Rehab after hip replacement
Why rehab after joint surgery is so important
21 March 2022
We’ve all been there – a really productive physio session followed by good intentions to do all the exercises recommended by your physio, which (slowly but surely) slip by the wayside. But why is sticking to a rehab plan so important after hip replacement surgery? Let’s find out.
First things first – what does a hip replacement involve?
A hip replacement involves removing parts of arthritic or damaged bone and cartilage and replacing them with metal or plastic parts, called a prosthesis or implant. The prosthesis replicates the shape and movement of a normal, healthy joint. A partial hip replacement only replaces the ball on the end of the thigh bone, whereas a total hip replacement replaces the ball of the hip and the socket of the hip joint.
There are many different types of prosthetic joints that can be used in a hip replacement, and different ways of attaching them. The one that’s best for you will depend on your needs as well as your surgeon’s preferences.
Why would I need one?
There are various reasons why your doctor might recommend a hip replacement including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis or pain following a hip injury, an injury that affects blood supply to the hip, hip disease from birth, or long-lasting hip pain which reduces movement[i]. Whatever the reason, the aim of surgery is to reduce pain and improve your mobility and overall quality of life.
How long does a shiny new hip last?
While advances in appliances and surgical techniques mean hip replacements are now lasting for longer than they used to, they don’t last forever. Most hip replacements last for many years (at least 15 years for more than 9 in 10 people[ii]), but may eventually need to be replaced (called revision surgery). The younger you are, the more likely it is that you’ll need revision surgery.
Getting back on your feet after surgery
With hip replacement now being such a routine surgery, the “good” news is that the recovery (and hard work!) begins as soon as the anaesthetic wears off. Most people are encouraged to use their new hip soon after surgery, walking with the help of a walker or crutches.
Just as there are different types of hip replacements, recovery and rehab also vary for each person, but many people are able to get back to normal activities after about three months (with more freedom and less pain – woo hoo!). For others it can take six to 12 months to feel the full benefits of their hip replacement[iii].
Why is rehab so important?
Rehab varies a lot and depends on the type of hip replacement you’ve had. While sticking to a rehab plan isn’t always easy, it’s definitely worth the hard yards in the long run. Here’s why:
If you need hip surgery, it probably means that your hip hasn’t been working properly for some time. While a new hip can help that, you’ll need to relearn good hip movement to help you live life to the full again. Rehab can help bring back your range of motion through stretching and flexibility exercises.
Managing pain and helping the body to heal
As well as helping you to improve your movement, your physiotherapist will give you physical techniques to reduce pain and stiffness, and speed up the healing process – all of which will help to improve your quality of life.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Weak hips can be the result of and the cause of hip problems, plus inactivity because of hip pain can worsen the pain. Rehab will help strengthen your muscles – building stronger and more resilient hips.
Your balance is usually reduced after surgery, which unfortunately means that your risk for falls increases. Rehab will help improve your balance and reduce the risk of falling.
When you add all these things together, rehab is a must for feeling the best you can, and returning to normal (but improved!) everyday life.
Physio and occupational therapy
Physio and OT both contribute to rehab after hip surgery. A physio will focus on helping you regain muscle strength, balance and range of motion. While an OT will assess your strength and skills before you’re discharged, to help you navigate day-to-day tasks – like dressing, showering, getting in and out of bed, getting on and off the toilet, getting in and out of the car, moving around your home, doing sport and hobbies, and working.
Rehab at home
There are various types of inpatient and outpatient rehab that may be recommended following a hip replacement. Depending on what’s appropriate for you, eligible Teachers Health members may be able to get home sooner by taking advantage of our rehab at home program, which provides the care you’d otherwise have to stay in hospital for.
Rehab at home isn’t suitable for everyone, so the first step is to ask your specialist (or medical team) if in-home care is a good option for you. Knowing what you’re eligible for can be tricky, so if you want support with this, you can call us on 1300 727 538 for more info.
Who organises my rehab?
Depending on your needs – as well as which surgeon and hospital you choose – your rehab (whether inpatient rehab, rehab in the home or day rehab) may be arranged for you while you’re in hospital, or you may be discharged after your op and have to organise it yourself. If it’s the latter, note that this is not a hospital substitute service and therefore can’t be claimed on your Hospital cover. But you can still use your Extras cover to help pay for rehab services such as physio and OT.
Being aware of the costs
When you have surgery, your specialist will talk to you about your after-care needs so you can look into allied health professionals and any costs associated with your rehab.
While there are Medicare rebates for eligible people, health professionals set their own fee. So it’s always a good idea to find out how much a service costs and what the Medicare benefit is before an appointment, so you know how much you’ll pay.
Private health insurance can also offer rebates for rehab, depending on the level of cover. With Teachers Health, hospital treatment for physical rehab related to surgery or illness (inpatient and admitted day patient rehab) is covered (or covered with restrictions) on all levels of our Hospital cover. And if you’ve got Extras cover, you can claim benefits for therapies like physio (on all levels) and OT (on Top Extras).
Need support? You can lean on us!
To help you better prepare for and recover from hip surgery (and understand your options!), the Teachers Healthcare Services team is here to offer advice and support.
We can help with things like preparing for surgery, and using physio to manage your pain and mobility while you wait for your op, including strengthening the muscles around your joint (which can also assist recovery). This can be a godsend if your surgery is delayed – something more of our members have been facing lately!
We also offer a program to make sure you can manage things safely when you’re discharged from hospital, which it’s good to start thinking about when planning your surgery. This includes seeing you through with ongoing support as you get back on your feet at home.
In short, there can be a lot to take in, so we can help you clarify different treatment options and ensure your experience is a smoother one.
To see how we can help you, get in touch with the Teachers Healthcare Services team.
New hip, new you!
While rehab after a hip replacement may feel like hard work, consistent effort and patience will help your recovery and a return to normal life. And remember, everyone is different, so it’s important to check in regularly with your doctor or allied health professional. Knowing what to expect, following their instructions, and getting support when you need it will help you to achieve the best outcome, and live life to the full again.
To help you prepare for your hospital stay and get extra support for your recovery, see what the Teachers Healthcare Services team can do for you.