How to Stretch Safely After a Hip Replacement

A person safely stretching their hip after a replacement with help of a doctor

A Guide to Safe Stretching After Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip replacement surgery offers improved mobility and relief from chronic pain for many individuals. However, the journey to recovery doesn’t end in the operating room; it continues with postoperative care and rehabilitation exercises like stretching.

If you’ve recently undergone a hip replacement or are supporting a loved one through their recovery process, you may be wondering how to safely incorporate stretching into your postoperative routine. Use our expert guide for advice and insights to help you safely navigate the path to a more flexible and pain-free future.

Benefits of Stretching After a Hip Replacement Surgery

It is generally safe to engage in stretching exercises after a hip replacement. Stretching after hip replacement surgery offers numerous benefits. It helps to promote flexibility, improve joint function, reduce stiffness, and enhance overall mobility. Additionally, targeted stretches can aid in muscle strength and balance, which can contribute to a smoother recovery process, prevent postoperative complications, and facilitate a quicker return to daily activities.

How Soon Can I Start Stretching After a Hip Replacement for Maximum Benefits?

You can start gentle, supervised stretches immediately after your hip replacement. However, it’s crucial to follow your surgeon’s and physical therapist’s guidance. Initially, focus on simple movements and gradually progress to more extensive stretches as your healing progresses.

Recommendations for Stretching Safely After a Hip Replacement

To stretch safely after a hip replacement, follow the regime and guidance laid out by your physical therapist. Start with gentle, controlled movements. Prioritize proper technique, avoid overstretching, and progress gradually. Above all, listen to your body, and if you experience pain or discomfort, consult your healthcare team for personalized advice.

How Often Should I Stretch?

In the early stages of recovery, aim for gentle stretches 3-4 days per week, gradually increasing frequency as your hip heals. As you progress, consult your surgeon or a physical therapist to determine an optimal stretching frequency based on your individual progress and specific rehabilitation needs. Generally, you only need to stretch during physical therapy or first thing in the morning if you are feeling stiff after sleeping. However, stretches can be done everyday or several times a day if your muscles are feeling tight.

How Long Should I Hold Each Stretch?

Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds, allowing the muscles to lengthen and improve flexibility. Avoid bouncing or forcing the stretch. Gradually increase the duration as your comfort level improves. As you improve, you can build up to multiple repetitions. Always prioritize quality over quantity, and consult your physical therapist for personalized recommendations based on your recovery progress.

How Do I Know If I’m Stretching Too Much?

Pain or soreness while stretching is your body’s attempt to tell you to slow down. Therapy after a hip replacement should not involve pushing through pain. Remember you just had surgery, and pushing through discomfort is often more likely to set you back than it is to facilitate progression in your recovery.

What Stretches are Safe After a Hip Replacement?

Any stretching is safe after a hip replacement. However, gentle movements to improve flexibility and strength are recommended. Begin with knee-to-chest stretches, ankle pumps, and heel slides. As you progress, incorporate hip flexor and quadriceps stretches. Always adhere to your surgeon’s recommendations and avoid overstretching or sudden, intense movements.

Try the following stretches to allow your body to naturally and safely progress in motion. Remember to perform these stretches in a controlled manner, avoiding any jerky or forceful movements. Always listen to your body, and if you experience pain or discomfort, consult your healthcare team before continuing or modifying your stretching routine.

Knee-to-Chest Stretches

Begin by lying on your back with both legs extended. Slowly bring one knee toward your chest, holding it with both hands for 15-30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. This stretch helps increase flexibility in the hip and lower back.

Ankle Pumps

While lying on your back or sitting with your legs extended, gently move your ankles up and down, mimicking a pumping motion. This simple exercise promotes blood circulation and helps prevent stiffness in the ankles.

Heel Slides

While lying on your back, bend one knee and slide the heel along the surface toward your buttocks. Hold for a few seconds, then straighten the leg back out. This movement aids in improving the range of motion in your hip.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Kneel on one knee with the other foot in front, forming a 90-degree angle. Gently push your hips forward, feeling a stretch in the front of the hip of the kneeling leg. Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch legs. This stretch targets the hip flexors.

Quadriceps Stretch

While standing, hold onto a stable surface for support. Bend one knee, bringing your foot toward your buttocks, and grasp your ankle with your hand. Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch legs. This stretch focuses on the quadriceps and helps maintain muscle flexibility.

What Movements or Exercises Should Be Avoided After a Hip Replacement?

