pushing the knee down and contracting the thigh is an example of an isometric exercise.

Once medically cleared the rehabilitation process begins. Hip replacement exercises at this level include a general strengthening program similar to the pre-surgery workout. It also includes passive stretching of the hip by a physical therapist to maximize the range of motion of the hip joint. Gait training, also known as ambulation or walking, also is initiated.

Gait training involves adherence to weight bearing limitations set by the physician which are dependent on the individual according to general health and exact surgical procedure performed. Once there is a return to normal movement and function, hip replacement exercises may continue for several weeks to enhance strength and minimize injury risks.

Hip replacement exercises can help relieve the pain associated with surgery.
Hip replacement exercises can help relieve the pain associated with surgery.

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Discussion Comments


Exercises are great before surgery, as long as it's a scheduled surgery. However, when someone falls and breaks a hip, the person usually has surgery in 24 hours or less.

However, keeping up with the physical therapy *after* the surgery is crucial. My mom had hip replacement in 2006 and after a stint in rehab to get her up and around and having home health come in for six weeks, she pretty much quit doing the exercises. As a result, she's had pain and limited mobility since then.

She tried blaming the surgeon until I just flatly told her that he did his job just fine, but she had to help herself by keeping up with her PT. She got mad at me. She still doesn't do the exercises, but she doesn't gripe about her surgeon, either.

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