A diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the hip generally progresses to the likelihood of requiring a hip replacement in the near future. As the degenerative condition advances, it causes a decreased range of motion, pain, muscle weakness, gait changes, and tight muscles. Specific exercises designed for hip arthritis can help maintain the range of motion at your joint, prevent loss of muscle, stretch muscles that will become tight, and lubricate the joint to decrease stiffness and pain. In addition, performing exercises prior to surgery will speed up your recovery post-operation.
Goals of a Hip Replacement Arthritis Exercise Program – Pre Operation:
There are two main goals to target with a pre operation hip arthritis exercise program. One is strength of the gluteal muscles and the other is to maintain range of motion by working within your pain free range. There are exercises that work both of these goals simultaneously. The gluteal muscles are extremely important to strengthen pre operation because they comprise the stability of the joint. Ironically, arthritis causes pain, decreased range of motion, and therefore less weight bearing which all contribute to atrophy, or shrinking, of the gluteal muscles.
Therefore, it is paramount to actively engage in specific strength exercises that target these muscles. Although strength and range of motion are highlighted as the priorities here, cardiovascular or aerobic conditioning is also extremely important. Usually due to pain and decreased range of motion, both walking and overall activity are reduced drastically which negatively lowers an individual’s aerobic capacity. Using stationary bikes or participating in water classes are excellent non weight bearing options to keep your cardiovascular conditioning strong.
Hip Replacement Exercises Post Surgery
There are a series of exercises your physiotherapist will guide you through immediately post operation. They will guide you through an exercise program that will be safe with the goal of returning you to full function in daily activities. This program will last up to 6 to 8 weeks post operation. A lot of patients stop the exercises once they are discharged or released from the supervision of their physiotherapy. It is imperative that you continue hip strengthening exercises in a progressive format for at least one year post operation. Patients that have continued with an exercise program consistently for a full year post operation, receive amazing results in functional ability.
Goals of Hip Arthritis Exercise Program – Post Operation:
Follow the exercise program guidelines given to you by your physiotherapist for the first 6 to 8 weeks post operation. The post operation exercise program varies from the pre operation program on three aspects which include the following: range of motion stretches have to be modified to follow restrictions that protect your joint from dislocation, strength exercises will progress to weight bearing, and one leg balance exercises along with gait retraining become a priority. Post surgery, the goal of your exercise program should be to progressively advance your strength exercises, when your body is ready, from isolated muscular endurance exercises to dynamic, functional exercises. Again, the most important muscles to strengthen post operation are your gluteals. Your exercise program should also include quadricep strengthening and core stability exercises. When you are selecting exercises, it is highly advised to select unilateral or one limb exercises in order to make the strength equal across limbs.
The journey your muscles have endured from the pre surgery pain through the operation leaves them tight and contracted in a shortened position. Therefore, stretching is equally important to include in your post operation exercise program. Often the hip flexors, hamstrings, and quadriceps will be tight post operation and need to be stretched. The very exciting aspect of the post operation exercise program is that you are pain free and therefore can gradually increase your cardiovascular training time and intensity to your pre arthritic conditioned level.
When you are disciplined at consistently keeping up with your exercises and gradually progress through incremental stages of exercises, you will notice huge improvements in your cardiovascular, strength, flexibility, balance, gait, and overall functional ability. The importance of engaging in a regular, consistent exercise program both pre and post hip operation will impact your full recovery greatly. A hip exercise program is the best single action you can take to encourage a highly successful return to function post surgery.