Physical therapy is a vital component to recovery after hip surgery. Your therapist will help guide you to avoid re-injury of the hip. The goal of physical therapy is to:
- Diminish pain and inflammation
- Protecting integrity of repaired tissue and muscles surrounding hip joint
- Restore ROM within restrictions and preventing re-injury
- Prevent muscular inhibition
To help diminish pain and inflammation there are a few things you can do, including following the PRICE procedure. PRICE stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You can use this method to reduce swelling and pain in your hip. When icing, do it in a prone position (face down) to allow for mild stretching of the hip flexor. Also, minimize movement. Too much movement can cause re-injury, while little to no movement can cause stiffness.
As for protecting integrity of repaired tissues and muscles, here is some practical advice:
To restore ROM (range of motion) within restrictions, only perform hip exercises to your level of comfort. Don’t overstretch the area, or go past your comfort level, because you will re-injure yourself! Sometimes certain ranges of motion take time, don’t rush the process, small steps are better than no steps.
To prevent muscular inhibition, make sure you are strengthening all muscle groups equally to avoid atrophy. It’s important to keep strength on both sides as equal as possible because you don’t want uneven muscle tones. Uneven muscle tones can lead to re-injury or injury to other parts of your body. In some instances it is difficult to avoid muscle atrophy. The important thing is to minimize the amount of muscle mass lost following surgery.
Regardless of who your surgeon is, there will likely be a post-op physical therapy protocol that was specifically developed to make sure you are strengthening small muscle groups. I have six hip surgery protocols for my patients and an aquatic therapy page on my website. These protocols are perfect for in-home therapy. Patients can perform these exercises at home, and at their level of comfort, while still maintaining most of the benefits that would be derived by going to a physical therapist’s office.
Aquatic therapy is useful for post-op hip patients. Aquatic therapy benefits include unloading joints, improving balance, allowing individuals to determine the amount of resistance, and low-impact exercises. Water-based exercises are especially useful for patients who lack balance. Aquatic exercises will allow for improved ROM in an environment that posses less risk of injury from falls.