I had a total hip replacement for osteoarthritis six months ago. I'm not really doing as well as I had hoped. I still have a limp when I walk. I'm certainly not running anywhere. Sometimes I can't catch my balance fast enough. Is this normal?
Of course, there is always variability among groups of seniors following any surgery. In the case of recovery following total hip replacement, it appears there are two phases. The first occurs 12 to 15 weeks after the procedure. Rapid change in pain, motion, and strength occurs in the first three months and then starts to slow between 15 and 20 weeks.
By the end of four months, most patients have been discharged from treatment. They are well on their way to resuming all physical activities and exercise they are interested in. Thirty (30) weeks (seven and a half months) later, patients experience another leveling out as they are now able to walk again at a normal pace.
Physical function involving the legs continues to improve though at a much slower pace than early on. Balance and postural stability seem to take longer to recover. More physical therapy with a supervised rehab program may still be needed if you have not experienced good improvement or the results you expected.
Don't be afraid to ask your surgeon how you are doing compared to others. If it seems (to you or to your surgeon) that you have fallen behind the expected time for recovery, it may be time to reevaluate or reassess your progress and perhaps alter the rehab program. Limping, loss of balance, and falls are three clear signals that you may need additional therapy to fully recover.
Teyhen DS. Total Hip Replacement. In The Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. April 2011. Vol. 41. No. 4. Pp. 240.
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