Orthopedic rehab begins almost immediately after surgery to repair a hip fracture. Some patients will spend from 4 days to a week or longer in the hospital after hip replacement. Although complete recovery is very gradual and can take a year or more, patients are encouraged to sit up in a chair just a few hours after surgery. For maximum improvement, patients must maintain focus and faithfully devote their energy to the rehab program designed especially for them.
Rehab Begins Early to Prevent Complications
By beginning to move soon after surgery, hip fracture patients not only get an excellent start on their long-term healing process, but also prevent post-surgical complications. Early orthopedic rehab can help avoid pressure sores and dangerous blood clots that may develop when a patient spends significant time in bed.
Orthopedic Rehab: The Day After Hip Replacement Surgery
The day after surgery, patients may be asked to stand on the uninjured leg (with support), keeping weight off the injured leg. The patient will begin to do assigned exercises to help them slowly regain muscle strength. The second day following surgery, many patients are encouraged to place weight on the injured leg and hip. Remember, however, that each individual will have a slightly different recovery timeline, planned to fit their condition specifically.
Rehab with Autonomy: One Week After Surgery
Provided the patient has regained their balance and is free from pain, they may begin a daily walking exercise plan, soon followed by stair-climbing, with expert coaching from their physical therapist. Patients may be fitted for a cane (or other mobility aid) and trained to use it correctly. Prior to the patient returning home, an occupational therapist can suggest safety changes such as adding a grab bar in the tub or shower and other household improvements.
The First Month of Orthopedic Rehab
Rehab treatment may take place at a skilled nursing facility or a live-in rehabilitation center, where many patients remain from the time they're discharged from the hospital until ready to return home. After the patient goes home, they may visit the physical therapist as an outpatient, or rehab sessions may take place in their home. Therapy begins daily and may go to twice weekly, depending upon the patient's progress.
After Returning Home (One Month to One Year After Surgery)
Patients will continue muscle strengthening leg, hip, and core (torso) exercises as directed by the physical therapist or orthopedic rehab professional. Certain activity will be restricted, and the patient may be directed to not sit for long periods and to avoid lifting, reaching for items, or pushing on objects or heavy doors. The rehabilitation therapist will evaluate patient progress throughout recovery after hip surgery, adjusting and customizing the exercise and therapy program to fit specific needs.
Retraining After Hip Surgery
As the hip replacement surgery healing process continues, patients will be asked to take certain precautions. Patients should pay attention to correct posture, avoid stooping or bending, and keep their hips in proper alignment (facing straight forward). Crossing legs will be discouraged. Orthopedic rehabilitation and physical therapy will continue, focusing on helping the patient to regain their balance and muscle strength. Rehab will include a gait analysis to determine the type of walking improvements needed and the type of exercise and practice the patient may need.
Many patients will require the assistance of a walker or cane permanently to ensure safety and stability when walking. Patients should follow their medical team's instructions carefully and attend all therapy sessions. Continued, long-term commitment from the patient and dedicated medical team will maximize each individual's hip surgery recovery.