Physical therapy begins as soon as possible after hip surgery, often the very next day. The goal of rehabilitation is to strengthen the affected muscles and to prevent excessive scarring and contracture. Physical therapy exercises begin with the patient seated in a chair and progress to having the patient take steps, walk and climb stairs, first with crutches or a walker, then possibly a cane, and then without supportive devices. In addition to helping patients regain mobility, rehabilitation includes occupational therapy and at-home exercises to help patients learn new ways to function effectively in everyday activities, like dressing and cooking, now that they are using prosthetics.

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Physical therapy focuses on reducing stress on the hip and avoiding pivoting motions in which the hip socket (acetabulum) rotates on the large bone of the upper leg (femur).

Rehabilitation from hip replacement surgery may vary depending on whether a cemented or uncemented device has been used in the operation since this choice determines how much weight can be placed on the joint during the healing process. Because it is very important to keep the replacement hip from dislocating during rehabilitation, the patient is advised to avoid certain actions and positions. Trained therapists instruct the patient in how to perform ordinary tasks without:

  • Sitting on low surfaces
  • Raising the knee higher than the hip
  • Leaning forward to sit or stand
  • Leaning forward while sitting
  • Bending to touch the toes or floor
  • Crossing the legs
  • Turning the leg too far in or out

Many patients need to use devices designed to assist in these situations, such as elevated toilet seats. The majority of patients go home from the hospital within a week after hip surgery, but most need to continue outpatient rehabilitation from home. In cases where more intensive rehabilitation is necessary, or where there is no one at home to help during recovery, patients frequently go to specialized rehabilitation centers for ongoing inpatient care.

>Depending on need and insurance coverage, the length of stay in such facilities varies. The length of short-term recovery, when a patient is able to be walk unassisted and perform most household tasks, and long-term recovery, when a patient is fully independent, may also vary quite considerably. While some patients may complete recovery in 6 weeks, some may take as long as 6 months to fully recover.