Physical Therapy After a Broken Hip

Jun 24, 2016

Physical Therapy After a Broken Hip

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Recovering from a broken hip can be a very time-intensive process. A recovery dependent on mobility or lack thereof can cause a lot of stress and discouragement. When you’re not on bed rest, you or your loved one will most likely be enduring some strenuous physical therapy. The hip is used virtually in all forms of mobility, so it’s important to incorporate proper physical therapy in your rehabilitation routine.

Types of Physical Therapy After a Broken Hip

Inpatient Therapy

The average hospital stay after hip surgery usually ranges from three to seven days. However, more extensive surgeries can lengthen the time you remain in a healthcare facility. During that time you will most likely be assigned an inpatient physical therapist. They’ll first encourage you to make the move from the hospital bed to a chair, and then from a chair to a walker or crutches. You or your loved one will be released once you can safely move around with crutches or a walker. Inpatient therapists essentially prepare you to be able to move around on your own once you return home.

Home Therapy 

Upon discharge, a home therapist will visit usually a few times a week to help speed up the recovery process. They will create an exercise program intended to strengthen the hip and increase flexibility. They will focus on walking, getting in and out of the shower, and traveling outside. These visits will end once you or your loved one can walk outside without help.

Outpatient Therapy 

Once you are able to travel, your surgeon will probably recommend some form of outpatient therapy, usually lasting six to eight weeks. These weekly sessions will again focus on strengthening and stretching out the hip. They will gauge the amount of pain you’ve been enduring as well as your mobility so they can design a program to better suit your needs.

Treatment Options for Hip Injury or Surgery Recovery

It's important to take your time in the recovery process, especially early on. Doing too much too soon can result in more complications, and more time recovering. Slow and steady is the best route to go when on the path to recovery.

  • Rest – It’s important to get a lot of rest when recovering from a hip injury. The recovery process is usually based on how well you can keep your hip immobile early on. Allowing the hip to heal without the strain of movement can help the recovery time.
  • Use Walking Aids – At this time, let the pain gauge how mobile you are during the early stages of rehabilitation. The amount of weight you are able to bear when standing or walking will depend on the type of procedure you had and the advice of your surgeon. Crutches, walkers, or other forms of aids will reduce pressure on the injured hip while still allowing some mobility.
  • Moderate Medication – Most doctors will prescribe some sort of opioid after a prominent hip injury. It’s important to monitor the use of these highly addictive drugs. More than 165,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2014, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only use these types of medications if the pain becomes intolerable. Overuse of the drug can cause a variety of other issues in the future
  • Ice – Ice makes blood vessels vasoconstrict (get smaller), decreasing the blood flow. This helps control inflammation and the pain it causes. Apply an ice pack to the area four or five times a day to reduce the amount of swelling and soreness.
  • Heat – Heat makes blood vessels vasodilate (get larger), increasing the blood flow. This action helps flush away chemicals that cause pain. It also helps bring in healing nutrients and oxygen. Alternating between ice and heat creates a great 1-2 punch that will help knockout pain and swelling.
  • Electrical Swelling – This might not be something you can do at home, but stimulation of the muscle can reduce tightness and speed up the healing process. Some patients say electrical stimulation feels like a gentle massage. By relaxing the muscles, you may be able to exercise and do your activities easier.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What's the average recovery time for hip surgery?

This will depend on your overall health and how involved you are with your rehabilitation and healing process. Immediately after the surgery, you or your loved one will stay three to four days overnight. During your recovery time, you will participate in physical therapy for your broken hip, and will also want to continue to rehab your hip with exercises at home. Eventually, within a month you should be able to walk with the help of crutches or a walker. A few months after that, you should be able to walk on your own.

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How does osteoporosis play a role in hip injuries?

Osteoporosis is a decrease in bone density and this means your bones, including your hips, can become extra fragile. Those with osteoporosis have a higher chance of injuries resulting in broken bones. Those with osteoporosis can break or fracture bones just by sneezing in some severe cases. If you are at risk of developing osteoporosis, contact your doctor to discuss which treatment options might be most appropriate for you. 

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