For people experiencing pain, discomfort and limited mobility due to hip-related injuries or conditions, physical therapy may be beneficial in promoting hip function, strengthening the joint, and maximizing the patient’s range of motion. For mild hip conditions, physical therapy may be sufficient to lubricate the joint, lessen pain, and ease mobility. Physical therapy is an important part of the rehabilitation process for individuals with hip-related conditions.

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Therapeutic Methods for Treating Hip Conditions

The goal of physical therapy treatment is to reduce pain and inflammation, stretch and strengthen muscles, and help the patient to return to all physical activity. Hip-related conditions are often initially treated with conservative methods to reduce pain and swelling and may include applying ice to the affected area, anti-inflammatory medication and rest.

Physical therapy exercises begin with the patient seated and progress to walking and climbing stairs, first with, and then without, supportive devices. Rehabilitation includes occupational therapy and at-home exercises to help patients learn new ways to function effectively in everyday activities. Therapists instruct patients on how to perform ordinary tasks without worsening their condition by bending to the floor, crossing the legs or sitting on low surfaces. Weight loss and other lifestyle changes may also help to improve this condition in adults. While recovery times may vary, after several weeks of physical therapy treatment, patients can gradually return to regular activity and exercise.

Rehabilitation after Hip Surgery

In severe cases, surgery may be required to repair or replace the hip. Hip replacement surgery involves replacing part of the femur bone or hip socket with prosthetic devices. After surgery, a physical therapy program is created to help the individual regain flexibility, increase range of motion and strengthen the hip and leg. The goal of physical therapy is to help patients to walk safely without assistance and eventually return to all regular activities.

Initially, the physical therapist will help the patient to use an assistive device such as a walker, cane or crutches. Specific exercises are created to strengthen the hip joint and the surrounding muscles. Initial exercises may focus on contracting and releasing the muscles in the hips, buttocks and ankles. Additional exercises may include:

  • Muscle strengthening exercises
  • Gradual weight-bearing activities
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Balance training

As physical therapy progresses, the therapist will help the patient gradually increase the weight put on the leg, until he or she is able to walk without assistance. Patients must commit to their physical therapy program, to help them regain the strength and mobility needed, to return to all regular activities. Total rehabilitation after hip replacement surgery may take up to 6 months.