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Getting back on your feet: Physiotherapy after joint replacement

Benenden Hospital physio team

If you’re considering – or have recently had - hip or knee replacement surgery, you’re probably wondering how you can get back to doing the things you love again.

According to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), people undergoing a hip or knee replacement should start rehabilitation on the same day as their operation, or within 24 hours. The earlier this starts, the better the outcome will be.

But while it’s important for your physical and mental health to get back to your normal routine, it’s crucial that you manage your path back to mobility carefully, and with the help of qualified therapists, to reduce the risk of dislocating your new joint and to maximise the lifespan of your new hip or knee.

At Benenden Hospital, our experienced physiotherapists are on hand to offer advice on managing your day to day activities after surgery, starting from the day of your operation. We asked our Physiotherapy Lead, Jordan Dehara, what to expect after your hip or knee replacement.

After your hip or knee replacement surgery

While you’re in hospital, our physio team will visit you every day and will help you regain your mobility with carefully planned exercise.

Your recovery will depend on your general health and fitness and the type of surgery you’ve had. We run rapid recovery programmes or day surgery where you could be on your feet and walking a couple of hours post-surgery.

You’ll be given a frame to start with, but you’ll be encouraged to progress using two crutches as soon as possible. Once you’re confident using two crutches inside and outdoors you can progress to walking with one crutch indoors. We’d recommend you use both crutches outdoors until you can walk more confidently and manage different surfaces and gradients.

Your Consultant or physiotherapist will tell you how much weight to put through your new hip or knee joint.

At your follow-up, your physiotherapist may progress you onto using sticks if they feel it’s appropriate. Once you are confident, you’ll be able to go without.

Once you get home

The team has put together a series of videos that you can do at home to help you get back on your feet. It takes you from the day of your operation using a series of exercises to help you regain strength and mobility in your hip or knee.

Your physiotherapist will tell you which exercises to do in the first six weeks after your operation – and how often. They’ll also give you advice on getting around at home. This will include how to get in and out of bed, getting dressed, sitting down and getting up and going up and down stairs.

How long will it take to recover?

Between six weeks and three months after your joint replacement surgery, you’ll be able to increase gentle exercise such as walking or riding a stationary bike. They might also recommend hydrotherapy as your range of motion may be better in water than on land.

Three months post-operation, your physiotherapist will assess your progress and talk to you about a regular exercise program. They might also recommend lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet or smoking cessation.

Returning to sport after a hip or knee replacement

If you’re planning on returning to a specific sport or activity then your physiotherapist will be vital in guiding you through the best exercises for you, the frequency and intensity of the exercises and participating in a phased and safe way to avoid reinjury or unnecessary aggravation. They might recommend low impact activities, such as walking, swimming, a static exercise bike, golf, bowls, or gentle gardening to start with.

You should avoid high impact sports such as running, jumping, tennis or football until at least six months after your operation.

If you experience a sharp pain, you should stop the exercise immediately. If symptoms persist, contact your GP or your physiotherapist for advice.

Get in touch with our physiotherapy team

Book your appointment with our Physiotherapists today or find out more by completing our online enquiry form, contacting us via Livechat or by calling our Private Patient team on 01580 363158.

Published on 04 January 2022