It is generally recommended that you avoid high-impact activities and exercises that involve excessive twisting or bending at the hip, such as deep squats or certain yoga poses, after your hip replacement. Steer clear of sudden, forceful movements and activities that may put excessive strain on the hip joint.

Hip Precautions for Stretching

Depending on the type of hip replacement you had, your surgeon may advise you to avoid certain positions or activities, known as hip precautions. The following list are some hip precautions to observe while stretching, but consult your surgeon for a comprehensive list tailored to your specific case.

  1. Avoid Deep Hip Bends: Refrain from deep bends or stretches, including deep squats, that might exceed the recommended hip flexion angle of 90 degrees.
  2. Skip Cross-Legged Stretches: Steer clear of stretches that involve crossing your legs as this can place stress on the hip joint.
  3. Use Supportive Props: Make use of supportive props, such as pillows or cushions, to assist in maintaining proper alignment during stretching exercises.
  4. Don’t Twist: Avoid stretches that involve excessive twisting of the hips. You do not want to strain the healing hip joint.

Are there Lifelong Restrictions After a Hip Replacement?

The biggest restriction after hip replacement surgery is to avoid falling. Falling can cause damage to the prosthesis or surrounding bone. Aside from that risk, there are no other permanent restrictions once you have recovered from your hip replacement. You’ll be able to resume an active lifestyle, including activities like playing golf or tennis. Some patients, with guidance from their surgeon, are even able to resume higher impact activities like running, skiing, or surfing.

What Should I Do if I Experience Pain While Stretching?

If you experience pain while stretching after a hip replacement, stop the activity immediately. Use your pain as a guide. Mild discomfort may improve with stretching, but more significant pain is your body’s warning that you are still recovering from an operation. If pain persists, consult your healthcare team. Pain may indicate overstretching or potential issues requiring professional evaluation and adjustment to your rehabilitation plan.

Hip Replacement Stretching and Recovery FAQs

When Should I Start Physical Therapy After a Hip Replacement?

Most hip replacement patients have a physical therapy session on the day of surgery, approximately 2 hours after their surgery concludes. This session focuses on safe ambulation with a walker. Formal physical therapy will begin 2-3 days after surgery and continues for 4-6 weeks.

How Long Does it Take For Stiffness to Go Away After a Hip Replacement?

Hip replacement surgery is designed to replace the worn out bone and cartilage with a prosthetic interface and that allows for increased motion. As a result, many patients notice immediate improvement in their stiffness and range of motion after surgery. In general, swelling from surgery subsides over the first 2-4 weeks, which also helps increase overall mobility.

Are Yoga Poses Safe After a Hip Replacement?

Yes. Many yoga poses are safe after a hip replacement, but It is advised that you wait 4 weeks before resuming yoga practice. You want to ensure that the swelling in your hip has subsided before attempting more strenuous yoga exercises. Consider starting with gentle stretches and implement modifications to support flexibility without straining your hip joint.

Can I Sit with My Legs Crossed After a Hip Replacement?

Avoid sitting with your legs crossed immediately after hip replacement surgery. The cross-legged position can strain the healing joint and hinder your recovery process. As your stiffness resolves and your postoperative pain subsides, you will be able to sit with your legs crossed.

Can I Swim After a Hip Replacement?

Yes. Swimming is often a beneficial exercise after a hip replacement. It provides low-impact, gentle resistance, promoting joint mobility and overall fitness. However, wait at least 4 weeks after your hip replacement before swimming in order to give your surgical incision the appropriate time to heal.

Can I Sleep on My Side After a Hip Replacement?

Yes. It is safe to sleep on your side after a hip replacement, but you may not want to do this immediately due to the pain. Some types of hip replacements also have an incision located on the outside of your hip that may be uncomfortable until the wound has healed. As your pain eases, you may lay on your hip without fear of damaging the prosthesis.

Can I Sit in a Recliner After a Hip Replacement?

Yes. It is safe to sit in a recliner after a hip replacement, especially if it provides comfort and support during your recovery. It is recommended that you ensure the recliner is at an appropriate height to minimize strain on the hip joint. Follow your surgeon’s advice, and use additional cushions or supports if needed for optimal comfort and alignment.

Recover Safely From Hip Replacement Surgery at Alexander Orthopaedic Associates

Safely recover from your hip replacement surgery or have your hip pain evaluated at Alexander Orthopaedic Associates. Our team is dedicated to your well-being, providing personalized recommendations, safe stretching protocols, and ongoing support. Trust in our experience to guide you through a successful and comfortable hip surgery, replacement, treatment, and recovery and schedule your appointment today.