If you have suffered a broken hip, you probably have questions about what happens next. The first thing to know is that healing from hip fracture is a challenging process that will take quite a bit of time and hard work. In most cases, hip fractures are repaired with surgery, and the process of getting patients back on their feet – rehabilitation – begins soon after, often the very next day after surgery. While every case is different, here we'll outline the general process to help you learn what you can expect as you go through rehabilitation after hip fracture.
The First 24 Hours After Surgery
Whether you've had your fractured hip surgically repaired or it was replaced with a hip implant, physical therapy and rehabilitation will, in most cases, begin the day after your surgical treatment. That's because, although rest is an essential component of a healthy recovery, too much of it increases your risk of a number of complications after surgery, including blood clots, pressure sores and pneumonia. Avoiding those complications – which can be a serious setback in term of recovery and may even be life threatening – means getting mobile as quickly as possible.
Depending upon your particular circumstances, the first experience with rehabilitation therapy may be as simple as range of motion exercise, with the assistance of a physical therapist at your bedside. If you're deemed able by your medical team, you might be helped to a sitting position at the edge of your hospital bed, and in many cases, you may be asked to stand – with assistance – or perhaps take a few steps. Just how strenuous therapy will be during that first 24 hours will depend on factors like the severity of your hip fracture, the details of your surgery, your overall health, and your level of pain, among many other factors. Of course, as you begin to recover from your surgery, therapy sessions will, as a rule, become progressively more demanding.
After Hospital Discharge – The First Few Weeks
Rehabilitation therapy is recommended after hip fracture in order to help patients regain the highest possible level of mobility. For the majority of patients, the best avenue for the most successful recovery is an inpatient rehabilitation program. These programs, which can be found in dedicated rehabilitation facilities, specialized rehab wings in hospitals or in skilled nursing facilities, offer 24 hour support and services to patients who are working through the very challenging process of healing from hip fracture. You can expect rehabilitation therapy to focus on several objectives, including:
- Restoring range of motion in your hip
- Building strength in hip and leg muscles
- Gait training to help you get back to a normal walking pattern
To meet these goals, therapy sessions may include resistance training, functional training and range of motion exercise, and gait training generally requires spending time on a treadmill. Of course, rehabilitation is a very individualized process, tailored to the needs and abilities of each patient, so the details of your rehabilitation plan will vary to some extent, based on a thorough evaluation by a team of rehabilitation specialists.
So just how long will healing from hip fracture take? That too depends upon individual circumstances, and a specific answer can only come from your own health care team. However, most patients will spend at least 4 to 6 weeks in intensive rehabilitation therapy to get back on their feet after a hip fracture. In some cases, healing and rehabilitation may take several months – generally 3 to 6 if partial or total joint replacement has been performed.