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What is a hip replacement?

A hip replacement, also known as knee arthroplasty, is a procedure completed by an orthopaedic surgeon to relieve pain and restore function in severely diseased hip joints.The procedure involves cutting away damaged bone and cartilage from the bones and replacing them with an artificial joint.
A hip replacement can be “full” or “partial”, depending on how much of the hip needs to be replaced. There are also different techniques that the surgeon can perform for a hip replacement, including the anterior technique and the posterior technique. The difference in the techniques has to do with the incision and where the surgeon enters the hip, and can affect recovery time, risk of dislocation after surgery, and the movement restrictions placed on the patient for weeks after surgery.

How can physiotherapy help after a hip replacement?

Orthopedic surgeons commonly prescribe physiotherapy to begin immediately after a hip replacement. Physiotherapy and therapeutic exercise after a hip replacement has been shown to help patients heal quickly and efficiently. The main benefits of physiotherapy after a hip replacement are:
1. Increased hip mobility: It is common to only be able to bent the hip slightly after surgery. Physiotherapist will help you to regain full straightening and bending capacity of the knee.
2. Increase muscle strength: Since a joint replacement is often only offered when advanced arthritis is present, the muscles surrounding the operated joint were most likely in suboptimal condition before surgery. Physiotherapists focus not only on restoring the muscle strength around the joint to its pre-surgery level, but also to a level of function that it may not have had for year.
3. Reduce the risk of scar tissue formation: Scar tissue can build up after surgery, causing the hip to become stuff and immobile. Physiotherapists will give you specific exercises in order to reduce the risk of developing this scar tissue.
4. Reduce pain after surgery: The weeks following a hip replacement can be shockingly painful for the patient. Physiotherapists are well versed on the healing process and can educate you on different ways to manage the acute pain that follows the surgery.
5. Monitor the hip: As with all surgeries, there are risks to having a hip replacement. These risks can remain long after the surgery is completed. Physiotherapists are trained to monitor for infection and blood clot formation, and to look for “red flags” that may warrant immediate attention.

A few things to remember

It is common for your orthopedic surgeon to give you movement “restrictions” after a hip replacement. These are certain movements that the surgeon. Wants the patient to avoid in order to reduce the risk of hip dislocation after surgery. These restrictions are commonly present for around 6 weeks post-operatively. Common restrictions are: crossing your legs, bending past 90 degrees, and rotating your legs. It is important to consider these restrictions when planning your recovery. For example, if your surgeon does not want you to bend your hip past 90 degrees for 6 weeks, you must ensure that you have a chair or sofa that avoids this position (ie. One that is not too low to the ground). You must also consider this restriction when getting into and out of the car (hint: pillows are a great way to prop you up to avoid bending past 90 degrees. Your surgeon should provide you this these restrictions at your pre-operative appointment and on discharge.