Exercises After Hip Replacement

Exercise after hip replacement surgery is crucial. Without it the muscles surrounding the hip joint will never have an opportunity to regain their proper strength and flexibility and the new joint is likely to fail, leading to serious complications. 

Because hip motion has a direct effect on every other muscle of the leg it’s necessary to implement a comprehensive physical therapy regime that will take all the various muscle groups into consideration. In all likelihood your surgeon and physical therapist will recommend you exercise for 20 to 30 minutes at a time as many as 2 or 3 times every day in order to prevent the new hip joint from stiffening up and to promote the restoration of muscle strength in the joint and all down the leg.

Hip Replacement Exercises That Will Aid in Your Recovery

In this guide to post hip operation exercises we’re going to provide a range of repetitive physical activities that will enable you to rebuild the strength you’ll need in order to get the most out of your rebuilt hip. We’ll cover the gamut from standing exercises to bed exercises, physio exercises, hip muscle exercises and more. Let’s get started.

Early Postoperative Exercises

The first few exercises on our list and are the best hip exercises to get you into the swing of your postoperative exercise regime.

Heel Slides – The heel slide helps to strengthen both the quads and the glutes that are key to walking after hip replacement. It’s easy to do and won’t require any assistance though they will require a non-carpeted floor so you can slide your foot smoothly.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Lift the knee of the affected leg until your foot is flat on the floor.
  • Slowly slide the foot in towards your buttocks making sure to keep it flat on the floor the entire time.
  • When you can’t slide it any closer push it back away from your body to the starting point and repeat the inward outward slide.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Straight Leg Raises – The straight leg raise helps strengthen the muscles surrounding the new hip joint and aids in mobility after hip replacement.

  • Lay flat on the floor.
  • Lift your unaffected leg to a 90 degree angle with the floor and keep your foot flat against the floor.
  • Hold the affected leg straight out and lift it 6 inches off the floor.
  • Hold it there for 5 seconds then slowly lower to the floor.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Gluteal Squeeze – The gluteal squeeze helps strengthen the glutes which shores up the integrity of the entire hip/buttocks area and stabilize the hip in the process.

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees 15 degrees (approximately)
  • Squeeze your glutes together as hard as you can.
  • Hold for 5 seconds and then relax.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Note: It’s important to adhere to the limits suggested by your physical therapist. So while we recommend repeating something 10 times, they may recommend 5 repetitions or not doing a particular exercise at all. Always give priority to their advice since they are familiar with the specifics of your situation. Also, if you feel pain during any of these exercises stop immediately. If the pain persists after stopping call your doctor. Now let’s move on to some more involved hip operation exercises.

The Quad Squeeze – The quads are the main muscles of the upper leg. It’s important to make sure they are strong and flexible as they have a huge influence on the way the hip joint operates.

  • Lie flat on the floor with legs extended straight outwards.
  • Flex the quadricep muscle on the front of your thigh.
  • Keep the leg straight out while flexing the quad.
  • Hold for 5 seconds then release.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Ankle Pumps – If you are going to return to your natural method of walking after hip replacement it’s vital that the ankles are able to play their part. This exercise strengthens the ankle and improves blood flow throughout the foot and lower leg.

  • Lie flat on the floor with your legs straight out and a rolled towel lifting your ankle slightly off the floor.
  • Flex the foot so that the toes are pointed inward toward your face and the heel is pushing outward away from your body.
  • Hold for 5 seconds then…
  • Push the toe away from the body and pull the heel inward.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Hip Abduction – The abduction exercise helps strengthen the lateral muscles of the leg which contribute so much to overall stability and balance. They are one of the most important hip exercises you’ll do during recovery.

  • Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out.
  • Keeping the affected leg straight slide it outward to the side as far as you comfortably can.
  • Slide the leg back to the starting position (but not beyond) keeping the other leg straight the entire time.
  • Repeat 10 times.

The Sitting Kick – The sitting kick is a classic sitting hip exercise that will help strengthen the quad and the knee while also strengthening the muscles of the hip joint.

  • Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Slowly raise the foot of the affected leg until the leg is extended straight out in front of you.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Slowly lower the leg until the foot comes to rest flat on the floor again.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Lying Kicks – Lying kicks are important hip strengthening exercises that will help build flexibility in both the knee joint and the new hip joint.

  • Lie flat on your back with a rolled up towel under the knee of the affected leg.
  • Slowly lift the foot of the affected leg off the floor until the whole leg is extended straight.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Slowly return the foot to the floor.
  • Repeat 10 times.

