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Is Physical Therapy Necessary After Hip Replacement?

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Updated October 28, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Is Physical Therapy Necessary After Hip Replacement?
Hip replacement surgery is a treatment for severe arthritis of the hip joint. After hip replacement surgery, rehabilitation can help patients return to their normal, active lifestyle. However, some surgeons tell patients that physical therapy is not a necessary part of rehab after hip replacement. Is physical therapy a necessary part of the rehab process after hip replacement surgery?
Answer: There is some evidence to support a formal physical therapy program that emphasizes strengthening and weight-bearing exercises after hip replacement surgery. Specifically, the hip abductor muscles, which are often weakened in patients with severe hip arthritis, should be addressed with a strengthening program.

The studies that have looked at the question of therapy after hip replacement are not ideal investigations. For example, these studies have grouped together very different types of patients, making this question a challenge to definitively answer. Thus, these studies do not conclusively state that physical therapy is an essential part of rehabilitation from a hip replacement.

My Thoughts on Physical Therapy After Hip Replacement

I would argue that having a hip replacement is a statement that you want to return to a more active lifestyle, and whatever modifications that may help you achieve this goal should be performed.

Some individuals are more motivated, and some have access to better exercise equipment. These people may not need as much formal supervision with physical therapy, but I think that an organized strengthening and rehabilitation protocol should be a part of every patient's post-surgical plan.

Discuss with your doctor what you can do to help with your recovery. Often a few sessions with a physical therapist is sufficient to help you develop your own strengthening and exercise program to aid in your recovery.

Sources:

Di Monaco M, et al. "Rehabilitation after total hip arthroplasty: a systematic review of controlled trials on physical exercise programs" Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2009 Feb 23.

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