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Preparing for a Hip Replacement: The Role of Physical Therapy

September 22nd, 2023 | 4 min. read

Preparing for a Hip Replacement: The Role of Physical Therapy
Caroline Faught

Caroline Faught

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // EW Motion Therapy Homewood

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Hip replacement surgery can be life-changing for those suffering from chronic hip pain and mobility issues. However, the road to recovery begins long before the surgery takes place. Physical therapy is crucial in preparing individuals for hip replacement surgery, ensuring they are in the best possible physical and mental condition. In this article, we'll explore the importance of physical therapy before a hip replacement and delve into what a comprehensive treatment plan typically involves. 


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Understanding the importance of preoperative physical therapy

Before diving into the specifics of a preoperative physical therapy plan, let's first understand why it is essential in hip replacement surgery.


  1. Pain management: Chronic hip pain is often the primary reason individuals opt for hip replacement surgery. Preoperative physical therapy can help manage pain through targeted exercises and techniques.
  2. Improved mobility: Restricted hip mobility can severely impact daily life. Physical therapy can work to increase joint flexibility and improve overall mobility, making everyday activities easier.
  3. Strengthening muscles: Weak hip muscles can prolong recovery after surgery. Physical therapy focuses on strengthening these muscles, which can aid in postoperative rehabilitation.
  4. Mental preparation: Surgery can be intimidating, and many patients may experience anxiety. Physical therapy can provide emotional support, helping patients feel more confident and prepared for the upcoming procedure.
  5. Faster recovery: A well-prepared body tends to recover more efficiently. Preoperative physical therapy can reduce the time spent in the hospital and the overall recovery timeline.


Components of a preoperative physical therapy plan

Now that we understand why preoperative physical therapy is crucial, let's take a closer look at what a comprehensive treatment plan typically involves:


  1. Initial assessment: The journey begins with an initial evaluation by a licensed physical therapist. During this assessment, the therapist will evaluate the patient's current physical condition, including range of motion, strength, and existing limitations.
  2. Goal setting: Based on the assessment, the physical therapist and the patient collaboratively set specific goals for the preoperative period. These goals may include pain reduction, increased mobility, or muscle strengthening.
  3. Exercise regimen: A customized exercise program is developed to address the individual's needs and goals. This regimen may include a combination of:
    1. Range of motion exercises: Gentle movements to improve joint flexibility.
    2. Strength training: Targeted exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip joint.
    3. Aerobic conditioning: Low-impact activities like swimming or stationary cycling to improve cardiovascular health.
    4. Balance and coordination exercises: Enhancing stability to prevent falls.
  4. Pain management techniques: Physical therapists can employ pain management techniques, such as manual therapy, ice or heat therapy, and electrical stimulation modalities.
  5. Education: Patients are educated about the surgical procedure, what to expect during recovery, and how to prepare their home environment for postoperative comfort and safety. This education helps reduce anxiety and promotes a smoother recovery experience.
  6. Preoperative optimization: In some cases, individuals may have underlying health conditions to manage before surgery. Physical therapists work with other healthcare providers to optimize the patient's health.
  7. Monitoring progress: Regular follow-up appointments with the physical therapist are essential to track progress and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.


Benefits of preoperative physical therapy

Now that we've explored the components of a preoperative physical therapy plan, let's discuss the numerous benefits it offers:


  1. Pain reduction: Preoperative physical therapy can significantly reduce hip pain through targeted exercises and pain management techniques, making daily activities bearable.
  2. Increased mobility: Patients often experience improved joint mobility and flexibility, allowing them to move more comfortably and perform daily tasks more efficiently.
  3. Enhanced strength: Strengthening the muscles around the hip joint not only aids in recovery after surgery but also helps prevent complications during the procedure.
  4. Psychological preparation: Preoperative physical therapy provides emotional support and helps individuals feel more mentally prepared for their upcoming surgery, reducing anxiety and fear.
  5. Shorter recovery time: A well-conditioned body is better equipped to handle the surgery demands and recover more efficiently, potentially leading to a shorter recovery period.
  6. Better surgical outcomes: Patients who undergo preoperative physical therapy often experience better surgical outcomes, including reduced complications and improved long-term results.


In the journey towards hip replacement surgery, preoperative physical therapy is pivotal in preparing individuals physically and mentally. Physical therapy sets the stage for a smoother surgery and a more successful recovery by addressing pain, improving mobility, and strengthening muscles.


If you are considering hip replacement surgery, take into account the importance of preoperative physical therapy. Consult a qualified physical therapist who can create a personalized treatment plan to optimize your condition before entering the operating room. Remember, the path to a pain-free and more mobile life begins with a well-prepared body and mind. We love helping our pre-op clients at EW Motion Therapy prepare mentally and physically for their procedures, getting clear on expectations and transitioning seamlessly into post-op physical therapy. If you’re curious about what else physical therapy can do for you, click the button below to download our answers to 20 frequently asked questions.


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