Have you been suffering from hip pain that makes your daily activities difficult to perform? If walking aids (cane or walker), physical therapy, or medications have not helped improve your ability to function and get around, you may want to consider speaking to your doctor about a hip replacement. However, before getting a hip replacement it is important to consider the recovery factor. The April 2011 issue of JOSPT published a research article that provides new information on the recovery process after surgery and how long it will actually take before you can walk again more easily.
In this study, 65 patients (average age, 61 years) were followed for up to 65 weeks after a total hip replacement. The study determined whether people had recovered by measuring how far they could walk in 6 minutes and using what they reported about their problems in doing daily activities. Both measures were taken prior to surgery and at several points during the recovery process. The researchers found that most patients had a rapid recovery during the first 3 to 4 months after surgery, but improvements then continued at a slower rate for up to a year. These findings are important, because, if you do not see rapid improvement in the first 3 to 4 months after surgery or if you stop making progress during the first year, you may benefit from an evaluation to determine if additional exercises or other forms of rehabilitation would help your recovery.
Improvements in strength, balance, and coordination after a hip replacement are needed to help patients return to their daily activities and decrease their risk for falls. Researchers have previously shown that hip strength and muscle weakness persist up to 2 years after surgery. Based on the rapid recovery in the first 3 to 4 months, some patients may stop doing their exercises, which may limit their recovery and place them at risk for falls. On the flip side, some patients may be frustrated if they are not getting better faster. The recovery chart (link to it below) can help you check your progress, set goals for your recovery, and begin to answer the question “How am I doing compared to others?” For more information on rehabilitation following a hip replacement, contact your physical therapist specializing in musculoskeletal disorders.
Link to Recovery Chart: http://www.jospt.org/issues/articleID.2569,type.1/article_detail.asp
Teyhen, Deydre S. “Total Hip Replacement: How Long Does It Take to
Recover?.” Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy Apr. 2011: 24