I'm heading into arthroscopic surgery for my right hip. The surgeon is going to take a look around but for sure remove some pieces of cartilage that are floating around in there. What kind of recovery or rehab should I expect?
Hip arthroscopy is becoming a more common orthopedic procedure now with more and more hip injuries among the athletic crowd. Better imaging technology has also made it possible to find what's wrong or what's causing painful symptoms. Loose bodies in the joint is just one of the many reasons why arthroscopic procedures are used so successfully.
But you are right -- there is a postoperative program. And it's important that patients complete this program in order to restore full joint motion, strength, flexibility, and function.
The specifics of the program depend somewhat on the type of surgery that was done. For example, removing free-floating debris in the joint is a much simpler procedure than repairing deep holes in the cartilage.
Likewise, repairing a torn labrum (fibrous rim of cartilage around the hip socket) may only require a simple home program. But there are some procedures that take longer to recover from and involve a slower pace of recovery.
And competitive athletes will follow a four-step process of rehab progression. These four phases include 1) mobility and initial exercise, 2) intermediate exercise and stabilization, 3) advanced exercise and neuromotor control, and 4) return to activity.
A physical therapist will show you what to do, how to do it, and how to advance or progress the program. You will probably start out on crutches for the first week to 10 days and gentle active motion of the hip. When you have full motion, the exercises assigned next are designed to restore strength and normal contract/relax sequences of all the muscles around the hip.
Core (pelvis and trunk) stabilization exercises are recommended next along with balance training. And finally, if you are active in a sport or specific activity, you'll be shown how to prepare to return to that sport. The goal is to participate fully without fear of reinjury.
Michael L. Voight, DHSc, et al. Postoperative Rehabilitation Guidelines for Hip Arthroscopy in an Active Population. In Sports Health. May/June 2010. Vol. 2. No. 3. Pp. 222-230.
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