Physical therapy is essential to the treatment of hip injuries, especially in older patients for whom recovery can be a longer and more difficult process. Therapy, used in conjunction with medical treatments and medications, helps to maintain mobility and strength in the hip muscles and connective tissues while the healing process is underway. Patients who work with a physical therapist after hip injuries, fractures or hip replacement generally recover more quickly, getting back to normal activities faster. They also tend to have better long-term results, regaining more strength and mobility than patients who are not referred to a therapist or who don’t follow through with physical therapy appointments.
Strains and Overuse Injuries
Physical therapy is often used in the treatment of muscle strains and overuse injuries in the hip, such as tendinitis or bursitis. For these injuries, therapy generally consists of the use of ice, heat and massage to reduce pain and inflammation, and exercise to keep muscles from tightening and the joint from stiffening as the injury heals. Therapists will also educate patients about injury prevention, proper body mechanics and posture, warm-up techniques and stretches that can lower the risk of further joint or muscle injuries.
Treatment for hip fractures generally includes a combination of surgery and physical therapy. Usually, physical therapy will begin within a day of surgery. The therapy plan will vary according to individual circumstances, but the goal is to get the patient moving as quickly as possible, since immobilization increases risk of complications.
As recovery progresses, therapists work with patients to increase strength in the muscles surrounding the hip, improve range of motion, and address balance and stability issues to reduce risk of further falls and injury. Patients who begin therapy quickly and continue for at least six to eight weeks typically have better outcomes than patients who forgo therapy, regaining a higher level of mobility and reducing recovery time.
Hip Replacement or Revision Procedures
Physical therapy has also been shown to improve patient outcomes after hip replacement and revision procedures. In replacement procedures, therapists usually begin working with patients within 24 hours of their procedure. Therapists will then work with patients for at least six to eight weeks after surgery to restore mobility, building strength and flexibility in the hip for increased joint support and function.
Recovery from revision surgery can be a bit more challenging. Revision procedures are done to remove and replace an existing artificial hip. These surgeries are done for a number of reasons. Most commonly, they become necessary as an implant reaches the end of its lifespan, which can range from 10 to 20 years, and begins to show excess wear.
Revisions can also be necessary due to complications and premature implant failures. Recently, there have been a lot of revisions done due to issues with certain metal-on-metal hip replacement systems, several of which have been recalled. Patients who have suffered serious problems, such as metallosis or osteolysis — which are conditions caused by implant debris — may require extensive physical therapy to recover, especially if extensive repair of joint or bone damage due to these complications has been necessary. Some patients have even had to file hip replacement lawsuits because they were severely harmed by these products.