How can rehabilitation help you?
Surgery may be the most important and intense step in any treatment plan, but it is not the only one that carries particular risks. The recovery period following any joint replacement surgery usually involves many important steps and processes that will determine your long-term health and mobility. The ultimate success of the surgery, will be determined by the success of the recovery process.
Your physical therapist will teach you all the precautions and the dos and don’ts for your new hip. These ‘rules’ help to ensure the longevity of your hip and avoid any damage or dislocation of the new joint. Avoiding any further trauma would be wise as it only delays your recovery, and could require surgical repair, which will set you back and expose you to more risks.
Following months, or maybe years, of suffering from pain and disability due to hip problems, you have probably developed ways to hold your leg, or angle it to reduce pain or load, possibly a limp when walking or favouring the good side for certain activities. Pain and loss of ‘normal’ movement patterns can lead to muscles and ligaments becoming weak, wasting away and others becoming tight from lack of use or sustaining wrong positions.
Getting a prosthetic hip may repair the bony structures, but what about the muscles and soft tissues above, below and around the joint, that also need to work together for optimal pain-free function? That is where rehabilitation is so important. If you don’t retrain your body, you will continue with bad habits and possibly develop pain in your knee, back or the other hip, and you may still end up walking with a persist limp. The lifespan of your prosthetic hip depends on it moving in the correct fashion which depends on the supporting muscles, so this is a key role of rehabilitation.
Your physical therapist will guide you right from the first day after surgery in walking and climbing stairs correctly, teaching you basic strengthening and circulation exercises to do in bed. From there they will progress your exercises as you become stronger and more confident, while also monitoring your pain.
Once light activity becomes possible, it’s important to incorporate healthy exercise into your recovery programme. Recommended activities will include gradually increasing your walking and light household activities, to swimming or cycling, using an elliptical trainer at a gym for example. Movement is essential to a healthy recovery.
Commitment to a rehabilitation programme is an important part of the recovery process, the more effort you put in, the more benefits you’ll get back. Depending on your ability and determination you may be able to do more home exercises alone, whilst others may require more one-on-one sessions with the physical therapist. Things that may help to keep you motivated might include group exercise classes run by your therapist, or walking with a friend, using a step counter or a diary to monitor progress. There are ways to stay in touch and motivated over the months following surgery and it is important you connect with your physical therapist about this, otherwise you may find yourself plateauing after a few weeks and becoming despondent.
Hip replacement surgery really can give you a new lease of life, and allow you to return to most of the activities you loved, not to mention ensure your own independence. It may seem daunting, but with the correct preparation, counselling with your doctor and physical therapist and a prior commitment to your rehabilitation, you can be back on your own two feet in no time.