Exercises After Hip Replacement

The rehabilitation process after total hip replacement occurs early in the postoperative period. Most patients 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 the operative hip and can help you quickly regain normal function. Therapy also helps patients learn to walk on their new joint.

So what exercises should be done early on in the rehab process? Are there exercises that your 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. Exercises, similar to the ones here, may be prescribed by your PT. Be sure to check in with your doctor before starting any exercises for 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 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.

Straight Leg Raises

Straight leg raises help to strengthen your hip flexor muscles in the front of the hip joint. Perform the exercise as follows:

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface.
  • Bend the knee of your uninvolved leg (the one that wasn't operated on) to a 90-degree angle, and keep your foot flat on the surface. Keep your involved 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 involved 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 in 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.

When performing these 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 these guidelines. Your doctor and physical therapist can help you understand your hip precautions.

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 safe, and it can be an important component in your early post-op rehab program.

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Article Sources
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  1. Arthritis-health - Knowledge from Veritas. Total hip replacement surgery recovery. Updated March 9, 2020.

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