Exercises After Hip Replacement

The rehabilitation process after total hip replacement surgery begins early in the postoperative period. Most people start physical therapy the day after their surgery while they are still in the hospital. Early therapeutic exercises help you regain and improve strength around your operative hip and can help you quickly regain normal function. Therapy also helps you learn to walk on your new hip joint.

So what exercises should be done early on in the rehab process? Are there exercises that your physical therapist (PT) may prescribe to you while you are still in the hospital?

A woman standing during physical therapy
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Yes. Starting exercises in the hospital after a total hip replacement is an important first step on the road to recovery. Your PT may prescribe exercises similar to the ones described here. Be sure to check in with your healthcare provider before starting any exercises after your total hip replacement.

Heel Slides

Heel slides strengthen the quadriceps muscles at the hip and the hamstring muscles at the knee. Your hip flexor muscles in the front of your hip joint are also active during heel slides, and the motion helps to keep blood flowing, possibly lowering the risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis.

Here is how you perform the heel slide exercise:

  • Sit with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Begin by sliding your heel toward your buttocks by bending your knee. Keep your heel on the ground during this motion.
  • Once your knee is fully bent, rest a moment.
  • Slowly straighten your knee and slide your leg back to the starting position.
  • Relax and repeat 10 more times.

The heel slide exercise can be done several times each day. Be sure to stop if you feel any worsening pain.

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Click Play to Learn More About Hip Replacement Exercises to Avoid

This video has been medically reviewed by Oluseun Olufade, MD.

Straight Leg Raises

Straight leg raises help to strengthen your hip flexor muscles and your quadriceps muscles.

Perform the exercise as follows:

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface.
  • Bend the knee of your non-surgical leg to a 90-degree angle, and keep your foot flat on the surface. Keep your surgical leg straight without the knee bent.
  • Tighten your quadriceps muscle on the front of your straight leg. Keep it tight the entire exercise.
  • Slowly lift the surgical leg six inches off the floor (by contracting the front thigh muscles). Hold for five seconds.
  • Slowly lower your leg to the floor.
  • Relax and repeat 10 more times.

Straight leg raises can be altered to strengthen your glute muscles by performing the exercise on your side or stomach. Check with your PT to be sure you are doing them safely.

Gluteal Sets

Gluteal sets are easy exercises that help strengthen the gluteal muscles of the hip. Strong gluteal muscles help in hip extension as well as stabilization of the joint. Gluteal sets also help to keep blood flowing.

Perform as follows:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 10 to 15-degree angle.
  • Squeeze your buttock muscles together as if you are holding in flatulence.
  • Hold for five seconds.
  • Relax.
  • Repeat 10 more times.
  • Perform three sets of 10, three times a day.

A Word From Verywell

After a total hip replacement, you may be having difficulty moving around and using your leg normally. Starting exercises early is usually safe, and it can be an important component in your early post-op rehab program.

When considering post-operative exercises, keep in mind that some orthopedic surgeons place activity restrictions on patients after surgery. These restrictions help to protect your healing hip joint. Always adhere to the guidelines that you are given. Your healthcare provider and physical therapist can help you understand your hip precautions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What movements should you avoid after hip replacement?

    Your movements will be limited in the immediate aftermath of hip replacement surgery. To minimize the risk of dislocation you should avoid certain motions for a while after the surgery.

    Do not flex your hip past 90 degrees. This includes bending over too far from the waist or lifting your knee higher than your hip. 

    Do not cross your legs or twist your thigh inward from your hip, also known as internal rotation, for several weeks or months after surgery.

    Sleeping on your stomach or side should also be avoided until your hip replacement heals.

  • Are there any permanent restrictions after hip replacement?

    Not necessarily. Thanks to newer hip-replacement technology, many people no longer have any permanent restrictions after hip replacement surgery. However, high-impact activities like running are not recommended.

  • Can you do squats after a hip replacement?

    Maybe someday, but not for a long time and lots of physical therapy. Squats can put a lot of stress and pressure on the hip joint. Using an improper form or squatting too deeply can harm your new joint.

    If performing squats again is an important goal for you, talk to your physical therapist. They can help you make a recovery plan to work toward your goals safely.

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Arthritis-health - Knowledge from Veritas. Total hip replacement surgery recovery.

  2. OrthoInfo from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Total hip replacement exercise guide.