Not So Hip After Joint Replacement?

A total joint replacement has become a vital operation for individuals who have struggled with years of chronic hip pain. Due to previous injuries or osteoarthritis, the bone and cartilage in the hip can wear away, leading to pain and stiffness. When non-surgical treatment fails, a total joint replacement is recommended. The surgery removes the damaged cartilage and bone and installs a prosthesis made of metal, ceramic, or other materials. The prosthetic hip reduces pain and brings joy back to daily life. Some patients noticed reduced hip mobility despite the benefits, especially after surgery. If unaddressed, this can still limit some activities and lower fitness levels over time.

The power of exercise

Some hip replacement patients may develop scar tissue over the joint. While a natural part of healing, the scarring can limit flexibility, making certain movements more painful. Muscle weakness and tightness can also develop, especially during open surgery. The damaged muscles must be strengthened for improved range of motion (ROM) and joint support. Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) limits this issue, but there will still be challenges with hip mobility. Also, while effective, the implant is not a perfect 1:1 replacement. There will be limitations in movement, but exercise can effectively address the challenge. These 3 exercises can help improve hip mobility after a total joint replacement.

1. Try short clamshell exercises

Designed to strengthen the gluteus medius and hamstring muscles, clamshell exercises can make a big difference in improving hip stability and flexibility. To perform this exercise, lie on the side of the body, either on a bed or exercise mat. Bend the knees and stack a single leg on top of the other. The goal is to keep the hips stacked and then lift the top knee away from the bottom knee. Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the starting point. Perform multiple repetitions daily as advised by a physical therapist (PT) or doctor.

2. Jump into straight leg raises

When performed correctly, straight leg raises effectively target the lower body, including the hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. Strengthening these muscles helps with improved, pain-free hip movement. The exercise also stretches the hip flexors, which are essential for hip mobility. Lie down with the back and knees straight while facing the ceiling. Raise a single leg straight with the knee and the heel facing downward. Hold the leg in the air briefly, then return to the starting position before switching legs. Repeat the exercise as advised.

3. Cross the bridge

A glute bridge strengthens the hamstrings and glute muscles, which help with overall hip stability and movement. The exercise also engages the hip flexors, which may limit pain caused by daily activities. The glute bridge starts with the person facing up on the floor with both knees bent. Ensure the feet are flat on the floor. Lift the hips off the floor while squeezing the glutes. Hold the position at the top, then return the hips and buttocks to the floor. Repeat the exercise as needed. Glute bridges can also be performed by holding a weight, such as a dumbbell or kettlebell, near the groin area.

Get the most out of your joint replacement

While clamshells, straight leg raises, and glut bridges are practical exercises, low-impact activities may also be recommended to improve ROM, strength, and flexibility. Yoga, water aerobics, and stretching can improve help strength and flexibility. Limiting sedentary activities, such as long hours spent sitting or lying down, also helps with hip mobility. Joint replacement surgery seeks to reduce pain and improve hip function but can only work with strong support. The right exercises and lifestyle habits ensure hip replacement patients get the most out of the procedure.