The Hamstring Set – The hamstring set works on the muscles of the back of the leg which are largely unheralded but play a fundamental role in how you move.

  • Lie flat on a firm bed or exercise mat.
  • Bend the knee of your affected leg slightly.
  • Press the heel of your foot down into the mattress or mat.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Relax and repeat 10 times.

The Bridge – This exercise helps strengthen the new joint and tighten your abdominals which play a much bigger role than you realize in the way you walk.

  • Lay flat on your back on the floor or the bed.
  • Raise both knees until the feet are under them.
  • Slowly raise your buttocks from the bed as high as possible.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Keep the stomach muscles tight the whole time.
  • Slowly lower your buttocks back to the bed.
  • Repeat up to 10 times.

Some Things to Keep In Mind Following Surgery

When it comes to hip replacement and the use of exercise after hip replacement impatience can often get the better of people. They begin to lose sight of the importance of the details and just want to get back to normal now. While understandable this attitude won’t pay dividends in the long run and will actually just set you back and prolong the recovery period even more. Keep the following things in mind then both before and after surgery.

  • Driving will have to wait – Folks tend to think of driving as a low impact activity and as such they assume they’ll be able to get back behind the wheel in a week or 2. That’s not going to happen. It can typically take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks before it’s safe to get back behind the wheel. And it may take longer than that if you’ve cut corners on other aspects of your rehab. Before you’ll be able to start driving again several key indicators must have occurred.
    • You must be completely off of all narcotic pain killers.
    • Your muscle reflexes will need to be back to normal.
    • Your physical stamina level will need to be excellent.
    • You will only be allowed to drive an automatic at first.
    • You will need to be able to operate the pedals without pain.

Driving isn’t the only transportation no-no you’ll encounter in your early recovery. Your doctor may also recommend you avoid flying for the first couple of months following surgery. That’s because sitting for prolonged periods of time as well as the dehydration that often occurs to people on long flights may both contribute to the formation of blood clots. You can alleviate the risk somewhat by wearing compression socks, getting up frequently and drinking plenty of fluids. But even so your doctor will likely recommend staying off airplanes until you are off painkillers, have regained strength in the leg and you’re able to move about freely without assistance.

  • Returning to work – People with normally busy lifestyles often get restless during the weeks immediately after surgery when they are largely immobile and unable to go to work. You’ll need to accept ahead of time that work will have to wait until your body is up to it and arrange for other things to occupy your mind while your hip heals. Some people take up drawing or use the time to learn a second language.

Hip Replacement Exercises: Advanced Weight Training Following Hip Replacement Surgery?

While many people focus on the decidedly low impact hip replacement exercises outlined above following surgery another group of younger more physically active and able patients have their sights set on weight training. But is this smart?

If you lifted prior to surgery there is a good chance you will be able to return to lifting although there will no doubt be limitations imposed by the new hip. Weight training are great hip muscles exercises but it’s a risky proposition and you’ll need to proceed with extreme caution. You may even need to exclude it from your exercises after hip replacement for 6 months. It will be up to your doctor.

  • When to start – You’ll need to wait at least 6 to 8 weeks before you can even consider weight training. In almost all cases it’s something that is introduced late in the rehabilitation process close to the time the standard physiotherapy after hip replacement is winding down. Make sure that any weight program is cleared by your physical therapist (whose services you may want to retain until you are confident your weight training regime is on the right path).
  • How often and how intense? – It is likely your physical therapist will limit you to training 2 or 3 times a week max. If that is what they recommend you’d do well to abide by that advice. Several things will play a role in the frequency and intensity of your weight training including your age, overall condition and whether you are still experiencing muscle pain after hip replacement. Don’t expect to start where you left off months before either. You’re going to be starting at the beginning and gradually working your way up. So relax and enjoy the process.
  • Equipment – You should forget about starting out with free weights because it isn’t going to happen. Instead you’ll begin by using resistance bands or resistance machines. You’ll also likely start out in the seated position in order to minimize downward pressure on the new hip and then slowly transition into a standing position at which time you may introduce ankle weights. As your overall condition improves you may finally introduce dumbbells on a limited basis for things like squats. You’ll want to be wary of certain high stress positions and of crossing your leg across the body’s midline as this could pull at the new joint and cause complications.

Some Fundamental Weight Exercises to Start With

Orthopaedists are not opposed to including weights in your post hip operation exercises but they preach caution and recommend a few fundamental exercises that should help get you going. These include the standing hip abduction and hip extension using resistance bands, the seated knee extension and straight leg raises also using resistance bands. The leg press is also recommended.